Massis Abrahamian, left, and his daughter, Suneh

More Diaspora Activists Denied Entry to Armenia

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By Artak Khulian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Two more Armenian Diaspora activists from Europe critical of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have been barred from entering Armenia.

Massis Abrahamian, a leader of the pan-Armenian Dashnaktsutyun party’s branch in the Netherlands, and his 23-year-old daughter Suneh arrived at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on Monday and Sunday, August 1 and July 31, respectively. Immigration officers there told them that they will be deported.

“Words cannot describe the disappointment and pain I feel for being denied my homeland,” Suneh Abrahamian, who is also affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun, wrote on Facebook before flying back to the Netherlands.

Her father was still at Zvartnots’s transit zone on Monday evening, waiting for a return flight to Warsaw. He said he too was not given any reason for being declared a persona non grata by the Armenian government.

The government declined to comment on the expulsions, referring all inquiries to the National Security Service (NSS). The NSS did not respond to an RFE/RL request for comment as of Monday evening.

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Mourad Papazian, another Dashnaktsutyun activist and one of the leaders of France’s large Armenian community, was similarly denied entry to Armenia two weeks ago. The Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF) condemned the ban.

After an eight-day silence, Pashinyan’s office said that Papazian was deported because of organizing an angry demonstration against the Armenian prime minister’s June 2021 visit to France. It said the protesters threw “various objects” at Pashinyan’s motorcade when it drove through Paris. The French-Armenian leader denied any involvement in that protest.

Massis Abrahamian suggested that he was not allowed to visit Armenia because of being one of the organizers of protests that marred Pashinyan’s May trip to the Netherlands. Some of the Dutch-Armenian protesters chanted offensive slogans against the prime minister.

Abrahamian stressed that the protests were sanctioned by Dutch authorities and peaceful. “Every Diaspora Armenia will now be concerned about whether they will be allowed to enter Armenia upon their arrival,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service from the Yerevan airport.

Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia has been at the forefront of regular rallies launched this spring by the country’s main opposition groups trying to topple Pashinyan. Not surprisingly, the party’s Yerevan-based leaders were quick to condemn the latest expulsions of their Diaspora activists.

One of them, Artsvik Minasian, accused Pashinyan of seeking to silence his vocal critics in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora. ”Even during Bolshevik rule there were no crackdowns on such a scale,” he claimed.

Another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, linked the travel bans with what he called a government crackdown on opposition activists and supporters in Armenia. More than a dozen of them are currently under arrest, accused of assaulting police officers and government supporters. The Armenian authorities maintain that the accusations are not politically motivated.

“Nikol is trying to switch to authoritarian rule,” Saghatelyan charged in a Facebook post. ”World history shows that at some point all populists turn into dictators because they can no longer cling to power through fraud and deception.”

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