Protest in Yerevan

Tavush Movement Continues as Demarcation Gains Speed

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YEREVAN — The Tavush for the Motherland movement, led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, continues its actions in Yerevan and regions.

Protesters are blocking streets in the capital, chanting through megaphones “Armenian, Armenia, Homeland and God.”

On May 13, 170 protesters were detained by the police, though later it was announced that all of them were released. Armenian media reported that police had used disproportionate force while detaining them. The use of disproportionate force was also denounced on May 14 by a member of the “Armenian Genocide Justice Fighters” secret organization Hampig “Harry” Sassounian.

“The sad thing is that one of them hit me in the face when the others were holding my hands,” Sassounian told journalists. Sassounian, who was released from prison in the US in 2021 for his part in the assassination of a Turkish official in Los Angeles in 1982, moved to Armenia upon his release. The movement is against Armenia’s unilateral border delimitation with Azerbaijan and demands the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to prevent the process.

“Being morally and politically not the people’s government, Pashinyan should leave. We need a new government, people’s government, a government that cares, reconciliation government,” stated Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan on May 13.

The movement has also demanded the opposition parties to start an impeachment process against Pashinyan’s government, but the opposition lacks the necessary number of members of parliament to start it. Earlier, Galstanyan had announced the movement’s schedule and said that they will continue actions of civil disobedience. To this end, he planned on meetings with university students and professors, writers, artists and journalists’ unions, among others. However, the ruling Civil Contract party leadership suggests that the goal of this movement is just to achieve change of power (d’état) in Armenia.

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“I don’t think that this movement had any other demand from the moment of its birth than the change of power in Armenia, bringing well known people. Their support by the parties of Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan is proof of this. This movement, so to speak, will remain surrounded by the resources of both clans, which is already visible,” said Civil Contract faction deputy Vahagn Alexanyan with Azatutyun on May 12. However, Galstanyan said that this movement is about the homeland and its security but not his desire to become prime minister. “The demands of this march and rally should be the decisions about demarcation and borders in general by law,” told Naira Hayrumyan, editor of the only Artsakh media outlet Step1.am, told this reporter.

“They came to Yerevan to get answers to these questions from the government. What is the basis of this demarcation? They demand that the demarcation be done by law. Such a process should be done by law, not by any secret agreements, even if it’s good one. Otherwise, there will always be doubts and vulnerable.

In that sense, if the demand of this movement is for the demarcation to be by law, then I only welcome it.” Despite these mutual accusations of the movement and the government, the fact is that those pillars have already been installed and according to Pashinyan, the bulk of the work has been completed.

“As of now, most of the work has already been done; 90 percent is already done, and the more that work goes on, the stronger the belief that security guarantees are being formed and the war is losing ground, the war is becoming illogical, the war is becoming not legitimate. Why do we install border posts? First of all, these pillars are installed on a juridical basis and these pillars become a security guarantee for the villages of Voskepar, Kirants, Berkaber, Baghanis and the Republic of Armenia in general,” stated Pashinyan at his press conference on May 7.

The process of Armenian-Azerbaijani border delimitation is also considered positive by the West. French Ambassador to Armenia Olivier Decottignies, in an interview with Azatutyun, said, “Well, it’s good that the delimitation is starting and it’s even better that it’s starting on the basis of the Almaty Declaration. So it’s a positive development. Obviously, it needs to be followed up. Armenia has expressed its will to make some concessions based on the Almaty Declaration and we expect Azerbaijan to make concessions as well. Azerbaijan is currently occupying large swathes of Armenian territory and it should withdraw from those territories. Our prime minister recently reminded this point. And so we think it’s a good development that needs follow-up.”

The main fear and dissatisfaction in Armenia regarding the delimitation process is that it is happening unilaterally, outside the law and people afraid that the same will happen to Tavush as happened to Artsakh. The more we give in, the more Azerbaijan will demand, this is what many think, considering Aliyev’s bigoted statements. “The process of delimitation and demarcation is underway on our terms, and this is yet another victory of ours,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev had said in Shushi on May 10.

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