Pashinyan Turned Armenia Into a Police State

By Harut Sassounian

The Armenian government had two options to resolve peacefully the popular uprising against the regime:

1) Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan could have resigned, turning over the reins of power to a coalition government which in six months would hold new parliamentary elections and choose a new Prime Minister;

2) Pashinyan could have accepted the offer of the new leader of the opposition, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, to sit down with him and discuss a negotiated solution to the current political crisis.

Regrettably, Pashinyan chose neither one of the above options. He chose to attack the opposition by having his “well-fed” police beat and arrest a large number of protesters, including journalists and even clergymen, some of whom are in a hospital recovering from injuries they suffered at the hands of the police. The Prime Minister has secured the blind loyalty of the police officers by increasing their salaries several times and giving them constant bonuses. It is said that there are more policemen in the streets of Armenian cities than soldiers protecting the country’s borders.

This is not surprising since Pashinyan, as an incompetent and inexperienced leader has mismanaged just about every decision he has made in the past six years. He is stubbornly clinging to his seat of power, dealing a mortal blow to the survival of the country.

After initially calling his takeover of power a “velvet revolution,” Pashinyan quickly switched to what he described as a “steel revolution.” Incredibly, he campaigned during the parliamentary elections of 2021, holding a hammer in his hand and promising to bash the heads of his domestic opponents. He also threatened to slam them into the wall and flatten them on the asphalt. Furthermore, Pashinyan boasted that no judge would dare to deviate from his orders. Even though the Prime Minister claims to be a democrat, his behavior is more like that of a dictator. Pashinyan came to power in 2018 closing down the streets of Yerevan, ordering his followers to block the entrances of the Parliament and courthouses, smashing the doors of the State Radio station, and violating many other laws. However, when the opposition is now peacefully walking in the streets or even on the sidewalks, they are brutally attacked, punched and arrested by the ever-present police.

Not surprisingly, the heads of Azerbaijan and Turkey have expressed their concern about Pashinyan remaining in power. Some Azeri and Turkish analysts even suggested that their countries dispatch armed troops to Armenia to protect Pashinyan, so he can continue making concessions.

Another indication that Pashinyan is working against the interests of Armenia is the support he is getting from the West because he is doing what they are telling him to do which is in their interest, but contrary to the national interests of Armenia.

Western countries only pay lip service to human rights, but maintain good relations with even the most dictatorial regimes in the world. That is the reason why not one critical word has been said by any Western state while Pashinyan’s police is brutalizing Armenia’s citizens.

Fortunately, several non-governmental international organizations have condemned the lack of human rights in Armenia and criticized police brutality.

On May 28, five major non-governmental organizations issued a joint statement against “mass detention” of protesters, “violence against some participants” and physical assault against a member of the Armenian Parliament which is a violation of Armenia law. The five organizations are: Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, Transparency International Anticorruption Center, Protection of Rights without Borders NGO, Law Development and Protection Foundation, and Democracy Development Foundation.

The joint statement deplored that Armenian law enforcement officers “continue to engage in unlawful and disproportionate use of force, illegal detentions, and violations of the right to liberty during the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. The use of such methods by the police is the result of a longstanding policy of impunity within the system, leading to the use of violent force becoming the main tool of the police.”

The joint statement further said that citizens have the freedom for peaceful assembly and the right to express their opinions freely “without fear of police violence.”

Reporters Without Borders issued a separate statement calling “for an end to deliberate police violence against reporters.” At least five journalists were targeted by the police.

The U.S. Freedom House also issued a statement saying: “We are concerned by mounting reports of police violence in Armenia. We urge Armenian authorities to investigate this pattern of excessive force and inhumane treatment and work with civil society to foster and implement meaningful reform.”

The most shameful behavior was Pashinyan’s order to obstruct the entry of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II into the Sardarapat Memorial on May 28, Armenia’s Independence Day. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister lied when he was asked why the Catholicos and his entourage of clergy were hindered from placing a wreath at the Memorial, is a public venue.

All police officers and government officials must be aware that after Pashinyan is gone they will be held responsible for their illegal and anti-Armenian actions.

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