Three weeks ago, I spent some time in Armenia. Before the journey the question: “Where is Armenia?” was asked several times. It seems like it has not appeared on the map of many people’s mind in Europe. Sure, it is a small country, but nevertheless not new on the globe. I have to admit, the one thing I did connect to it is its participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. But while I know basic facts of its existence, one person of our group did not even think about bringing her passport, because she did not know that we would leave the EU.
I assume this issue is rooted in the lacking appearance of this Caucasian country in the international attention and news. And that despite the major events that took place in its capital Yerevan last spring. Events that led to a revolution that changed a whole country politically. No one seemed to have noticed. Or did I just not pay enough attention to the news?
It is called the Velvet Revolution. The peaceful protest started with an MP of the opposition, Nikol Pashinyan, who did a two weeks protest march towards the capital. Over time, people from all over the country, all regions and age groups joined the movement. They skipped school and work, everything to show their will. This act of civil disobedience was a sign against corruption, despotism and nepotism of the ruling party and against the re-election of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. The national flag was shown as support for the protest.
The movement and its leader became the hope for more freedom, justice and fairness in the elections, for more real democracy. The protests grew bigger and forced Sargsyan to resign and eventually Pashinyan became Prime Minister. The pressure of the public had for once achieved something of major importance. And not only that, it did it in a solely peaceful, non-violent way.
I read about this on my journey, while preparing myself for this new country. I was surprised that I had no idea about what has been going on there, only one year ago. Being in the country and meeting many of the Armenian people opened up a new perspective and source of information. Our new friends told us passionately about how they had joined the protests. They told us about all the people that had gathered on the squares of Yerevan. One explained that he could not go to the capital at that time and it was clear that he was still sad to have missed out on those important days. Everybody in Armenia seems to have been part of this- either through physical presence or at least mental support. New information for me. Why did something, that is so essentially important to the life of nearly three million people, not even reach my ear? Or my memory?
Armenia, Armenians and protest
The protests show a side and extent of civil activism that I did not expect. It is inspiring. The people of Armenia care about their country and they take action when necessary. In the area around the mountain town Jermuk, dozens of people are protesting against mining done by big corporations, with the aim to preserve the nature and the land. When they want something, they take it into their own hands. Something we could learn from them. If we would just hear about it.
The personal connection has left behind an interest in Armenia which teaches to listen more carefully, to keep an eye out for what is said and what is not said in the news. The questions arise: what is given priority in the news? What or who decides, what is interests the world? What is important for you, for me, for anyone to know?
by Nina Kolarzik
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Flag by Nina Kolarzik, All Rights Reserved
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revolution 260418 by Սոնա Մանուկյան, CC BY-NC 2.0