Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Liberty Square freed, and now, a circus...

This is where we are now.
Instead of celebrating the liberation of Liberty Square, we're watching HHK mock the opposition; its painful and that's an understatement. I kept waiting to write, hoping things would calm down. But they're not calming down. And what we have is a theatre. A joke where HHK is literally sitting back and laughing at the opposition, at Heritage, at HAK, and just laughing at the arguing between them, and literally asking them to unite, just for more kicks and giggles. Whatever the cause of this drama, where reporting and focus on the true criminals of the regime is overshadowed by the obsession about a "snubbing," whatever the cause, it has to stop.

That's the short version.

I've had many thoughts other than that. I don't know if its worth it anymore to write them down, but since they keep swimming around in my head, I may as well.

First, as I noted above, we should be celebrating the re-entry into Liberty Square (and we would be if it weren't for this other drama). It is an ENORMOUS step, a great success, thanks to the hard work of many for so many years. I know some think that Raffi Hovannisyan's hunger strike there paved the way. I dont have all of the information, but I tend to think that this is not the case. A huge success, and a huge thank you, at least on my part, to those who made it happen.

This leads to a question I have had for a while, that I have discussed with numerous friends, and still have - what to do once the opposition is in Liberty Square? What to do, what to do... And after much thought and discussion, what I realized is that I think that there generally are/were two options -

1)Once Liberty Square is occupied, it becomes a stronghold for a revolution. Perhaps violent, perhaps bloody, perhaps fruitful, perhaps not.

2)once Liberty square is occupied, it becomes a symbol of success for slow change. Perhaps too slow for some. Perhaps fruitful, perhaps not. But non-violent.

Some say that nothing positive or no real change has ever come of revolutions - I've seen a lot of that on numerous sites (FB, twitter, news/blogs), especially since the massive upheaval that started with Tunisia. But I think it can be stepping stone. To think that revolution is an end in and of itself is naive, but to think that it can allow a partial tabula rasa (if you can have such a thing) from which to rethink, redesign, re-form and reform, is probably true. And while the change-over is fast, when (and if) the actual desired end-product, the desired type of government and society, is actually achieved, could be a long time off. In the meantime, there is usually a lot of violence and bloodshed.

Slow change is just that, slow, possibly painstakingly slow. Perhaps requiring political pressure, negotiations, and a number of small shifts rather than a big jump. There is no guarantee as to the end point, if it will happen, or how long it will take.

It seems to me that, despite the misrepresentations of some journals (including a recent article by the Washington Post) and some political parties, such as the ARF, LTP and HAK want the latter. Nonviolent, a velvet, soft, revolution, and if necessary, slow, as it were. In fact, if LTP wanted violence and revolution, he could have had it in 2008, and many times since. But such political behavior is not his modus operandi, he does not want to be the leader of a violent revolution. But where does that leave him, and HAK, and so much of the opposition?

Well, it seems to have gotten them this far: many (but far from all) of the political prisoners are out, Liberty Square is free. Yes, its been 3 years, but it has been bloodless, and now fruitful.

As to the Raffi Hovannisyan/Zharangutyun - LTP/HAK issue:
I have my opinions, obviously. Suffice it to say, for now, that justified or not, its sad that once again the opposition cannot cooperate. Justified or not. Any further ramblings of mine at this time add only to the ongoing circus.

And in the meantime, Pashinyan still can't get letters out. Here is a press conference given by his lawyer:

There are a number of articles in English and Armenian on numerous sites, including epress, for those interesting in more details.

The next demonstration is on April 8th. I'm sure the news media will be covering. Follow on twitter or facebook if you're so inclined.

Addendum: While I'm not going to delve into my thoughts on the RH-LTP issue for now, I can't help but add that titles such as the one given by ArmeniaNow to an article about the ongoing circus, are not only in poor taste, misrepresentations (potentially intentional), and false, but just downright poor journalism. If i tell a friend that slow and steady wins a race, referring to the Aesop's fable of the tortoise and the hare, it doesn't mean I'm telling him he should grow a shell and turn green, and predicting that he will outrun a furry rabbit. Be biased, but stick to a representation somewhere in this galaxy, please.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17 March Livebroadcasting and news...

Watch live broadcasting from liberty square by Azatutyun TV


and livestreaming from Matenadran by 1in.am


Other good sources:
Twitter Live feed from news sources and individuals, as well as pics
You can also follow on Facebook, including on the group Revolution for Change at http://on.fb.me/dMGXLy

Not to mention the usual news soures linked on the right:
epress, 1in.am, a1plus, lragir, tert, etc...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1 day left...

HAK leaflet for 17 March 2011 Meeting

Could Raffi Hovannisyan's hunger strike be a well-time spark ahead of the meeting?
Perhaps, I'm still thinking through it...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video and Numbers: March 1, 2011

Thanks to Aramazd for putting together this video of the March 1, 2011 demonstration.

This video actually reawakened my every-lurking interest in how many people were actually at the demonstration. One of the first reports I saw was "over 10,000" from Ditord, I think. The police figured was obviously below that. LTP at the demonstration reported 50,000. Since then there have been numerous other reports, including Reuters which echoed the over 10k figure. I heard 35k from one friend. Another friend noted that he didn't think 50k was quite right, until he saw the endless stream of people descending from the Matenadaran.

I got an even more useful tidbit from another friend, who said that she had a friend call her when people got to the Myasnikyan statue, and at that time, she was at the tail end of the march, at Opera. So once again I turned to the calculations of Herbert Jacobs for crowd counting, according to whom, in a medium packed crowd, one person takes up 4.5 square feet, which is .41806368 sq meters.

Now, let me stop here and point out that there are a lot of assumptions in the calculations I'm about to make. In some places in the march, people are very tightly packed, in some places loosely, so I went with the middle number

Also, from looking at the videos and pictures, I'm assuming a wideth of march of 10-20 people, let's say on average its a march of 15 people wide.

And, according to google maps, the furthest edge of Opera (furthest from Matenadaran) to just near the Myasnikyan Statue, is 1.6 km - here is where I got that calculation from:
But with those assumptions in mind, we get the following calculations - I'll assume a 15 person wide march, and put the calculations for 10 and 20 person wide marches in parentheses, using average density of humans per sq feet for the calculation:

0.418063 meter sq = 0.6465784m on each side of the theoretical square

0.6465784m x 1.6 m = 9.698676m wide march
(for 10 people: 6.4657, 20pp: 12.9315688)

9.698676m wide x 1.6 km long (which is 1600m) = 15,517.8816 meters sq
(10pp: 10,345 msq, for 20 pp: 20,690 msq)

15,517.8816 msq / .41806368 msq per person = 37,118.52 people in the march
(10pp: 24,745 people, 20pp: 49,490 people)

I would love to know if there is an error in my calculations, assumptions, or data that I've been given. This is the best, most objective way I know of to try to calculate numbers, aside from actual aerial photos.

And for those of you out there who can get data like that above (length, width of march) or aerial photos, please, the more data the better!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bazaz. No Comment.

I had another post in mind, but then I saw this on facebook, a photoedit by German Avakyan. I couldn't resist.

[more from him at hermanavakian.com]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

ARF just hasn't had the chance...

Really? Really? And people still wonder why the ARF is not taken seriously as an independent political force in Armenia, much less as an opposition force:

Ընդդիմադիր Հայ հեղափոխական դաշնակցություն խմբակցության ղեկավար Վահան Հովհաննիսյանը ասաց, թե չի ծանոթացել ՀԱԿ-ի պահանջներին, սակայն նրան հետաքրքրել է կոալիցիայի պատասխանը: [link, quote from Vahan Hovhannisyan]

The ARF tried to stand in allegiance with their Heritage colleagues on this one, and tried to criticize the behavior of the police. But they couldn't bring themselves to comment on the 15 points. Tell me you don't like the 15 points, tell me you disagree with the approach, the points, the strategy, that you think it is futile, totally wrong, anything, something, but don't tell me, that as a self-proclaimed opposition party, you haven't "familiarized" yourself with them yet.

The March 1, 2011 demonstration was among the largest in the past 2-3 years. The main outcome was the presentation of 15 points of contention (to put it mildly) by the opposition to the regime, which must be acted upon within 2 weeks, per the opposition. And as an opposition power, the ARF has not had the opportunity? time? chance? to "familiarize" themselves with these points? Or perhaps there is another reason that Mr. Hovhannisyan declined to comment on the 15 points...

Perhaps the ARF just needs another glass of champagne...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Many Hats of Bazaz

I got very excited the other day when someone incorrectly informed me that among the demands presented at the March 1 demonstration was the resignation of Yerevan's Deputy Chief of Police Robert Melkonyan, also known as Bazaz. Suffice it to say that I found this extraordinary news, and was sad to confirm it wasn't true.

Here he is, the first time I've ever seen him actually have a discussion, defending the actions of the police at the most recent altercations with some of the Heritage Party MPs. I gotta say, he surprised me in this video. With all the pacing and yelling and pushing and screaming he does at what are often otherwise peaceful gatherings, and all the pacing back and forth that he does, he sure does do a good job of playing the other side with his calm, patient, even-toned and polite rationalizations and explanations.

I guess he wears many hats, both literally and figuratively. In fact, I almost didn't recognize him in the video above without a hat.

Oh Bazaz, I hope you and your police department, but especially you, get the recognition you have earned so well, and deserve.

Friday, March 4, 2011

15 Demands

[from epress.am]
03.01.2011 23:08 epress.am

Levon Ter-Petrossian’s 15 Demands Approved by March 1 Demonstrators

The Armenian National Congress (HAK) rally today on the third anniversary of the events of Mar. 1, 2008, when mass protests were violently dispersed by law enforcement officials following disputed presidential elections that left 10 people dead and many more injured, has come to an end. The last person to speak before demonstrators marched down the streets of the Armenian capital was first president of the Republic of Armenia and HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrossian. During his speech, he suggested demonstrators approve the following 15 demands he would like to issue to Armenia’s current ruling authorities:

1. Until Mar. 15, that is, until [Parliamentary Assembly of the] Council of Europe co-rapporteurs’ Yerevan visit, release all those prisoners imprisoned for their political views and activities: Sasun Mikaelyan, Nikol Pashinyan, Harutyun Urutyan, Aram Bareghamyan, Sargis Hatspanyan, Murad Bojolyan, Ara Hovhannisyan, Shmavon Galstyan and Roman Mnatsakanyan.

2. Create an independent international commission to examine the events of March 1 [2008] or reinstate the fact-finding group, with the inclusion of international experts and to aim to fully disclose and punish before the law all those guilty for this monstrous crime committed by the ruling authorities.

3. Fully compensate the material damages of all citizens who suffered from the March 1 crime, particularly allocating $1 million to families of those who died and at least $100,000 to families of the injured.

4. Stop the constant threats and violence against informed groups, blocking the main roads on the days of rallies, and police warnings and intimidation tactics that aim to keep citizens from rallies and from political activity in general, and to eliminate the unlawful prohibition on holding rallies in Liberty Square.

5. In fulfilling the irreversible ruling by the European Court, finally reinstate A1+ TV station’s activities, hold all those officials who violated this ruling strictly accountable and generally eliminate full state control on electronic information resources.

6. Stop the authorities’ adopted bellicose and threatening rhetoric, and, with the aim of transferring the Karabakh settlement process to a normal direction, immediately reinstate the negotiations’ former format, in which, based on a decision at the OSCE Budapest Summit, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh became a full party to the conflict.

7. Annul the ban on street trade and the ill-fated adopted decisions on the closing of small shops after 8 pm and compulsory vehicle insurance, as well as reinstating the former amount of customs duties on imported goods.

8. Eliminate the unlawful Value Added Tax for cars imported for personal use (and not for sale), which, added to customs duties and the environmental tax, becomes an unbearable burden for the consumer and forces thousands of people to pay customs fees for their cars in neighboring Georgia.

9. Make the minimum [monthly] salary in the Republic of Armenia $200; employment insurance, 50% of that ($100); and the average pension, 40% of the average salary ($112).

10. Remove from parliament the bill for discussion on amendments to RA Labor Law Article 142, according to which the question of defining the work week as 6 days is left to the employer’s discretion, as well as making a corresponding amendment to the Code, mandating employers to compensate employees with three-months’ worth of pay in case of dismissal.

11. Allocate state subsidies for the most important agricultural production, keeping in mind the market price in any given year, the processing conditions of the corridors [where land is cultivated] and the strategic significance of border lands.

12. Announce and publish in the media the belongings and incomes of all former and current high-ranking state officials during Armenia’s independence and their families, beginning from presidents, prime ministers, ministers, deputy ministers, marzpets [regional governors], mayors and ending with judges, prosecutors, generals and National Assembly (previously, the Supreme Council) deputies.

13. For the shameful shortcomings in economic management and ensuring order, tyranny or just being untalented in their professions, dismiss from their posts Republic of Armenia Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan, Central Bank President Artur Javadyan, State Revenues Committee Chair Gagik Khachatryan, Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetyan, RA General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan, National Security Service Chief Gorik Hakobyan, RA Police Chief Alik Sargsyan, RA Special Investigative Service Chief Andranik Mirzoyan, head of the penitentiary department at the Ministry of Justice Hayk Harutyunyan.

14. The rally also considers it necessary to call on international agencies, and the governments of the United States of America and the European Union to stop supporting Armenia’s authoritarian administration based on geopolitical considerations, which not only does nothing to promote democratic reform, but also strengthening the regime’s positions more, at last count, is directed against the people, which becomes quite evident in light of recent events in Arab countries, and which even Western politicians and independent analysts confess.

15. In the case of the noted demands or a significant part of the demands being carried out, the rally authorizes the Armenian National Congress to begin a working dialogue with the authorities, having on the agenda the sole issue of holding pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections.

Demonstrators “voted” in favor of these demands by raising their voices.
“As for what process this announcement will undergo or what type of response it will receive from the authorities, together with you we will discuss this and make corresponding conclusions at the next rally, which will take place on Mar. 17…

Accordingly, from now on, the Armenian National Congress rallies will turn from current political actions to a unique public self-governming forum, with the full authority of making decisions and exercising them,” concluded the HAK leader.