Saturday, May 2, 2009
The May Day holiday in Yerevan, and elsewhere, took on different overtones, what with the opposition rally planned for the day being the main thing on people’s minds. Different opinions were expressed by several men gathered near the steps of St. Hripsime church in Echmiadzin, where I had reached by taxi, as regular transportation wasn’t operating: “I was just in Armavir,” one of the men said. “The police were stopping people for no reason, asking where they were going. They were trying to discourage, or stop, people from coming to the rally.”
“There’s no public transport in the entire region,” another said. “Maybe it’s because it’s May Day?”
“No way, don’t kid yourself,” a Diaspora Armenian answered. “It’s rally day, and, as always, they try to keep the numbers as low as possible, and shutting down public transport is one of the best ways.”
Still another who had gathered said, “I wouldn’t go to the rally anyway, transport or not. Serge might be bad, but Levon is dangerous, as he has ties to Israel, which has never been our friend.”
Later, at about 3:30, I reached the area near Kino Nairi, and walked up towards the Matenadaran. The crowd was thick, though possibly less than the March 1 rally, where nearly 100,000 attended. After talking with a few friends, I walked up to the top of the stairs where Aram Sargsyan was addressing the crowd, followed by Stepan Demirjyan, and then Levon Ter Petrosyan, who gave a measured, well-planned speech about what he considers the ills, or dangers, facing Armenia today.
One of two main points was what he called the organization by five high government officials, and funded by oligarchs close to Kocharian, of 950 men to cause general havoc on March 1, 2008, giving the police the excuse they needed to start attacking the peaceful protesters. The second was his criticism of Serge Sargsyan’s agreeing to the “Road Map to Peace” with the Turks, saying Sargsyan shouldn’t have given the go-ahead to the commission of Armenian and Turkish historians to study the 1915 events, saying this merely gave Obama and the American congress the excuse they needed to not recognize the Genocide. Next, according to Ter Petrosyan, Sargsyan will give up Karabagh, which will give the Turks everything they want, after which the border will be opened, and Sargsyan will be given a Nobel Peace prize, all this at the expense of Armenia and its interests.
The speech ending, I started walking down the steps, and found myself in the middle of the march, heading down Mashtots Boulevard in the direction of the Opera. On the way, I talked with writers, a student I knew, and an old man, probably over 80 years old. “You see what the Dashnaks are doing,” he said. “They say they are leaving the ruling coalition, as they don’t agree with the peace overtures to the Turks. They knew all along this was happening, that we were giving up Karabagh, so why did they wait so long to leave the government? Now they’ll look clean, separate from what’s going on.”
A friend with whom I worked in the past said her former boss, now working high in the government, has labeled her and a co-worker as “Levonakan,” (supporter of Ter Petrosyan), and won’t talk to her anymore.
Later, on the news, footage of the rally, as in the past, showed the crowd to be smaller than it was, filming areas where there were few people, trying to give the impression that the turnout for the rally was small.