LIVE Blog, April 22

The #RejectSerzh movement and the subsequent protests have produced questions and confusion both inside and outside of Armenia. Events transpire quickly and the news media, including CivilNet, have invested resources in descriptions of events rather than providing analysis and background.

CivilNet has transformed the LIVE BLOG of the 10th day of these protests into a series of questions about the context and background of these developments. The responses are provided by CivilNet’s correspondents as well as those with an understanding of the Armenian political and judicial processes. Note that these conversations are happening as events unfold and the context evolves quickly.



Why is the outpouring of frustration being felt now, and the parliamentary election in April was conducted in an environment of apathy and disconnect? What changed?

Several short- and long-term brewing issues came together to create this perfect storm. While the discontent with the Republican party has been continuously humming for the last decade, at various points, depending on the issue, there have been significant eruptions of dissatisfaction over the last 5 years, particularly. A primarily youth-led and fronted set of movements have gained great momentum strictly around socio-economic issues, such as fee hikes for public transport, electricity tariff hikes, and ultimately the 4-day war that shocked the nation to its core because of the lackluster performance and losses of young lives and territory. Since that point, the departure as a result of term limits under the old constitution of Serzh Sargsyan had been a rallying milestone and with his explicit commitments of not pursuing, nor accepting being nominated for the newly-empowered premiership under the new constitution, citizens in Armenia looked forward to a clean, if not a complete break from some element of the system.

Therefore, when, within a very short period of time–less than two months, the narrative began shifting toward a Sargsyan prime ministership, including from Republican Party members and coalition partner ARF Dashnaktsutyun, the mood in the country began shifting toward increasing in acute frustration, and when the announcement was made that in fact Sargsyan would be the only candidate to stand for the premiership, the protests came in to full bloom 10 days ago.

It’s important to note that these protests have over the last few days taken on a life of their own. They are not led by any one political power, and as such, it is truly a reflection of the level and depth of discontent and the outright rejection of the Sargsyan administration.



QUESTION: Why is this movement not like every other movement? What makes it different? Why won’t it end, “just like all the others”? (we hear this reference frequently from the diaspora)

This movement has built on previous cases of peaceful protest in Armenia but this one is different in terms of its scale, geographic spread around the country, and most importantly, self-organization of the communities involved. People on the streets are leading the movement from the ground-up, with relatively minimal guidance from the organizers. And this is what makes this movement so potent: even if the leadership is detained and arrested, people on the ground fill-in the void.

This movement of civil disobedience is a textbook application of nonviolent strategy: it is disciplined and highly coordinated, unfolding in the context of live streaming, which adds an important layer of transparency. As with many other successful cases of civil disobedience, this movement is highly diverse, having pulled in people from various segments of the society. Primarily because it is nonviolent, it has created a very big umbrella for newcomers to join.

Most importantly, as a grassroots movement, it builds on its internal energy, and transcends familiar East-West, Russia-West polarization that has characterized Color Revolutions elsewhere, most notably the Maidan. It is very specific in its goal, for Serzh Sargsyan to step down, and this focused objective also has been effective in pulling large number of people into the streets.

Grassroots, nonviolent, mass-scale and diverse are some of the key factors driving the movement.

This mobilisation has also been very successful in part because it has positioned itself in the middle of a spectrum of Armenian civic contestation. On one end of the spectrum are totally peaceful actions such as hunger strikes, and on the other, violent acts such as the Sasna Tsrer hostage crisis. The Reject Serzh movement, with its peaceful but disruptive acts of disobedience is in the middle, and draws in supporters from both ends and ultimately appeals to broader segments of Armenian society.



Why are the protesters changing “join us” as they proceed? Why do the numbers matter?

Large numbers in protests decrease the illicitness of civil disobedience, create legitimacy, and provide a measure of safety for participants.

Studies on nonviolent civil disobedience worldwide, for the period of 1900-2006, have established that nonviolence has been more effective as a political strategy than violent tactics. Over 52% of nonviolent movements have succeeded in their stated goals over 20% of violent strategies. To create and maintain nonviolent civil disobedience, large numbers are necessary. The experience from similar cases of civil disobedience have demonstrated that large numbers overwhelm the security forces used by the governments. The success of the movement is directly proportional to the number of people who participate in the protest: more people, higher the chances for the movement to achieve its stated goals.



What happens when people who are involved in the protests are detained and taken to police stations? What are their rights?

There are a few quick things that are important to do most immediately:

  1. Find out and record the name of the law enforcement representative who has detained or arrested you.
  2. Immediately ask for legal representation of your choosing
  3. Demand and receive a written notice of the basis for your arrest or detention
  4. Categorically refuse to provide testimony or any information about a spouse or a relative
  5. Refuse to have your fingerprints taken and await arrival of your legal representative



What is a possible compromise solution here?

The movement wants both Serzh Sargsyan and the entire system of oligarchy to resign. The authorities, those in power, want to stay. A compromise proposed by various commentators would be that the Republican Party (with Serzh Sargsyan as its head) continues to govern, through an acting prime minister of their choice, and the new government starts talks with the opposition for a date and rules for new parliamentary elections that are fair and transparent.


For all those who say ‘there should be dialogue between the two sides,’ can you explain what that means in this context? If someone wanted to mediate, would it work?

This is not a situation with ‘two’ sides. The protesters are from all walks of life, all geographies, all ages. They are expressing their frustration with one black and white demand. This is a popular uprising against a system that is spearheaded by Serzh Sargsyan, and as such, there is not a solution that two people or two political parties can come to.

The other ‘side’ is a head of government who is holding on to power. The situation is black and white and zero sum. The protesters don’t have faith in any of the government institutions’ ability to make any fundamental changes that will change the social and economic situation that has led to these protests. In addition, it’s clear from the negotiations this morning, that Serzh Sargsyan is not aware of the depth of the demands and frustration.



How does Sunday morning’s situation and outcome square with the calls for dialogue and negotiations by President Armen Sarkissian?


The newly elected president finds himself in the first moral if not official crisis, in that for all intents and purposes, Serzh Sargsyan’s position and departure from a 2-minute conversation is not in line with what the president explained he would try to ensure for Sunday morning, after meeting with Nikol Pashinyan in Republic Square Saturday evening. It remains to be seen if the president renews his efforts or steps in to mediate after today’s abrupt end to talks by Serzh Sargsyan.


Who has been arrested thus far?

Per Armenian legislation, there is a difference between detention and arrest. It is possible to take someone in and keep them for 3 hours, without formally charging them. The detained person does not have to speak or respond to any questions during that period. If the person has not been charged, they must be released.
As of this moment, 2:57 pm Yerevan time, Sunday, these are the names and numbers of those detained or arrested.


Armen Grigoryan – Activist, “Reject Serzh” initiative

Davit Sanasaryan- Activist, “Reject Serzh” initiative

Nikol Pashinyan – Member of Parliament, Head of Civil Contract Party of Armenia, leader of “Reject Serzh” movement

Ararat Mirzoyan – Member of Parliament, “Yelq” Alliance

Sasun Mikaelyan- Member of Parliament, Civil Contract party, “Yelq” Alliance


Levon Barseghyan – Member of Gyumri City Council, President of Journalists Club Asbarez


What does the law say about arresting members of parliament?


Any time any member of parliament is to be subjected to a legal proceeding, s/he has to have her/his immunity revoked by a special session of the parliament. The Constitution of Armenia states:

A Deputy may not be deprived of liberty without the consent of the National Assembly, except for the case of having been caught at the time of committing a criminal offence or immediately thereafter. In such case, deprivation of liberty may not last more than seventy-two hours. The Chairperson of the National Assembly shall be immediately notified of the deprivation of liberty of the Deputy.

Criminal prosecution may be initiated against a Deputy only upon the consent of the National Assembly. Therefore, depending on what the members of parliament were doing when they were taken into law enforcement custody, the detention of a member of parliament like the ones this morning, can be interpreted as a violation of the rules of immunity of parliamentarians. In any case, there must be a National Assembly decision to lift their immunity within 72 hours.


How to interpret Serzh Sargsyan’s reference to March 1 in his comments. March 1 of course was the day when the 2008 elections culminated. After two weeks of protests against the way in which Sargsyan was elected president, the scale and intensity of the “Reject Serzh” Initiative has grown. A short conversation between Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan produced no results. So, what does it mean when Sargsyan, now prime minister, refers to March 1 and says, “These are not negotiations, it’s not a dialogue, it’s an ultimatum, blackmailing the state, the legitimate authorities. You do not realize the extent of responsibility, you have not learned from the events of March 1.”

Of course, public opinion quickly interpreted this as an overt threat that the authorities would use force. It is certainly possible that it was not a threat, but what he meant was that like in 2008, such situations lead to inevitable violence.

Quite frankly, Serzh Sargsyan’s reference was jarring in that it implies the use of force, once the government/authorities are forced into a non-negotiable situation, as the only way out. What is interesting here and a trend that has emerged in Sargsyan’s comment of the last 10 days, is that he has been much more willing to make references to positions (his and his party’s) that go to the heart of the Armenian people’s ire and dissatisfaction with his rule. March 1 and the death of 10 individuals remain an open wound.

The items below are descriptions of incidents that took place earlier in the day.



– Police use stun grenades, excessive brute force to arbitrarily detain protesters
– Members of Armenia’s Parliament Nikol Pashinyan, Ararat Mirzoyan, Sasun Mikaelyan among the detained, despite having parliamentary immunity
– Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri City also detained.

-Activist Davit Sanasaryan was detained yesterday.

– Armen Grigoryan was arrested and charged with organizing mass disorders, per Article 225, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia.
-Protesters self-organize and head to Republic Sq
-Large number of police in civilian clothes can be seen throughout Yerevan.


Nikol Pashinyan’s FB status: “EVERYONE, come out to the streets to take part in the civil disobedience.”

Earlier, he was detained by police in civilian clothes, who attacked him from behind while he was talking to #Yerevan’s Deputy Police Chief, Osipyan


“We’ve reached a point where we don’t need a platform. The rally scheduled at 7PM today at Republic Sq will be held” – Tigran Avinyan, Civli Contract.


There is a police barricade at the Arstakh-Erebuni intersection.


Karen Karapetyan calls on the people of Armenia and the government forces to act in a calm and sober fashion.


Pashinyan urges the demonstrators to continue their acts of civil disobedience throughout the country, encouraging them to close roads and bridges, and to then gather in Republic Sq at 7:00 PM

I saw the defeat in Serzh Sargsyan’s eyes, Pashinyan says. He is playing with borrowed time, he says.


The protest march continues down Tigran Mets Ave. Serzh Sargsyan does not have the authority to act on behalf of the people, says Nikol Pashinyan.


I had a very clear understanding and goal for today’s 10:00 AM meeting at the Marriott, says Pashinyan․


Pashinyan indicates that they will continue with their acts of civil disobedience and will gather again this evening at 7:00 PM in Republic Square.


They are now marching out of the Square.


Demonstrators gathered near the Marriott in Republic Sq can be heard chanting, ‘Nikol, Nikol’


Levon Barseghyan has been released and is conducting an interview with CivilNet.

Pashinyan believes that Prime Minister Sargsyan had come to intimidate him and movement. Sargsyan said that it would be better to follow a legal approach to the movement. Panishyan says that Sargsyan does not get that this movement is a legal form of protest.

Sargsyan became angry, saying that a party with only 7% support cannot have a voice and speak on behalf of the people.


Yesterday, activist Davit Sanasaryan was detained. Earlier, Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri CIty Councilmember, was arrested and Armen Grigoryan was detained, then arrested.


Pashinyan tells reporters that Serzh Sargsyan has not learned the proper lessons necessary since March 1st, and he believes that Sargsyan will fail during this political process.


Nikol Pashinyan, sitting in the Marriot, calls on the people to continue their acts of Civil Disobedience.


Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has now left the negotiation at the Marriot.


Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan are now meeting. Nikol starts by saying that I am here to discuss with you your resignation.


I am now going to meet with Serzh Sargsyan to demand his negotiation, said Nikol Pashinyan. There will be no other topics to discuss, he said. He continued by saying we will meet at 12:30 in Erebuni to continue our walk.