By Mark Dovich
Mourad ‘Franck’ Papazian, co-president of the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations of France and a well-known figure in France’s large and influential Armenian community, said Thursday he had been denied entry to Armenia.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that I was barred from entering Armenia last night. On Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s order, I have been declared persona non grata in Armenia,” he wrote on Facebook, saying that police officers forced him onto a return flight to France upon his arrival in Armenia.
Repeated inquiries by CivilNet to the National Security Service to confirm or deny Papazian’s claim went unanswered Thursday.
“Sooner or later, the Armenian people will realize that they will have to get rid of this leader (Pashinyan), who is making every effort to weaken Armenia,” added Papazian, a high-ranking member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, commonly known by its Armenian name, Dashnaktsutyun.
Several prominent Dashnaktsutyun leaders from the Armenian diaspora were prohibited from traveling to Armenia in the 1990s, but Papazian’s ban, if confirmed, would be the first such case in decades.
The Dashnaktsutyun is relatively popular in the Armenian diaspora, but its influence in Armenia itself is limited. The party was banned both in Soviet Armenia and in the 1990s under President Levon Ter-Petrossian, but it was relegalized by President Robert Kocharyan, Ter-Petrossian’s successor.
Lawmaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan, the head of the Dashnaktsutyun in Armenia, has emerged as the leader of ongoing protests aimed at forcing Pashinyan to resign. Saghatelyan was stripped of his leadership position in parliament earlier this month in a vote he denounced as “political persecution.”