By Karine Kalantarian
Angry residents of a central Yerevan district gathered near the government building on Thursday to demand respect for their property rights that they say have been repeatedly violated lately.
In the heavy presence of police homeowners from Yerevan’s Kozern district expressed their determination to stand by their ownership rights to housing and land that they say have belonged to them and their ancestors for decades. The district is currently a major target for government-backed private investors raising new elite residential estates in the central parts of the Armenian capital.
(Prices for property and land in central Yerevan have increased dramatically over the past several years, as did domestic and foreign investments in construction projects for multistoried residential and office buildings mainly stumbling over tumbledown houses in old city districts.)
“Our house has a centuries-old history and now they came to our yard and totally destroyed it,” one angry resident told RFE/RL alleging the involvement of Gegharkunik governor Stepan Barseghian. “There is no state building in our district, all are private houses,” another protesting woman added.
The residents said all their applications for formal documents to their factual property had been denied by a corresponding government body.
Many of the residents in this district have lived in their homes for many years without having formal ownership rights. Now they fear that they will be denied the right to compensation when redevelopment plans reach this area.
An answer came from the government building about an hour after the protest started with a promise to set up a joint commission that will consider housing and land ownership claims by the citizens.
The Kozern district protesters were later joined by citizens who owned property in North Avenue, Buzand Street, as well as in the Dalma Gardens and Tbilisi highway and were evicted due to the continuing controversial redevelopment schemes backed by the Armenian government and big business.
Earlier this week the Constitutional Court postponed for two weeks the consideration of an application by Kentron residents challenging the constitutionality of their eviction because of the ongoing construction projects in downtown Yerevan.
The protest also drew a group of citizens who recently suffered from wrong billings by Armenia’s national telecom operator ArmenTel.
Those protesting against ArmenTel were led by opposition lawmaker Arshak Sadoyan and Union of Consumers Chairman Armen Poghosian.
Minister of Transport and Communications Andranik Manukian promised to deal with the matter of ArmenTel users saying that the Prosecutor-General’s Office had instituted a criminal case in this connection and that investigation was continuing.
The Public Services Regulatory Commission is due to discuss the matter on Friday.