By Astghik Bedevian
Police used force to ensure the destruction of yet another green area in downtown Yerevan on Monday.
The more than three dozen fruit trees covering 200 square meters of privatized land were bulldozed despite fierce resistance put up by many residents of the adjacent apartment blocks.
They had for weeks stood guard over the grove to prevent the new land owner from cutting down the trees and building a three-story structure in their place. The police department of the city’s central Kentron district twice attempted unsuccessfully in May and June to overcome their resistance. It succeeded only after arriving at the scene with special police reinforcements on Monday morning. The so-called “red berets” quickly dispersed several dozen people, among them women and children, that gathered there.
“This is a barbaric act,” said one elderly woman. “It pleased our eyes to look at the trees. They are now gone.”
“Police and red berets attacked us, shouting abuse and beating people,” complained another local resident.
The security forces left only one tree intact as it was personally protected by Zaruhi Postanjian, a young member of Armenia’s parliament affiliated with the opposition Zharangutyun party. “I will not budge from here,” she said after they stepped back. “We must preserve this tree. We must not allow them to carry out these illegalities.”
Later in the day, Postanjian and several other Zharangutyun parliamentarians pressured the Armenian Ministry of Urban Development into ordering the Kentron administration to suspend any construction work at the site for now.
Also, Armenia’s Office of Human Rights Defender, which is located just meters away from the bulldozed park, effectively declared the tree destruction illegal. A spokesman argued that the land owner and police officers that helped him lacked a mandatory permission from the Ministry of Environment.
The new property to be built there will most probably be the latest addition to a myriad of street cafes, restaurants and other businesses that have sprung up in virtually every Yerevan park in the last several years. Environment protection groups estimate that the construction boom has destroyed more than 700 hectares of public parks -- twice the size of the green areas lost during the severe energy crisis of the early 1990s when many residents had to cut trees to heat their homes.
(Photolur photo: A luxury hotel built in the middle one of Yerevan's largest parks in 2005.)