Speaking at a fresh rally held by his Armenian National Congress (HAK), Ter-Petrosian reiterated his claims that they have been glossing over the existence of “political prisoners” in the country in the hope of clinching Armenian concessions to Turkey and Azerbaijan. He said the lack of international pressure on President Serzh Sarkisian complicates the success of his opposition movement launched three years ago.
“The paradox is that apart from fighting against the Armenian dictatorship, we are forced to also overcome … the criminal indifference of international organizations that are supposed to promote democracy and protect human rights,” he told several thousand supporters rallying in the city center.
Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, has repeatedly accused the West of being too lenient towards the authorities in Yerevan since Armenia’s 2008 presidential election and the ensuing government crackdown on his supporters. He eased the criticism at the previous HAK rally held on October 19, saying that the international community is “running out of patience” with the Sarkisian administration.
Ter-Petrosian directed on Tuesday his anger at representatives of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. “They say that from the standpoint of democracy, Armenia is in a better situation than, say, Afghanistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe and so on,”. “I agree that in those countries, there are no independent newspapers, whereas in Armenia there are at least a couple of them.
“In those countries, hundreds or even thousands people get killed during elections, whereas in Armenia ‘only’ ten people [died in 2008.] Those countries have hundreds of political prisoners, while in Armenia only 12 of them remain.”
Armenia -- Opposition supporters demonstrate in Yerevan, 9Nov2010.
“As I once pointed out, in the case of those making such arguments, we are dealing with a manifestation of subconscious racism,” charged the HAK leader. “Its essence is, ‘You do not deserve to be measured against us, developed democracies; measure yourself against more backward countries and peoples; and take comfort from the fact that their plight is worse than yours.”
Ter-Petrosian, who regularly meets U.S. and EU officials visiting Armenia, said they also claim that the West can not step up pressure on Armenia because that would be seen as interference in the country’s internal affairs. “When they needed it, they meddled in internal affairs and engaged in regime change,” he scoffed. “For example, in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Are they waiting for Serzh to become Saddam [Hussein] to change him?”
It was the fourth HAK rally held in central Yerevan in less than two months. The opposition bloc resumed what its leaders called “a new wave” of regular anti-government protests in September.
Still, Ter-Petrosian has so far been careful not to raise the temperature in his standoff with Armenia’s current leadership. His aides refrained from announcing the date of the next HAK rally, signaling another hiatus in the opposition campaign. One of them, Aram Manukian, told the crowd that it could be held “at any moment.”