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Education Ministry Sued Over Controversial Textbook


Armenia - Pictures of opposition supporters killed in Yerevan in March 2008 placed at the site of the deadly post-election unrest, 1Mar2012.

Armenia - Pictures of opposition supporters killed in Yerevan in March 2008 placed at the site of the deadly post-election unrest, 1Mar2012.

Relatives of protesters killed during the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan have sued the Education Ministry in connection with a new history textbook that blames the Armenian opposition for the bloodshed.

The textbook was written by senior professors at Yerevan State University and approved by the ministry last year. It contends that the violence, which left ten people dead and more than 150 others injured, erupted after “demonstrators started attacking police forces” and that both sides used firearms in vicious clashes in downtown Yerevan.

The book tracing the history of Armenia from ancient to modern times also slams the opposition led by Levon Ter-Petrosian for “blatantly rejecting” the official results of the February 2008 presidential election that gave victory to Serzh Sarkisian.

Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) condemned the book and demanded its withdrawal from university curricula. The book also prompted an angry reaction from relatives of the opposition supporters killed by security forces on March 1-2, 2008.

Some of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday that they have filed a lawsuit demanding that Armenia’s Administrative Court declare the ministry’s decision null and avoid. They said the textbook is deeply offensive because it unjustly portrays their loved ones as criminals.

Alla Hovannisian, whose son Tigran Khachatrian was among the unrest victims, argued that Armenian law-enforcement bodies have still not formally completed their investigation into what was the worst street violence in the country’s history. “We believe that as long as the case is being investigated they have no right to include it into textbooks,” she said. “I don’t want to live in a country where my son is accused of something that had never happened.”

The plaintiffs also include the parents of Gor Kloyan, another young man killed during the suppression of the opposition protests. “They want to deceive our students in order to avoid any responsibility,” said Kloyan’s father Sarkis.

Education Minister Armen Ashotian refused to respond to these claims on Thursday. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Ashotian seemed to blame the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition for the legal action. “Those people who have no political capital must stop building political capital through March 1,” he said.

Citing “academic freedom,” Ashotian made clear in December that “not a single sentence” in the textbook will be changed because of the opposition outcry. He said the book’s approval by his ministry does not amount to a blanket endorsement of its controversial passages.

Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) maintain that the authorities used lethal force to enforce the results of what they consider a rigged election. They also accuse the authorities of deliberately failing to prosecute those responsible for the ten deaths.
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