Authorities tightened security at state-run universities in Yerevan on Monday as more than a hundred students boycotted classes and took to the streets to demand a rerun of last week’s presidential election.
The protesters supporting opposition candidate Raffi Hovannisian rallied outside several universities, urging fellow students to join the boycott. “We are calling on you to join this movement,” one of their leaders shouted through a megaphone outside Yerevan State University (YSU), the starting point of the protests.
“This [opposition] movement has no concrete political orientation, it’s everybody’s fight,” he said. “We all know well who won these elections. The people won these elections.”
“I’m against vote falsifications. This is my civic position,” another participant told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Armenia - Pro-opposition students demonstrate outside a university building in Yerevan against official results of the February 18 presidential election, 25Feb2013.
Several others claimed to have been warned by university administration that they will risk dismissal in case of boycotting classes. “Of course I’m not scared,” one young woman said. “I am not taking unconstitutional actions. I’m not for sale. I’m fighting for my future.”
Chanting “Boycott! Boycott!” the crowd marched to other state colleges. Entrances to their premises were blocked by security guards, pro-government students and, in some cases, scores of riot police.
“We are not a politicized university and don’t want to take part in this senseless boycott,” said a student of the Armenian State Engineering University (ASEU) confronting his pro-opposition peers. He said he and other students loyal to the university administration gathered there “so that everyone understands that we don’t care.”
Ara Avetisian, the ASEU rector, denounced the boycott calls as “immoral” but insisted that his students are not forcibly prevented from joining the protests. “Those who want to can come out,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Doors at our university are always open.”
Two students had to scale a high fence outside the nearby Yerevan State Medical University to join the gathering. One of them accidentally dropped his mobile phone in the process before it was picked up by a university security guard. The latter said he will hand the phone back only when the student returns to the campus.
The crowd waving Armenian flags and wearing orange ribbons was briefly joined by Hovannisian at one point. The opposition leader hailed the action.