A renowned Armenian novelist has refused to accept a state award granted by President Serzh Sarkisian in protest against the socioeconomic and political situation in the country.
Levon Khechoyan was among several writers, artists and other intellectuals who were awarded a Medal for Services to the Homeland ahead of an independence holiday marked in Armenia on Tuesday. He boycotted an awards ceremony held in the presidential palace on the same day.
Khechoyan explained on Wednesday that his decision was an expression of protest against widespread poverty and injustice which is forcing many Armenians to leave their country. He also said he could not have accepted the medal amid continuing street protests by fellow veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh demanding a sizable rise in their state pensions.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) from a Yerevan hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment, Khechoyan made clear at the same that he is grateful to Sarkisian for deciding to award him.
Prominent Armenians have occasionally refused or handed back state awards in the past, citing the state of affairs in the country. Last January, Harutiun Karapetian, a senior fellow at the state-funded Research Center for Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, renounced an annual presidential prize sponsored by the Boghossian Foundation, a Diaspora Armenian charity, in protest against what he called widespread corruption in post-graduate education and research.
Karapetian was part part of a team of three researchers who received the prize as well an equivalent of $5,000 in 2008 in recognition of their work.
Incidentally, Sarkisian handed the latest Boghossian Foundation awards to over a dozen scientists, scholars and artists at a ceremony on Wednesday. “With these awards we are not only expressing gratitude to you but also urging to do more,” he told them.