Two Armenian veterans of the Karabakh war have returned their combat medals over a recent incident in which dozens of opposition activists were assaulted while staging an automobile march towards Stepanakert.
Pavel Manukian and Armen Lambarian, holders of a total of 11 such medals, said at a press conference on Monday that they supported the hard-line opposition movement called the Founding Parliament and decided to take the step in response to the police brutality against its activists near Lachin, a corridor that links Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.
The incident took place on January 31. The Karabakh police defended the use of force, saying that they prevented “mass disturbances” that they expected to be provoked by the opposition group known to be seeking regime change in Armenia. But Armenia’s leading opposition parties as well as human rights activists condemned the violence in which unidentified plainclothes men also participated in the beating of the opposition activists.
Manukian, who went through the crucible of the 1992-1994 war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, said that the incident was a blow against the dignity of the Armenian people.
“If a bandit and a soldier can wear the same medal, then it is already incompatible,” he said, expressing confidence that other Armenian war veterans will follow his example.
Lambarian also said that he did not want to wear the medals received from the authorities that humiliate the people.
“If their political thirst can lead to the diminishing of the national values, then I don’t need these medals,” he said.
Two other supporters of the Founding Parliament movement who participated in the Karabakh movement and war in the early 1990s already gave up their medals as a sign of protest against the Lachin beatings earlier this month.