Five youth activists claimed to have been beaten up by unknown men over the weekend in what their leaders called a government-backed attempt to intimidate participants of a month-long sit-in outside the Yerevan Mayor’s Office.
Dozens of young people have been demonstrating there on a daily basis ever since Mayor Taron Markarian attempted to sharply raise the cost of public transport in the Armenian capital. Markarian suspended the price hike late last month following angry street protests staged by a much larger number of non-partisan activists.
The sit-in participants are demanding the sacking of Henrik Navasardian, head of the transport department at the Yerevan municipality, and the director of a municipal bus operator, Misak Hambardzumian. Mayor Markarian has rejected their demands.
Two of the activists, Mihran Markarian and Babken Ter-Grigorian, said they were assaulted by a dozen men elsewhere in the city center late on Saturday. In their words, the assailants kicked and punched them, citing the continuing protests against “our dads.” They said the men warned that the other activists will also be attacked if they continue the campaign.
Both activists struck a defiant note. “We are now even more motivated to fight till the end and achieve our goals,” Ter-Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Mikael Tonoyan, another activist, claimed to have been assaulted on Sunday evening. He too said that the attackers did not identify themselves but that some of them referred to “our dads.” “This is called intimidation. I won’t stay silent. I will go through all state bodies,” added Tonoyan.
According to Vahagn Minasian, one of the organizers of the sit-in, two other young men were also beaten up on Sunday in similar circumstances. He said they do not want to be identified for now.
Minasian blamed the alleged attacks on “criminal complicity” between the Yerevan police and the Mayor’s Office. “I want to declare that we will not succumb to provocations and be intimidated,” he told an outdoor news conference outside the municipality building on Monday. “We are ready to be subjected to beatings. But we will definitely achieve the fulfillment of our demands.”
The police declined to comment on the assault allegations.