By Ruben Meloyan
An Armenian employee of the United Nations office in Yerevan claimed on Tuesday to have been fired for his active involvement in a recently formed opposition movement that launched a campaign of anti-government demonstrations last month.
Aramazd Ghalamkarian, an information officer at the UN office, was among a group of young Armenians who set up Aylentrank (Alternative) movement together with some close associates of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian late last year. Its stated aim is to not only campaign for regime change but also present a pro-Western ideological alternative to Armenia’s current leadership which it considers corrupt and undemocratic.
Aylentrank has also formed a bloc called Impeachment to contest the May 12 parliamentary elections. Ghalamkarian’s name is 15th on the list of its election candidates.
Ghalamkarian told RFE/RL that he effectively lost his job on May 7, two weeks after the first Aylentrank rally in Yerevan. He said UN officials informed him that he has been put on leave of absence until April 30, the expiry date of his current employment contract.
“It was decided that I must go on leave and after that will not have my contract renewed,” he said. “As a justification, they cited my activities in Aylentrank. They said I breached some UN rules which I think are somewhat ambiguous and can be interpreted in a different way.”
According to those rules, posted on a special election monitoring website of the Armenian branch of Transparency International, U.N. employees “shall conduct themselves at all times in a manner befitting their status as international civil servants and shall not engage in any activity that is incompatible with the proper discharge of their duties.” They can join a political party only if “membership does not entail action, or an obligation to take action, by the staff member contrary to staff regulation.”
Ghalamkarian insisted that his UN superiors had never warned him of consequences of his involvement with Aylentrank beforehand. “I asked them to show me the limits of what I am allowed to do so that I either don’t overstep them and remain a UN employee or consciously resign from the UN,” he said. “But I was not given such a choice.”
In Ghalamkarian’s words, such a choice was given to two other local UN staffers who were initially included on the electoral list of a newly formed party which, unlike Aylentrank, is not in opposition to President Robert Kocharian. He said they kept their jobs after dropping out of the race.
The head of the UN representation in Armenia, Consuelo Vidal, and other senior officials there could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
(Photolur photo: An Aylentrank rally in Yerevan.)