The Yerevan State University (YSU) administration accused Armenia’s new government of exerting “political pressure” on its rector, Aram Simonian, on Tuesday after he was confronted by angry students demanding his resignation.
Simonian, who is affiliated with the former ruling Republican Party (HHK), has faced growing pressure to step down since the April 23 resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian resulting from massive anti-government demonstrations.
Students involved in the popular revolution led by Sarkisian’s successor, Nikol Pashinian, accuse him of mismanagement and corruption. They also accuse him of having abused his powers to spread HHK influence on Armenia’s largest and oldest university during his decade-long tenure.
More than a hundred of them demonstrated outside the main YSU building in Yerevan on Tuesday morning before holding a tense meeting with Simonian in a university conference hall. They refused to leave the auditorium and began a sit-in there after he rejected their demands. The protest continued late in the evening.
“We waited for about month, hoping that there will be some reforms in the university and that there will be some statements in support of the students,” said Davit Petrosian, a leader of the protesting students. “But the opposite happened.”
Simonian insisted that the demands are “not legitimate” and that only a small percentage of YSU’s 17,000 or students are demonstrating against him. “This is not democracy, this is repression, including for my political views and party affiliation,” he told reporters. “I won’t make any concessions under duress.”
Simonian went on to accuse Pashinian’s government of being behind the protests. He argued that two recently appointed government officials joined the students holed up in the YSU auditorium.
In a statement released later in the day, the YSU administration likewise charged that the protests are being “guided” by the new government. It said that the protesters have not come up with any “legal grounds” for Simonian’s resignation and are targeting him because of his HHK affiliation.