The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun) has responded to a key minister in the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian by continuing to challenge him over a controversial education reform that the traditionalist party believes compromises national values.
Arayik Harutiunian, whose ministry of education, science, culture and sports is seeking to make the teaching of the Armenian language, literature and history optional for university students, on Thursday accused the ARF of standing in the way of the reform, appealing to Diaspora-based ARF members “to take care of their [Armenian-based] party, because...[it] does not give credit to one of our oldest political parties.”
Harutiunian’s accusations came in response to a campaign launched by the ARF’s youth-wing members who have staged a sit-in at his office, calling for his resignation over the controversial reform.
The party, which failed to win seats in parliament in the December 2018 election, has also criticized the ministry for funding the performance of a play it deemed offensive.
Controversy ensued over the past weekend during an outdoor rehearsal of a modernist play based on early 20th-century Armenian poetry. Some ARF members and other conservative groups in the country accused the performers of “nontraditional” sexual orientation and unpatriotic behavior.
However, Harutiunian, a key figure in the country’s 2018 “velvet revolution” and a member of the ruling Civil Contract Party, seemed undaunted by the criticism. “I am ready to resign only when I feel I’m not doing enough. This is not the case,” he said.
Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on Friday, senior ARF member Artsvik Minasian criticized Harutiunian for “having no national system of values.”
Minasian, who served as environment minister in the previous government, said: “This person with his behavior, his actions, the thoughts that he expresses and his approaches is completely anti-national.”
“Dashnaktsutyun is everywhere where there is a problem of preservation, protection and promotion of national values,” the ARF member added.
Earlier, another ARF member, Gegham Manukian, warned Minister Harutiunian against trying “to drive a wedge” between ARF members in Armenia and abroad.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian weighed in with the standoff today as he met with students conducting the round-the-clock sit-in in front of the ministry.
He said that policy in the education sphere of Armenia is conducted by the government and not by Harutiunian personally. “Yesterday I spoke about this subject in detail at the government meeting. I do not share the opinion that some people are ‘anti-national’ and some are ‘national’. There has never been a more national government in Armenia than ours,” Pashinian said.
Commenting on Pashinian’s remarks, the ARF’s Minasian said: “If Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian adheres to the same points of view, supports the behavior that infringes upon national values, then we also make the same evaluation of him.”