The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has expelled from its ranks three young members who have publicly objected to recent anti-government protests staged by the opposition party.
The party’s leadership in Armenia announced the decision shortly after two of those activists, Vanik Chaloyan and Anush Hovannisian, denounced it in an interview with Armenian Public Television aired on Thursday evening.
Chaloyan and Hovannisian said that they as well as dozens of other university students affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun refused to join the protests which the pan-Armenian party’s youth wing organized early this month in a bid to force Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian to resign.
The several dozen protesters were angered by the Education Ministry’s controversial plans to make Armenian language, literature and history courses optional in state-run universities.
The head of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia, Ishkhan Saghatelian, on Friday defended the expulsion of the three young people. Saghatelian said they “sabotaged” decisions made by Dashnaktsutyun structures and “tried to discredit the party with their actions.” He also accused them of spreading “fake reports.”
The expelled youths are understood to have been among the signatories of an open letter circulated on behalf of Dashnaktsutyun’s student organization earlier this week. The letter claimed, among other things, that the party’s former top leader, Hrant Markarian called for “guerilla strikes” against the Armenian government at a Dashnaktsutyun conference held in October.
Saghatelian denied that claim while confirming Markarian’s participation in the conference. “People who did not attend the gathering circulated information about the gathering which was taken out of context and had nothing to do with reality,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Dashnaktsutyun, which is influential in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, was part of Armenia’s former government toppled in last year’s “Velvet Revolution.” It received two ministerial posts in newly elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s first cabinet formed in May 2018.
Pashinian sacked his Dashnaktsutyun-affiliated ministers in October 2018, accusing their party of secretly collaborating with the former regime. Dashnaktsutyun, which failed to win any parliament seats in the December 2018 elections, has since been increasingly critical of the current government. It has accused Pashinian of not delivering on his promises and seeking to establish “one-man rule.”
Pashinian lambasted Dashnaktsutyun on Wednesday after three dozen party activists demanding Harutiunian’s resignation clashed with riot police while blocking a street in downtown Yerevan.
“The resignation of any minister cannot result from the whims of a political force with zero influence,” he said in the parliament. He charged that Dashnaktsutyun had long been “one of the important pillars of Armenia’s illegal and corrupt authorities.”
The Dashnaktsutyun leadership strongly condemned the prime minister’s verbal attack in a statement.