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Armenian Education Minister Rejects Resignation Calls


Armenia -- Eucation Minister Arayik Harutiunian at a news conference in Yerevan, September 16, 2020.

Armenia’s Minister of Education, Culture and Sports Arayik Harutiunian dismissed growing opposition demands for his resignation and defended his policies on Wednesday.

Harutiunian has faced in recent weeks small-scale street protests staged by various extra-parliamentary opposition groups and activists denouncing some of those policies. They are particularly unhappy with new guidelines for the teaching of Armenian history and literature in schools, which were issued by his ministry this summer.

The protesters claim that those guidelines are at odds at with traditional Armenian values. The ministry denies this and cites the need to update school curricula.

The Bright Armenia Party (LHK), one of the two opposition groups represented in the parliament, added its voice to the calls for Harutiunian’s resignation last week. It said it will try to push through the National Assembly a motion to ask Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to consider sacking the minister. LHK leaders said Harutiunian has failed to carry out any major reforms of Armenia’s education system beset by many problems since being appointed as minister in the wake of the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”

Harutiunian, who is a senior member of Pashinian’s My Step bloc, rejected the criticism. “I would ask our colleagues not to threaten me with irresponsible statements and resignation demands because I’m not scared of that,” he told a news conference.

“I was and am one of the leaders of a revolutionary team,” he said. “I took on a mission to reform the sector and am now accomplishing that mission.”

Armenia - A senior member of the opposition Bright Armenia Party addresses protesters demanding the resignation of Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian, Yerevan, September 16, 2020.
Armenia - A senior member of the opposition Bright Armenia Party addresses protesters demanding the resignation of Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian, Yerevan, September 16, 2020.

LHK lawmakers continued, meanwhile, to push for Harutiunian’s resignation. One of them, Ani Samsonian, urged her pro-government colleagues to back his ouster. “Everyone knows that he is a close associate of Nikol Pashinian and they are keeping silent for that reason,” she complained.

One My Step deputy, Arsen Julfalakyan, announced on September 9 that he has decided to resign from the parliament because of what he described as serious disagreements with Harutiunian. Julfalakyan accused the minister of mismanaging his areas of responsibility but did not elaborate.

Harutiunian countered on Wednesday that Julfalakyan, who is also a renowned Greco-Roman wrestler, has not tried to meet with him in the last several months. He said he was always open to discussing the lawmaker’s concerns.

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