A video circulated on social media showed a middle-aged woman repeatedly making the offensive gesture and spitting at the protesters from the balcony of an apartment in downtown Yerevan.
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service established that the apartment is the place of residence of Simonian’s mother, Mariam Hovannisian.
Simonian confirmed later in the day Hovannisian was the one who stuck her middle fingers out at the demonstrators. He claimed that she did so because some of them recognized and insulted her.
“Knowing that this is our apartment, protesters shouted insults addressed to me and my family,” he said. “In response to that, my mom lost her temper.”
There is no evidence in support of Simonian’s claim in the publicized video of the incident.
The protesters were led by two opposition lawmakers. Simonian insisted that his mother’s gestures were directed not at the lawmakers but at some of their supporters. He suggested that she therefore cannot be prosecuted under a controversial law passed by the Armenian parliament last year.
The law made it a crime to gravely insult state officials and public figures. Law-enforcement authorities have used it to prosecute dozens of government critics in recent months.
RFE/RL journalists stumbled upon Simonian’s mother’s apartment last October as they looked for the offices of an obscure construction firm managed by the speaker’s brother. They discovered that the apartment matches one of the company’s two officially registered addresses.
The company called Euroasphalt won earlier in 2021 two government contracts worth a combined $1.4 million, raising suspicions of a conflict of interest and even corruption. Simonian, who is a figure close to Pashinian, condemned Armenian media outlets for questioning the integrity of those deals.