The 63-year-old deputy, Hovik Aghazarian, sparked controversy at the weekend when he emphatically condemned an Armenian intruder for setting an Azerbaijani flag ablaze during the opening ceremony of the 2023 European Weightlifting Championships in Yerevan.
Writing on Facebook, Aghazarian said he wants to apologize to the international community for not having done enough to “completely eradicate from our nation practices peculiar to wild and cannibalistic tribes.”
The post drew condemnation and ridicule from Armenians who defended the intruder’s action. One of them, Tatev Virabian, said she sent a private message to Aghazarian criticizing his reaction to Friday’s incident. She said he responded by swearing at her.
The young woman, whose family fled Nagorno-Karabakh during the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, publicized a purported screenshot of messages exchanged by her and the lawmaker. Short answers attributed to the latter involved extreme swear words that are rarely said to women’s face in Armenia.
“It’s shameful for a man of my grandfather’s age to behave like that,” Virabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday. “I didn’t know whether or not to publicize that. I decided to publicize it because impunity gives rise to worse crimes.”
Aghazarian, who is known for his flamboyant rhetoric and behavior, denied swearing at the woman, claiming that the offensive messages were sent from his Facebook account by hackers. But he said he will not ask law-enforcement authorities to investigate the alleged hacking.
“If we overload law-enforcement bodies with such silly things our adversaries could use that to keep our law-enforcement bodies so busy that they don’t deal with other cases,” he told reporters.
Aghazarian is one of several pro-government parliamentarians who have been accused of gross misconduct lately.
Earlier this month, parliament speaker Alen Simonian effectively admitted spitting at an opposition activist who branded him a traitor at a popular dining area of central Yerevan. Simonian reluctantly apologized to “all citizens of Armenia,” rather than the Canadian-Armenian activist.
Two other pro-government lawmakers shouted verbal abuse and threats at an opposition candidate for the then vacant post of Armenia’s human rights defender during a parliament committee meeting on April 4. One of them pledged to “cut the tongues and ears of anyone” who would make disparaging comments about the 2018 “velvet revolution” that brought Nikol Pashinian to power.
None of these lawmakers has faced criminal proceedings or even disciplinary action by the National Assembly.