Liana Enli Manusajyan
During my trip to Armenia, that I have just finished, I had the privilege of meeting Liana Manusajyan, a young human rights lawyer, who is also a member of the Advisory Council of World Vision Armenia.
During our short meeting we were able to talk about the recent peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan, Liana being one of the organisers. She has the kindness of responding to a few questions and allowed me to publish here her answers. Here is the short interview.
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DM – Armenia is, for me, a paradoxical country. Armenians are smart, industrious and well educated people. However, Armenia, to a certain extent like my own country, Romania, is a poor country. How do you explain this paradox?
LEM – The reason of our paradox is monopolization of fields. No competition. Everything is centralizes in the hands of few people who don’t allow the competition.
DM – Because of its geographic location, of complex historical circumstances and the decision of its leaders in the last two decades, Armenia is under the spell of Putin Russian empire. Along the years I have been surprised by the level of acceptance that Armenians have of this political and economic dependence of the ‘Bi+g Bear’. Am I right? And, if so, why do you think this is the case?
LEM – You are right. The thing is that Russia wants to have control over economy and politics in Armenia. We have economical dependence on Russia and till we won’t find other alternatives to escape that economical dependence we should somehow take them into account.
DM – I understand that the present uprising is cause by a new raise in electricity prices. This is the second major raise in electricity prices. Could you, please, give us the percentages for these two raises? And could you try to explain why people did not react at the first rise?
LEM – The first raise of price of electricity was in 2012, over 30%, second was in 2014. First time it was no so visible and we had other problems to focus on in society. The other reason was that there were no so many motivated and independent young people at that time aware of their rights that could take initiative.
DM – Russian propaganda already reacted to these events, accusing the US of stirring them up. Is there any reason to believe this is true? How did, in fact, the manifestation start, and who is leading it?
LEM – There is no influence of any country, including USA, that had any role in starting this initiative. As I told you above, nowadays youth are aware of their rights and are more independent. The initiative has been started by common young people, including myself. No country or person had influence on us. Our fight is only based on our rights and no one can manipulate us. We are ready for any attempt of manipulation that might want to take advantages of our “innocent” movement.
DM – The initial reaction of the authorities was violent. Could you give us some details? Are there still people in prison following the police attack on your manifestation?
– During the first night of demonstration the police wanted to attack and over 250 activists were arrested, but all of them are free now, because they had no reason to keep them in police stations. The only reason to keep them in stations was to not allowing them to continue their peaceful movements which is not favoured by the government. But at the end of that day the number of demonstrators doubled, this time they also added the demand to punish the police people who were violent towards their peaceful sisters and brothers. HERE
is a recording of the events of that morning.
DM – As I as I participated on Saturday 27 June at the demonstration on Baghramyan Avenue, I was impressed by the number of youth present and by their enthusiasm. It reminded me of the similar demonstrations in University Square in Bucharest, Romania, in 1990. I have not seen discourses, which have been a characteristic of the Romanian uprising, but I was very moved by the presence of artists and the way people sang with them. Do you think this manifestation is sustainable? And, if so, did you think about what could it kill it how are you prepared to prevent that from happening?LEM – Our protest is really peaceful. Each day you can see concerts and dances on Baghramyan during the protest. It is an unique method and the first manifestation using culture to show our strength and show the voices of people for decision makers. This helped as to reach our first point – stopping the application of the decision [on rising the price of electricity]. For its cancellation we need to use other methods – based on legal documents and processes (such as criminal responsibility, bankruptcy of the organisation). So our fight is continuing now on another level.
DM – Has there been any presence of clergy in the demonstration? If so, what was their involvement? Do you this this as important, even if Armenia is, theoretically at least, a secular society?
LEM – Sure, there were clergy in our protest. They formed a “live wall” between us and police in order to keep peace and not allow the police to attack as. They were really very helpful. They stayed there all night and we started the day by prayer with them. They gave us courage.
DM – Finally, what are your hopes and aims with this initiative? Do you think this uprising could lead to a different Armenia? If so, how would the new Armenia look like in your mind?
LEM – This initiative is different because it is being lead by young people who care about their future, the future of their children and the future of their country. We, young people, fight every day for making better a Armenia. And our fight is peaceful, We use our cultural heritage and our intelligence. We respect the legal framework and we are for cooperation, but we won’t accept to be manipulated and to be used as a tool in the interest of other persons or organisations. Being young, we have common interest for which we are fighting. We are fighting for justice, for peaceful life and fair behaviour towards as. We are young, but we are skilled and experienced. We have thousands of methods to win in our fight for justice and, once again, no one can manipulate us. In the modern world, the future is in the hands of youth!