Well-intentioned but Unwise Display

Dikran Abrahamian MD, Ontario, 1 June 2018

Keghart.com was one of the first media outlets that defended Nikol Pashinyan’s human rights in the Diaspora back in 2010. It was the only entity that organized a petition protesting the suppression of Pashinyan’s rights for freedom of speech and demanded that he be released from prison. Through Keghart.com’s efforts Armenian and non-Armenian petitioners were drawn from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, UK, and the US.

The petition proclaimed, “We, Armenians living in the Diaspora and our non-Armenian friends, are deeply concerned in the imprisonment of Nikol Pashinyan, editor-in-chief of Haykakan Zhamanak (“Armenian Time”) daily in Armenia, and his treatment in jail. While Mr. Pashinyan’s voluntary surrender to law enforcement agencies should have been duly noted by the Armenian authorities, the veteran journalist has experienced coercion behind bars. We attest that these reprehensible acts of the authorities–aimed at silencing Mr. Pashinyan and punishing him for his political views–will have the opposite outcome, making the editor’s voice heard more forcefully in Armenia and in the Diaspora. Deeply concerned with the treatment of the journalist, we are following the “judicial process” with vigilance, hoping that he will be released soon. Meanwhile, we demand that the Armenian authorities put an end to the unlawful acts against him and ensure his security.”

The petition was in English, French, Armenian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and German. It was forwarded to the appropriate authorities in Armenia, to PEN and Amnesty International. Mr. Pashinyan was released in 2011, though he was sentenced to seven years.

In 2014, at a personal pre-arranged friendly meeting in Yerevan, we congratulated Pashinyan for his election to the National Assembly (2012) and praised his work as a parliamentarian for the betterment of peoples’ lives in Armenia.

When the first steps of Kayl Ara (Take a step) and Merjir Serjin (Reject Serj) were taken (April 2018), Keghart.com was among the first in North America to announce the activities of the movement. It participated in public demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa, the capital of Canada, in support of the unprecedented popular protest in Armenia.

These were followed by a cautious welcome of the “Velvet Revolution” outlining the difficulties that it would face. Subsequently,  we disseminated a friendly critique based on several questionable appointments that the new administration had made and the pitfalls that exist when attempting the introduction of reforms within the parameters of the constitution.

Judging from a live video telecast from the Republic Square in Yerevan, today hundreds of mainly young people gathered to congratulate Pashinyan on his birthday. We have no reason to believe that this is not a spontaneous outpouring of the youth and we join them in their celebrations.

However, we would like to caution that repetitions of this sort of public display on personal occasions can easily degenerate and set the stage for an environment that fosters the birth of personality cult. The “Revolution” started with small steps years ago; it grew by leaps and bounds over many years and finally culminated in a jubilant entrance. It has not triumphed yet. Similarly, small steps can lead to bounces that can lead to dictatorship as witnessed in many small and big countries, some even with democratic traditions.

Keghart.com joins many thousands in saying “Happy Birthday” to Nikol Pashinyan. We also favor public demonstrations in support of the administration’s tireless efforts to introduce electoral, judiciary, economic and many other reforms. Indeed, we consider that visible public displays in favor of the “Revolution” are a crucial component in the arsenal of people to help them lead the movement forward; but simultaneously we think it would be prudent that Pashinyan cautions his followers about the dangers of political idolatry and takes measures to prevent similar public outpouring from happening again. Ostensibly the “Velvet Revolution” was to establish democracy in Armenia, not dictatorship. Seventy years of Soviet personality cult exhibitions and parades should be a warning lesson to Pashinyan and his followers.

  1. Our social conscience

    Bravo! Keghart is truly on guard for our social conscience. I really hope that this is the last time for unnecessary emotional outbursts. Idolatry is the biggest danger for the revolution. I also fear that tomorrow the same people who cherish Nikol today, might turn their backs on him. Keghart will be the only outspoken medium advocating justice for Nikol.
  2. Comment on Dr. Dikran Abrahamian’s piece
    Bravo? Yes! But more, Bravissimo!! Dikran Jan

    Your observation is timely, historically totally true, savvy and wise.

    Can't praise it enough!

    However, we say in Armenian Essoghin-l-ssogh bedk eh … (=The Speaker needs a Listener). 

    I hope you're heard, let alone listened to … We all know how Armenians have not yet learnt the craft of listening (hence the origin of the above folk-expression!)


    Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian.

  3. Birthday

    Գովելի նկատողութիւն մը, յուսանք այսպիսիները կը հասնին  ենթակային եւ լսելի կը դառնան  անոր՝ այս փայլուն յաղթանակի սիրոյն, որ պէտք չէ մաշի ու նսեմանայ, այլ օր ըստ օրէ աւելի խորանայ ու ամրանայ:

  4. Children’s Day

    Following the publication of the above opinion-piece, a friend, on June 2nd, wrote the following:

    "I was in the Yerevan center yesterday and it is correct that there were lots of people, especially children out there but that was mainly for celebrating Day of Children which is an international day on June 1st and it happened to be also NP’s birthday. There are few different days during the year that Yerevan gets into the celebration mode and this is one of them. There were lots of activities geared toward children. Of course, this year there were more people out celebrating as they are happy from what NP was able to accomplish and it is his birthday."

  5. Valid points

    Some valid points are being made here and the current government should be careful not to intentionally 'organise'  such so-called public outbursts.

    I never knew Pashinyan's birth date; but the people in Armenia sure did. So, if this was a natural public outburst, so be it. If not, then care should be taken not to repeat the  public 'outbursts'  the previous government has done in the past by – allegedly – forcing schoolchildren to come out of their classrooms and wave flags for this or that event. Pashinyan mentioned this in his speech during the first round of elections in the parliament and the Speaker of the House left the session in protest.  I am not sure if there was any truth in it, but I wouldn't have put it past the previoius 'regime' to have engineered such public outburst.

    I am aware we will be looking through the microscope for flaws – big or small – and wrongdoings  of this new government, but please let us not be too critical on the smaller things and view the wider picture.

    I do hope Pashinyan's inner circle read such publications outside of Armenia and take heed of the advice and concerns experssed such as the one in this issue of Keghart.com

    Thank you Keghart.com

  6. Vigilance of comrades-in-arms and media

    Keghart's editorial on the appropriateness of holding public birthday festivities for Nikol Pashinyan is very apropos. It might come across as overly cautious or even paranoid to warn the enthusiastic but inexperienced youth as well as their more experienced cohorts and actors in the post-velvet revolution Armenia about the potential dangers of hero worship, but this is precisely the kind of cautionary commentary that is needed. And the timing of the commentary is also crucial, because it is exactly at times like this when the stakes are NOT high, when there is NO real and concrete cause for worry, that such warnings need to be raised and discussed.

    Indeed, it is at this early stage of the post-revolution process that the movement needs to be reminded about the political lessons that history can teach us. Such “teaching moments” should be seized upon to remind ourselves about the harmful effects of creating a personality cult revolving around political figures, regardless of their “leaning” or impact, major and minor, on history: Stalin, Mao, Che Guevara, Churchill, Idi Amin, Putin, Berny Sanders, or even Serj Sargsyan.

    It is true that Pashinyan is definitely not in this league, neither in terms of his impact to date on history nor also in terms of his background as a conscientious journalist and tireless democrat; nevertheless, it is important not to make exceptions to the general rule for his case. Indeed, democrats and well-meaning politicians like Pashinyan would stand to benefit (over the long term) from the vigilance of their comrades-in-arms and the media.   

    Davit Zargarian

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