Louder cries for international attention
(25/02-2008) After five days of demonstrating on Liberty Square, some demonstrators have taken a further step to get attention. 11 men are now on a hunger strike.
The crowds started gathering on Liberty Square already on 20 February, and from the 21 have camped out in tents. The demonstrators are upset by the lack of international attention they get, and provoked by the foreign leaders who have congratulated Serge Sargsyan with the victory, and the OSCE and CIS reports that acknowledge the elections as more or less in accordance with international obligations.
In response to the lack of attention, 7 men went on a hunger strike yesterday, and 4 more joined them by today. The men have sent an unclear petition to the European Commission, but state that it is better to die than to live with the government Armenia has now.
– We want the world to know that there were no elections in Armenia, but violence, say the men on hunger strike.
Davit is 25 years old and from Masis, a town not far from Yerevan. He was provoked by the way the Armenian media portrayed the situation under and after the elections, and decided to join Samvel Gevorgyan, a member of the Karabakh Committee, in his initiative to go on hunger strike yesterday.
– I was a proxy for Levon Ter-petrossyan in my home town Masis, and saw with my own eyes 200 new passports, and many new people vote in my polling station, explains Davit. – Nobody in the village had seen these people before, but they voted. And they voted in 10 polling stations in the town. I recorded them with my mobile phone, but the police saw it and broke my phone. They beat me as well.
During the interview in the large green tent that has been arranged for the men on hunger strike, a man comes in with a plastic bag, but is asked to leave. He insists on giving a book to one of the men. When he has said the name of the recipient and the reason for the book, he is allowed in.
– Some people come with bags of food to make it look like we’re eating after all, that’s why we’re so anxious. But I’m only smoking and drinking water, says Davit and points to his bedside stand.
– There are horrible things happening in Armenia at the moment, he continues. Friends call me and say that people are fired from work, forced to attend meetings in support of Sargsyan, and even subject to violence and threats. Even my sister got fired today, she was threatened that if her brother didn’t quit his actions immediately, she’d lose her job in the Masis Courthouse, and she lost it. Now she wants to come here, but there are no transport opportunities. She walks. The National Security Service has been to the house of parents and several of my neighbours as well and threatened them.
In the tent there are beds placed along the walls, and men wrapped in blankets lying on them, trying to sleep as the rally continues on the other side of the tent wall. Two of them, Artur Martirosyan from Echmiatsin and Davit Hambardzumyan from the Yerkrapah Organisation, hero of Armenia after his efforts in the Karabakh war, are very happy to see a representative from abroad. They say there have been some journalists to talk to them, but only Armenians so far.
– We’ll be here until we collapse or the government acknowledges that they cheated and announce new elections, they say. Even though they don’t let any doctors check on us, we’ll be here. There are only men on hunger strike so far, and Levon Ter-Petrossyan was reluctant to let even the men put their health at stake for “those bad guys.”
– My wife wanted to join me in the hunger strike, but Levon suggested she’d stay and take care of the children, being an Armenian mother, Davit explains. But more people want to join us. We’ll win, he says and makes a symbolic fist for the camera. The other men join in.