“I understood that the best way to prevent violence is to be nonviolent,”

 

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by Karen Topakian

said Nikol Pashinyan, the newly appointed interim prime minister of Armenia.

When this 42-year old former opposition member of Parliament, former newspaper editor and political prisoner, saw President Serzh Sargsyan wanted to continue his national leadership by becoming prime minister after his 10-year term as president had ended, he knew he had to stop him. (Recent constitutional changes made the prime minister position the most powerful in the government.)

Inspired by Nelson Mandela and Gandhi’s famous 1930 Salt Walk across India to oppose British taxation, Pashinyan, began a village-to-village walk on March 31 across 75 miles of Armenia organizing his fellow citizens to oppose the president’s power grab.

Pashinyan’s call for an end to Sargsyan’s oligarchy, corruption and nepotism resonated deeply and quickly with young people and students. But people of all ages joined the call to oppose the president’s move to seal his own power.

By April 13, Pashinyan arrived in Yerevan, the capitol, along with tens of thousands of people and joined the students already protesting against the parliamentary vote of Sargsyan’s appointment.

The nonviolent protests brought central Yerevan to a standstill by blocking metro entrances, squares and central streets and by dancing in the streets.

On April 17, the Parliament voted to appoint Sargsyan as prime minister. Five days later, on April 22, he detained Pashinyan in an effort to decapitate the movement. Instead, it had the opposite effect. The street protests intensified and grew in number but never with violence.

The government released Pashinyan and on April 23, Prime Minister Sargsyan resigned in a concession to the opposition. (Sargsyan resigned on the eve of a historic day in Armenia, the commemoration of the Armenian genocide on Armenian Martyrs Day.)

Pashinyan understood the need for his supporters to remain peaceful to win. So he urged them to raise their hands if the police used force. And he reminded the police that they were all Armenians.

Pashinyan appeared before the Parliament on May 1, with an offer to serve as interim prime minister. When the Parliament voted down his offer, he called for a nationwide strike on the following day.

On Tuesday, May 8, the Parliament met again, bowed to the pressure and chose Mr. Pashinyan as the interim prime minister. He vowed to make his first act the calling of fair parliamentary elections.

Victory achieved without firing a gun, spilling blood and the military taking over. A truly magnificent testimony to the power of nonviolence.

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https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/emil-sanamyan/saint-nick-of-armenia-how-nikol-pashinyan-rescued-armenia-and-made-it-merry

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/europe/armenia-nikol-pashinyan-prime-minister.html

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Comments

  1. Roberta says:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Karen. It’s a spark of brightness in today’s world.

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