BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
An editorial in Asbarez on September 21, 2016, written on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s Independence, highlights the need for advancing the aspirations of the independence generation as the key to progress and development of Armenia and the entire Armenian Nation.
“As the Armenian Nation celebrates the milestone of the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s Independence, we must fully be cognizant that it is the independence generation, whose dreams and ideals will guide and shape the future of the Republic of Armenia and thus any reforms and planning must be rooted in the advancement of that generation so they too can exercise their right to determine their own and their country’s fate just as was done 25 years ago by those who advanced the notion of independence,” said the Asbarez editorial.
The six days of protests happening in Armenia are a shiny example of the independence generation exercising its right by taking to the streets of Yerevan to demand a better future for themselves and their country. Having just returned from Armenia a month ago, I can attest, through my conversations, discussions and meetings with the young generation, that they are determined and committed to making Armenia a better country and are willing to fight for social justice, democratic norms all for the strengthening of Armenia’s statehood and guaranteeing a better future for themselves and, thus, their homeland.
The problem, however, comes from an older generation that promised prosperity and reforms after the amendment of the constitution, only to use the changes to advance their own personal agendas and ensure that they will stay in power for the foreseeable future, while asserting and insisting that there are tangible changes taking place that seem illusive to the lay person. I guess if you’re president for 10 years, waking up one day and being referred to as prime minister can be seen as a “tangible change.”
This is in line with a slew of disappointments that the people of Armenia have had to endure during the past decade or so as the same people have ruled the country with an iron fist reminiscent of the days of the iron curtain.
However, the time has come to look squarely in the eyes of the thousands of young demonstrators, who have forsaken their studies and work, to demand the change that they deserve and honestly confront their concerns, for they are the guarantors of future progress and prosperity in Armenia and not the stale leaders whose blatant disregard for the population has made corruption commonplace in Armenia giving way to a culture with which the new generation has grown up and is clearly rejecting. The new generation sees that past changes have only benefitted the few, with the potential for a broad advancement being squashed or—worse—usurped.
From regulating the age of mandatory service in the army to raising taxes, the government had no qualms while making decisions on behalf of the new burgeoning generation. Now that they have taken to the streets it is the same government officials who are calling them disruptors and warning that they are being influenced by outside—Western (never Russian)—forces to sow discord in the country.
It’s enough. No one has the right to label an entire generation of vibrant, intelligent and nationalist young people to rationalize their own self-serving agenda. After all, the same people who are on the streets demanding change and justice are the people who will serve or have already served in the National Armed Forces, because they do not have oligarch parents who can buy their sons’ exemptions from national duty. They are the ones who will be protecting our borders. They are the ones whose knowledge and insight will advance Armenia’s development. They are the ones who will innovate and create in the ever-growing IT sector. They are the ones who will aspire to lead this country, if the current rulers do not appoint their sons or daughters to governing positions (Yerevan Mayor and ambassador of Vatican immediately come to mind) and actually leave a country to be led.
The new constitution was being touted by some circles as a new beginning for our country. That new beginning should have happened in April 2017 with the parliamentary elections. Instead, we saw forces collude to ensure that there would not be change in Armenia’s leadership and the Serzh Sarkisian shuffle, which was finalized Tuesday by the parliament installing him as prime minister, would be guaranteed.
“I can see young people, a post-independence generation, who are ready to rise up. This spirit must be maintained. It must not be broken,” Armen Rustamyan, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau and the party’s parliamentary bloc told Azatutyun.am on Tuesday.
The new generation is speaking up and speaking out. If the new government is honest about making changes for the advancement of Armenia, they must not allow the youth’s spirit to be broken and they must not shatter the aspirations of the independence generation.