BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It seems like the Soviet Era is reaching out from the grave and grabbing the Republic of Armenia. The level and style of ARF criticism is very reminiscent of those sad times. It is pathetic and, at best, unhelpful to the ongoing political development of the country’s polity.
The latest manifestation of this ridiculous stridency might be said to have begun with the attack on Hrant Markarian, the former ARF Bureau Reperesentative, while walking with his grandchildren. A participant in the fray was Vartan/Vardan Haroutiunian who incited the group of attackers to violence. This guy himself got beaten up a few days ago. Now, everyone is all a twitter about the ARF being a terrorist group. There have even been references to the Dro/Tro incident of the 1990s in which the RoA’s then president, Levon Der Bedrosian brought extremely inflated, if not patently false, charges against many ARF members as a means of eliminating the party as a political competitor.
These two examples alone ought to be enough to substantiate the Soviet flavor of the anti-ARF melee besetting the country. It was very popular for the Soviets to try to tarnish the ARF as a gun-wielding bunch of reckless terrorists. Levon Der Bedrosian is a product of the Soviet system and used what he had been taught against the ARF. So, when I encounter this faux-criticism of the ARF today, I recoil in disgust and concern for the country.
What makes it all worse is the unbelievable heights of hypocrisy achieved by the “criticisms” voiced against the ARF. At least some of the commentary stems form the fact that a few dozen ARF members reported to the police and asserted “I did it” in reference to the attack on Haroutiunian. This piece of political protest has been twistedly represented as “proof” that the ARF is violent and should be shunned.
Of course, the most obvious question that arises is: where were these voices of condemnation when Markarian’s attack was incited by Haroutiunian? Is not incitement to violence and battery just as contemptible as the actual act? Isn’t hate speech and incitement to violence prohibited and punishable in most modern countries?
Then we have the example of Nigol Pashinian’s chest thumping demand of law enforcement last summer to “lay them down on the asphalt”, referring to those he deemed culpable of releasing a surreptitiously taped phone conversation. Even worse, he repeated that comment (disguised in the form of saying “I don’t want to repeat what I said before about laying people down on the asphalt”) just a few days ago in the context of the fracas over the Markarian attack. Why is he not the target of the same anti-violence vitriol?
Also the examples are two incidents related to a newly formed political party, Adekvad, described in a piece by Ani Mejlumian as conservative. One of its prominent members, Narek Malian was attacked, in March, by a group of pro-Pashinian students. In May, a member of the Civil Contract party, Arthur Ispirian, claimed that members of Adekvad had attacked him. Where was the hue-and-cry over these acts of political violence?
The other telling, and recent, example of the anti-ARF hysteria being whipped up is a pair of public gatherings/rallies. One was called by Nigol Pashinian who demanded “the people” barricade courthouse entrances, the response to which was a few hundred people, cumulatively, showing up at different locations. The other was the ARF’s recent really calling on Pashinian to get serious, attended by some four or five thousand people. Not much was made of the meagre response to the prime minister’s call. Yet, using a picture of the ARF’s rally site taken BEFORE the gathering started, which shows only people setting up for the event, there is much ado about how “poorly” attended it was. Can anyone spell d-o-u-b-l-e s-t-a-n-d-a-r-d?
The double-standards and hypocrisy underlying the current criticism of the ARF is all the evidence needed to show that this is all just political jockeying, devoid of substance, and more discrediting of the critics than of the ARF. This is not to say that the ARF is perfect. Nor do I expect any group/party, especially the ARF that is so thoroughly engaged and active in the life of our nation, not to be criticized. But please, let’s be reasonable (if not constructive) when critiquing what any political actor does. Otherwise, we’ll descend into a cacophony of pointless, endless, and mutually destructive recrimination.
Those engaged in this type of anti-ARF criticism for its own sake, especially if they think they are helping Pashinian, are on the wrong path. They are discrediting the hope and possibilities of the movement that brought him to power.
Let’s all speak out against this type of political pseudo-discourse. Today, it’s the ARF, tomorrow it could be Pashinian, or someone else, who is the target.