Friday, April 4, 2008

Hatspanian: Spring didn't come. Pt. 1.

Here is yet another extraordinary document coming out from Armenia. It is a hand-written account--hand written, mind you--of the events of March 1st by an Armenian intellectual, war veteran, and political prisoner in three different countries, and one who is today in hiding for fear of arrest and god knows what else. If you've ever imagined what it would have been like to have participated in those demonstrations between February 20th and March 1st, when like-minded people for ten days lived side-by-side in tents in Liberty Plaza for the sake of the common cause of freedom, decency, and the rule of law, the kinds of public political gatherings that make one aware of the possibilities accessible to us, real people in the world, and then to have come-to, after a police beating, lying on the ground, thinking that you're floating and that all is lost, and feeling that the police are going to be taking you to your certain death, then this is an answer to your questions. He lived through this. More power to Unzipped for publishing this, and you can find the photographs of the original documents there.

Photo by Onnik Krikorian, One World Multimedia, 2008.

On March 1st, Spring did not come to Armenia

In [Armenian] mythic tales, feasts and celebrations that are spoken of always last seven days and seven nights. I was fortunate enough to participate in such a celebration for exactly 10 days and 10 nights, participate as a witness with eyes filled with tears of singing and dancing, joy, pride, and happiness.

About those ten days that are worthy of people's pride and respect, which lasted from February 20th, 2008, until the morning of March 1st, 2008, I had written in great detail in my daily chronicle. I greatly regret that my chronicle, along with the personal effects of tens of thousands of people, either burned with our tents or were confiscated by the "Internal Army" of the Police.

Those ten wonderful days are truly unforgettable. The desire and the demand to live according to ethical values, [theretofore] lacking in the people, was born in each and every one of us. It was as if living in Liberty Plaza had turned us all into real brothers and sisters. We had become one body, and we thought with one mind. We had a unified goal: the struggle to live according to genuine human values, the thirst for it. I was different from the people living in Liberty Plaza in only one way, being a French citizen and not having the right to vote or be elected, but I was not different because I, like hundreds of thousands of my countrymen and women, had attached myself to the pan-Armenian movement headed by president L. T. Petrossian for the sake of my two young children's future, and I was joyous.

At about 4:30 AM on March 1st, someone familiar to me called and said, "The police force is on the move. They're going to come to Liberty Plaza and disperse us with force." I told him, "If they're coming then they are welcome. We are simply sitting, peacefully and easily, and if there is no pride for Armenia stirring within them, the values within us are different. Many different peoples have marched to Armenia and beaten and killed us. This time, let it be Armenians beating Armenians. What can be done?"

My heart had grown heavy. I came out my tent and started looking for one of the organizers. I saw president L. T. P., who was walking with his supporters and discussing things with the people. I was about to approach him, but just then one of my close friends whom I'd met at Shahumian during the war called me. I talked to him about what I'd just heard and told him, "The ones on the way here are armed to the teeth. They are the sons of our people. We can not show any resistance. What does this government want from us? Why don't they let us have our peaceful demonstration?" My friend said, "There won't be an attack, and if there is one, we, unarmed as we are, are not in any position to show any resistance. All we can do is break off sticks from the benches, and how many sticks would that be? With how many people are we going to protect ourselves...?"

I calmed a little. I hadn't been able to believe that our people would attack us either. There were with us, after all, many women and children, young girls, and even several pregnant women and infants. Surely, the spies they had living with us saw that 24 hours a day and were reporting it and sending it to them. The government spies living among us were also Armenians and wouldn't be able to play with the lives of their brothers and sisters and put the people's lives in danger.

I couldn't believe that there would be an attack. I went to my tent and lay down to sleep with an easy heart. A little while later (I don't know how long had passed and what time it was), the young people living in the tent next to mine alarmedly woke me up, saying, "Get up, Sarkiss-jan, the police are armed and almost here." Everything shattered within me. Nothing of belief and believing remained in my heart. I didn't know what to think, what to do. For the first time in my life I was going to stand face-to-face with my fellow countryman inimically. I felt nauseous and wanted to throw up. The young men saw my state and said, "Don't worry, brother. They won't be carrying you away from here unless they get through us. We'll protect you."

But, in reality, I was the one who was trying to protect them. Wasn't it the case that I was the European-Frenchman? And all of the observers were my fellow citizens. They'd come here to arrest the transformation of our government into Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Angola, and Asian dictatorships.

Gerd Arens would not tolerate in his own country or any other European country that which he saw in Armenia day and night, you see. They would not be able to betray their governments and their peoples. They would never be forgiven such a thing. And, no, the Armenian people would not forgive them. This was very clear.

Where were the Europeans? Why weren't any of them inviting our government to get its act together, [asking it] "What do you want from these innocent, peaceful demonstrations? Why are you provoking [them] and making the situation vitreous?" They weren't asking these questions. Has Europe gotten this pathetic, or does it have some other plan [for the future of Armenia]? We don't know. A few days ago, one senior [by age] participant in the ten day sit-in told me, in all seriousness, "My boy, the Europeans want our blood. Not until they see our blood spilled will they move."

Was he right? Did the Europeans yet again abandon my people's march toward democracy? Was history repeating itself again? How fitting would it have been to reiterate our poet Siamanto, a victim of the genocide, "Oh, human justice, let me spit in your face!"

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