Armenia’s Velvet Revolution: A Civil Society Success for Peace

Written by, Women for Development

Photo credits: Made in Armenia

 

Last week Armenia took a breath for the first time since the mass protests of civil disobedience started three weeks ago on April 13th. For three weeks the roads throughout the entire country of Armenia were closed, representative groups of the society joined the protests such as lawyers, teachers, students, civil society organisations, including GPPAC member, Women for Development.

People marched on the streets of Armenia, taking their children to the protest as a sign of trust among each other. The energy on the streets was impressive. We have seen traditional dances, board games, barbecues, music and laughter. The mood resembled rather a celebration than a protest, as it became a massive expression of hope that the cycle of corruption can be broken. Without weapons, and through support and solidarity.

Taking into consideration the internal political situation in the country and the national protest, GPPAC member,  Women for Development (WFD) was not indifferent to the powerful movement in Armenia and went out to demonstrate against the political monopoly in Armenia, calling on the authorities to recognize the seriousness of the moment and to find a peaceful solution to the problem.

A lot has happened since the beginning of the protests. The trigger for the protests was the election of the former President, member of the Republican Party, Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister. His intention was to stay in charge of the government after 10 years of presidency, but this time as Prime Minister. This showed to be a miscalculation, which the Armenian civil society rejected.

From the very beginning of the movement, the entire team of WFD participated in the protest actions and officially joined the strike on 7 May, thus expressing support for the peaceful disobedience.

Many Armenians found hope for change in peaceful protest, led by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, a 42-year- old journalist and politician, whose activism has resulted in numerous clashes with the ruling elite in the past. He initiated the "My Step" protest march on the 31st of March in Gyumri, Armenia`s second largest city and home of Women for Development.

Diverse representatives of the Armenian society and abroad, such as famous actor and musician Serj Tankian, have spoken out. And success came - without a single victim and completely free of violence, on the 8th of May 2018, the leader of the opposition, Nikol Pashinyan, has been elected as Prime Minister of Armenia.

We have witnessed an unprecedented nationwide movement that clearly formulated its demands and united Armenians in the country and abroad. The goal was to find a just and peaceful solution to a complicated internal political situation, which was the result of many years of injustice and economic, political and social problems.

As an organisation working in the area of peace and conflict resolution education for the past sixteen years, we believe that the "Velvet Resolution" serves as an important example of peaceful resolution -both for Armenians, and the international community.

As a member of GPPAC´s Peace Education Working Group since 2007, WFD is actively supporting and promoting peace activities. This has been in the core of WFD's work. WFD has been training teachers in offering peace lessons, distributing manuals (teaching materials) for classes and continuously developing and reshaping the peace education program. In 2015, this led to a nation-wide institutionalisation of peace education in Armenia.

Additionally, WFD organises annual peace exhibitions of school children`s paintings on the International Peace Day at the UN Office in Yerevan as well as Summer Youth Camps for teenagers. Besides that, WFD hosted the International Peace Education Conference for the first time in 2007 and the next one in 2017. At the conference, more than 130 peacebuilders from 25 countries were gathered to share their experience and best practices.

What WFD has always aspired to teach the younger generation has become a reality these days. For the past several days, peaceful protesters -people who were convinced that existing political issues couldn't be resolved and felt that they were "sentenced" to live in an environment that did not allow for positive change- came together to prove that any conflict can be resolved peacefully.

We highly appreciate the involvement and decisive role of the passionate youth in the movement. With energetic enthusiasm, perseverance and purposefulness, they proved that they have the power to exercise civil rights and dignity. The youth has shown determination to reject people who are violating their rights as well as the government seeking to enslave freedoms.

We congratulate the proud citizens of Republic of Armenia who have created New Armenia through the power of love, solidarity and tolerance. WFD is very proud of the fact that all the political forces were able to reach a consensus and ultimately make a decent decision based on the interests of the people.

What is coming next for Armenia is a period of change, which Nikol Pashinyan has already initiated by replacing key political figures in the Armenian Parliament, appointing new Defense Minister (Davit Tonoyan), Deputy Police Chief (Valeri Osipyan), Director of the National Security Service (Artur Vanetsyan), just to mention some. And this is simply the beginning of a new period of hope and change for Armenia, in which we will proudly play an active role!