What follows is an official statement by Raffi Hovannisian's headquarters regarding the events of April 9, 2013 in Yerevan.
One week has passed since the April 9 inauguration of a New Armenia. Other political forces—and the media and analysts retained by them—have had ample opportunity to circulate their own version of events, often relying on misinformation and downright lies. We shall not compete with them. We do feel, however, that we must give a brief accounting to our people.
This is what happened on April 9, 2013.
At 12pm, as Serzh Sargsyan takes a false oath on the Bible in the company of an elite entourage, Raffi K. Hovannisian presides over a massive assembly of citizens at Liberty Square. more than 60,000 Armenians raise their right hand for the inauguration of a New Armenia. They dissolve their bonds with the illegally elected authorities and vow to struggle peacefully for democracy.
Raffi Hovannisian announces that a concert will soon begin and asks that the Armenians reconvene at 6pm for a march through the streets of their capital. He descends into the crowd, where he is met with the voice of the people, which says: “Let us march now.” Within five minutes Hovannisian is at the podium again to announce that he will listen to the voice of the people—he will walk with them now.
Hovannisian leads the Armenians down to Republic Square and then to the statue of Miasnikyan—the setting of the tragedies of March 1, 2008, where he lays flowers and vows “Never again”—and then up to St. Hovhannes Church, where he lights a candle, and then on Proshyan Street toward Baghramyan Boulevard.
The people are stopped at the intersection of Proshyan and Demirchyan—just on the other side of the walls of the presidential dacha—by a police barricade reinforced by special units. After refusing to grant access to Proshyan or Demirchyan streets, the police eventually retract, giving passage to Hovannisian and his followers on Demirchyan and down beside the Tumanyan House Museum (“Aprek erekhek bayts mez pes chaprek”) and to Liberty Square.
There the concert is already finished, and Raffi Hovannisian announces to the crowd that he will return at 6pm for the previously announced march. Hovannisian leaves Liberty Square to organize his MPs to follow reports of arrests and visit detained protestors in several police precincts and to demand their release.
At 6pm a huge crowd has gathered again at Liberty Square. Raffi Hovannisian announces publically that he will march up Baghramyan Boulevard, pass the presidential office at Baghramyan 26, and lead his people to Tsitsernakaberd to light candles for the 1.5 million who were murdered in 1915 and the 1.5 million who have since 1991 chosen to leave their country but who must and will return.
Hovannisian marches out of Liberty Square and toward Mashtots Boulevard, where a police barricade has been set. Calling the barricade unconstitutional, Hovannisian is the first to break through the barricade. He leads the people onto the street. They march up Mashtots and veer left on Baghramyan and proceed beyond the intersection of Baghramyan and Saryan, where another police barricade is set, but this one more strongly enforced by various special units. After demanding that the Armenian people’s right to walk peacefully be restored, and being refused again and again, Hovannisian begins to walk into the barricade. He is on the frontline, alongside his wife and son, his team, and supporters.
The police begin to push back the citizens, often using excessive force. Several policemen beat Armen Martirosyan and smash his nose. Arrests are made. Hovannisian is thrown to the ground. But he continues on his knees to push through the barricade. His wife is smashed between police shields and is cast to the ground. Her knees are torn and bloody. She and her husband and son are stampeded by the police, who continue to push and beat the Armenians. Hovannisian gets up from the ground, defiant. He walks for the barricades again.
The chief of police now appears, and Raffi reaffirms his demand to him and the generals gathered there. He pushes into them again. By this time more special units have been brought. People continue to be beaten and arrested. Seeing the violence around him, and the disintegrating chaos (professional, government-sent provocateurs are everywhere, untouched by the police), Hovannisian decides to lead his people to Tsitsernakaberd using another route—through Saryan.
Hovannisian turns his back on the police and walks through the thick crowd and toward Saryan with his bloody and bare-footed wife and son and supporters. The chief of police and many of the police and much of the crowd follow him.
At this time there is an organized campaign of misinformation. Government men whisper that Raffi is now negotiating with the chief of police and that he will be back soon. For this reason, thousands of people, including many among Hovannisian’s team—Zaruhi Postanjyan, Styopa Safaryan, Hovsep Khurshudyan, Tevan Poghosyan, David Sanasaryan, and others—stay behind. They, too, assume that Raffi will be back. They stand between the people and the police.
But the fact is that Hovannisian is walking to Tsitsernakaberd, with thousands of people behind him. Almost at Tsitsernakaberd, as he demands from the chief of police that all arrested protestors be released, Hovannisian learns that thousands of people are still at Baghramyan, and are defying police orders to move out of the street. Individual activists are making speeches, and Hovannisian tells Postanjyan to tell the people that he will come back to handle the situation.
Immediately after lighting candles and praying with fellow citizens at Tsitsernakaberd, Raffi urgently returns to Baghramyan to lead his people. He rushes to the front lines again and faces the barricade again, demanding that the right of passage be allowed. This is the third time on April 9 that Hovannisian and his supporters have demanded to walk on Baghramyan, and Hovannisian asserts to the chief of police and generals and citizens that he will not move out of the way and he will not tell his people to go home. The road must be opened; the citizens shall walk.
Hovannisian stands firmly with his people until eventually the police retract their previous statements that it is impossible to walk on Baghramyan that day, and allows Hovannisian to lead his march up Baghramyan.
In front of the presidential palace, the Armenians stand to sing “Mer Hayrenik” together. Then they proceed peacefully to Proshyan, walking the exact reverse of the route they had wanted to walk earlier in the day. They make a left at Demirchyan, right on Baghramyan, and return to Liberty Square. There Raffi announces to the Armenian people that the struggle will continue until victory.
Despite Hovannisian’s best efforts blood was spilled on the streets of Yerevan. But it was his own blood, his wife’s blood, Armen Martirosyan’s blood, and the blood of his closest supporters. And he did everything to prevent any violence of a larger-scale. And he was always on the frontlines—a true leader of his people.
Several times that day the police bowed to the people’s will—they said they would not allow citizens to walk on Demirchyan around 2:30pm, then they did allow; they said citizens would not be allowed on Baghramyan at 10pm, then they did allow—and, at the end of the day, all protestors were released from police precincts.
On April 9, 2013, Raffi Hovannisian revealed his faith and dedication to our struggle. He was, on the one side, a true president of the people—administering the oath of unity and declaring the principles of a struggle that is based on peace, but at the same time a principled rejection of false authority. And he proved himself to be a warrior: willing to struggle, to be on the frontlines, to stand always—in body and spirit—as the leader of the people.
Raffi Hovannisian Headquarters
April 16, 2013