|Photo credit: euronews.com|
On the morning of June 23 police fired water cannons to disperse peaceful demonstrators protesting against electricity price hikes on Marshal Baghramyan Avenue near the presidential palace. The rally opposing the decision made by the Public Services Regulatory Commission to increase electricity prices was launched on the evening of June 19th in Freedom Square. It then developed into a three-day strike. Many of the women, adult or young, also participated in the demonstration in Yerevan. Some of the women were there with their children. It seems that the growing number of protesters corresponded with many people being arrested.
ArmFem interviewed activists Zara Hovhannisyan and Nick Hethu.
-Zara, what do you think about women who participate in the rally and are being subjected to violence by the police and arrested?
-Women do take part in the protest. Right now there are a mother and a daughter in the intensive care unit of the hospital as a result of violence that took place during the rally by the police. The girl was hit by water from the water cannons. The mother was also harmed and she did not know that her daughter was hit and was transported to the hospital. The mother was being held in the police station even though she was seriously injured and needed medical attention.
Many women were in the front lines, together with their children. The police made no distinction in the treatment of children, men or women when interrogating them. I was not present when the violence took place, but I was told about a new type of sexual assault being practiced by the police towards men. Some officers allowed themselves to go up to male protesters and squeeze their genitals.
-What advice would you give to women in particular? How can they stay safe while protesting?
-Women are very brave, indeed, though I would ask them to make sure they dress accordingly. I have taken a few pictures of parts of my body that were injured because they were exposed during the protest. I will post them later, they are awful. I believe even though it is very hot, we do need to protect ourselves somehow.
-What do you think about the following video?
In the following video: Doctor refuses to provide first aid to a girl subjected to severe violence during the demonstration.
—Yes, I’ve seen this already. Well, the guys were dressed openly since it was so hot. And the water splash was so strong that it was throwing people a few meters away.
Zara Hovhannisian was also concerned that some of the arrested men were prosecuted. That means many court disputes and articles, which is a real headache. She also told us that the police brought homeless people as witnesses to act against the arrested during the inspection.
”I have also been told that the police has been using new methods at the hospital, which they successfully borrowed from the Russian experience. They were groping and squeezing male genital organs and savagely pushing them against the ground.”— said journalist and feminist Zara Hovhannisian.
Another activist Nick Hethu who actively follows the events in Yerevan is also concerned that violence is being exerted against women with great impunity.
-Nick, what do you think about what has happened in the capital?-Nowadays, we are witnessing the unnecessarily violent reaction of the government as a result of which irreparable damage has been caused to many people. This is almost a war-like response, which proves not only the government’s fear of the people, but also shows the preparedness of the government for such situations in the country, which we can see through new police uniforms, weaponry, vehicles and other military equipment, etc.
|Participant of the demonstration. Credit: facebook|
In this case the government’s response is doubly against women. I have already heard many times about people’s reaction to women activists participating in the protest. Many claim that the kitchen is the right place for women. Moreover, they even justify the savage violence against girls and women by saying ”if she’s out on the street for the protest then why is she complaining about being subjected to violence?” This implies that if any woman is out as a demonstrator then she will definitely be subject to violence either physically or morally or both.
What I’m also worried about is that policemen hit women in a very cruel way, thinking that female demonstrators are too weak and unable to protect themselves and hit back. There is proof of this, there are many videos available on the Internet from yesterday’s rally, which show exactly what I am speaking of.
On the other hand, there is a strong risk for women as activist protesters who might be violated during the demonstration by some other random men. Unfortunately, there are some men who would take advantage of the chaotic situations in large crowds.
-What piece of advice would you give to everyone?