Flag of discord: Yerevan at odds with Armenian opposition over Karabakh flag
Nagorno-Karabakh flag sparks tensions in Yerevan
The former Minister of Defense of Armenia, MP Seyran Ohanyan attached the flag of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the podium of the parliament with the words: “Let’s protect this flag because by protecting Artsakh, we are protecting Armenia”. Before that, the head of the Hayastan opposition faction (Armenia) announced that the opposition would boycott the next parliamentary session and leave for four days in NK and the border regions of Armenia.
Tensions around the flag began at the end of last week. First, the parliamentary opposition installed it in the center of Yerevan. Then representatives of the National Democratic Pole political movement painted over its white pattern that distinguishes it from the flag of Armenia. According to the protesters, they thus wanted to say that “Artsakh and Armenia are united.” But the story didn’t end with it either.
The flag of the NKR differs from the flag of Armenia because of its white stepped pattern, which symbolizes the local mountains and also forms an arrow pointing to the west. This is a sign of a desire for a possible union with Armenia.
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Opposition accuses authorities of serving “Turkish” interests
The National Democratic Pole movement recently organized a rally on Freedom Square in Yerevan. During the action, its participants announced that “the current authorities serve the interests of Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan” while, in their opinion, Armenia should pursue a “pro-Western foreign policy”.
Before the rally, representatives of the National Democratic Pole painted over the flag, which had previously been set up by the parliamentary opposition. This action was held under the slogan “One state – one flag.” According to its participants, by hoisting the NK flag, it is being separated from Armenia.
“We painted over this white ribbon to say that Artsakh is Armenia – period”, the representatives of the movement explained.
This caused a resonance in society, the majority condemned the painting of the flag. In addition, the prosecutor’s office handed over the video with the action to the police to clarify the circumstances of the incident.
The flag that was set up on France Square in Yerevan by representatives of two opposition factions of the parliament after the April 5 rally was painted over. On that day, Hayastan and I Have the Honor factions held a crowded rally dedicated to the problems of NK.
They criticized the “defective policy of the current authorities of surrendering territories and begging for peace” and proposed instead to strengthen the army and the country’s defense capability. By planting the flag, they wanted to draw the attention of the authorities to the issue of the status of NK.
After the flag was painted over, representatives of the Dashnaktsutyun party, which is part of the Hayastan parliamentary bloc, installed another one.
Painting over the flag was condemned by the Permanent Representation of NK in Armenia: “We call on all political forces and citizens, when expressing their political position, to refrain from illegal actions and desecration of state symbols”.
The flag on the podium of the parliament is a symbol of the boycott of the opposition
Seyran Ohanyan, the leader of the Hayastan opposition faction, who pinned a flag on the podium he spoke from, said that the boycott of the parliamentary opposition was caused by the inability of the Armenian authorities to solve the problems facing Armenia and NK. According to him, everything is now subordinated to the “Azerbaijani-Turkish agenda”.
The oppositionists set up NK flags on their tables in the meeting room and left. In the evening, information appeared that they were not allowed to enter the territory of NK. Vice speaker from the opposition Ishkhan Saghatelyan reported on social media that the checkpoints at the entrance to Nagorno-Karabakh were ordered not to let the oppositionists in.
However, the meetings they planned with the leaders of the NK parliamentary factions nevertheless took place – right at the checkpoint. And, according to Saghatelyan, the opposition will continue to “fight the policy of the authorities and defend the interests of Armenia”.
Positions of deputies of the ruling bloc and the opposition
Vice speaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan explained that the boycott of the opposition is due to the fact that the agenda of the parliament does not include issues vital for Armenia and NK. In his opinion, the Armenian authorities “washed their hands” and left NK and its inhabitants without protection.
“They say we don’t go to Artsakh so as not to anger Aliyev, we don’t defend the territorial integrity of Armenia so as not to lose even more territories. We do not talk about Artsakh because it is dangerous. That is, it is obvious that the current government is trying to lead the country to a new capitulation”, Ishkhan Saghatelyan told reporters.
Meanwhile, MPs from the ruling majority described the opposition’s actions as “empty populism.”
Vahagn Aleksanyan from the ruling Civil Contract party removed the flag from the podium and said:
“When infamy becomes fate when idle talk becomes a daily job, former defense ministers are forced to come with the flag of Artsakh and set it on the rostrum of the National Assembly. Whereas, instead of planting this flag in the right places for 30 years to ensure the strength of this and the Armenian flag, they were only engaged in robbery”.
And the head of the ruling parliamentary faction, Hayk Konjoryan, announced that by their actions the parliamentary opposition does not support NK at all:
“With this step, the parliamentary opposition only provokes, further exacerbates the security problems of Artsakh Armenians. The parliamentary opposition is again using the issue of Artsakh, the issues of our security, to seize power in Armenia, to carry out a coup.”