In Gyumri the issue of homeless people is still open. While different nominated for the September 9 mayoral election in the second city of Armenia, people continue to move from Gyumri. Interview with Vahan Tumasyan, chairman of Shirak Center NGO
What are the most urgent issues in Gyumri besides the housing issues?
Though the social and economic situation is very difficult, extreme poverty in Gyumri is 40%, the most urgent issue is the psychological atmosphere of the city which needs to be changed and improved. Without the improvement of the psychological situation nothing can be changed in Gyumri because people will not believe. But when you see the candidates for the municipal council of, you understand there is no hope for overall change.
Who are the candidates?
Sons of shopkeepers who have a small property and want that their sons, sons-in-law or nephews work in the City Hall. The civil initiatives that we have created such as “The city belongs to us” try to resist and change the atmosphere. I don’t know yet how many candidates will run but the other candidates need to understand that the elders cannot be unknown people who have not passed a social path.
The number of migrants from Gyumri keeps growing. What’s the situation now?
When you see the empty city in the evening, you understand that the situation is getting worse. There are only 80-90 thousand people in Gyumri, whereas before the earthquake the population was 240 thousand. Every week, four buses full of people leave for Russia. Half of the passengers take their families with them. There are people who leave for Turkey, since there they can find a job. If this situation does not change, I don’t know what will happen to this city. Soon only the Russian military base and their staff will remain in Gyumri. The moral and psychological situation needs to be changed, people need not be afraid, not to emigrate and not to see that everything is in the hands of a handful of people. The new authorities of the city need to eliminate obstacles to all kinds of investments. Local authorities should demand money and solve the issues of the city. The governor’s office and the City Hall are located at the center of the city and they are not aware of the situation on the suburbs.