I Dream That People's Protests Be for the Sake of Justice

    • Interview - 04 March 2016, 21:55
Interview with Vardges Gaspari, civil activist

Mr. Gaspari, recently you have spoken toughly about the mission which monitors prisons. What caused such evaluation, considering that as they say they have at least free access to the penitentiaries and get acquainted with the situation on the spot?

I wrote there that a prison has not changed and has even got worse since 2008. Isn’t this a fact that they haven’t done anything? My deep indignation with the monitoring group is the following: why would the situation in 2016 be similar to that of 2016. Every year a new book is put on the table – see what work has been done, how the situation has improved.

This time the civil society was quite active after your arrest. In your opinion, has the situation changed in the country in terms of civil consciousness and thinking.

It seems to have changed. I cannot find a case in my memory, earlier all the questions were political, the opposition was political, its protests were political with a claim to full change of government. This has been the way since 1995. I always say I dream Armenia were like Greece where people turned Athens upside down after the police had shot a 14-year-old boy. People were ready to smash, destroy everything for the sake of justice, not for the sake of power, not for the sake of replacing one with another. I dream that people protest for justice, not for change of government. Now here there seem to be such protests which put forth environmental, civil issues. In this context something seems to have changed. I wouldn’t say this change is tangible but some change can be noticed.

Your actions have often been directed against the police. What was the reason that the police have always been the target?

You see the point is that the police with other security agencies is a tool for non-democratic authorities. At the end of the day, this instrument always gets in the way of exercise of the civil rights. For example, a few months ago I had an issue with the customs committee when I imported goods and I was illegally prevented. After I used all the possibilities, I lied down in front of the door of the head of the customs house. And again the policemen came to drag me away. In other words, the police stand against all the fair claims, therefore it is the recipient of all criticism. But it does not mean that the other organizations are working less unlawfully.

In which case do you imagine real change in our country when it will be possible to achieve full, not fragmental victory?

The word victory sounded too high flown in this case. I would say that today we are, in fact, at a very very low level but we have some change in the situation due to different circumstances, also because at the end of the day Vardges Gaspari is not a threat, is not a member of any political party, and has no political goals. The only problem is that Vardges Gaspari is a very good person, and perhaps this is the reason that he got more public support. One of the possible solutions to these problems could be a principled, not a selective approach to these problems. In other words, if it is possible to apply the law to Vardges Gaspari, why wouldn’t they apply it to Gevorg Safaryan, Volodya Avetisyan, Haik Kyureghyan and the others? There are things that count. For example, Vardges Gaspari’s act qualifies for less than a year in prison. Therefore, he can be set free. I think that these are things that count, the approach should not be selective favoring x and not favoring y. I myself am trying to overcome being differentiated.