ArmeniaNow A leading think tank in Yerevan on Monday hosted a discussion whose participants tried to show why civic activism in some cases is effective and in others it fails to produce results.
Speaking at the forum “Civic Activism: Challenges and Successes” hosted by the Civilitas Foundation, political scientist and historian Mikael Zolyan linked civic activism in Armenia to the internet and online social networks. Yet, he assessed the quality and penetration of the internet as insufficient.
“Despite the bad state of the internet, it has still made it possible to raise civic activism in Armenia and bring it at least to a minimum level. The current political situation in Armenia, with the government and the opposition competing for the support of broader sections of the public, also creates opportunities for civic activism,” said Zolyan.
Another speaker, Armen Hovhannisyan, who is a member of the pressure group “We Are Against the Reopening of Foreign-Language Schools”, also places importance on modern technologies and the development of online social networks in the matter of civic activism.
(The pressure group opposing legislation allowing a foreign language to be used as the language of instruction in a limited number of schools in Armenia has used online opportunities, including Facebook, to advance its campaign).
Hovhannisyan thinks that through social networks activists are trying to re-engage the instruments serving the purpose of civic activism, and while the institutional development during 20 years “has not produced the desired results, then something must be changed.”
“However, a civil movement should not depend on any political force or funding,” added Hovhannisyan.
One of the speakers at the event was Mariam Sukhudyan, an activist on nature and education known for her active use of social networks.
“Civic consciousness must be strengthened in Armenia. Struggle over environmental issues is not a hobby. Everyone inside themselves has this source of light that helps overcome fear and publicize and internationalize problems,” she said.
Sukhudyan, who herself went through prosecution over alleged “false denunciation” before investigation could prove her claim about child abuse in a boarding school, said that she also had that fear inside her while those events were unfolding and that she was far from being fearless.
“But I gradually pulled myself together, I saw the light, hope that would help me and my fear was gone,” said Sukhudyan, who in 2010 received a Woman of Courage Award from the United States Embassy in Armenia.
Sergey Sargsyan, an activist against changes in the Pregnancy Leave Law, noted that among important issues is whether a change happens from top or from bottom. According to him, political activism will eventually lead to changes.
Sargsyan said that if several civil movements united, it would become possible to work on bigger and more comprehensive problems.
At the discussion, Civilitas Foundation founder, former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian stated that “much depends on the individual and everyone must recognize their rights and struggle for these rights every day and every hour.”
The Civilitas Foundation has also initiated discussions on the above-mentioned and other issues through its website: www.civilitasfoundation.org.