YEREVAN (Tert.am) — Today marks the fifth anniversary of the March 1, 2008 post-electoral unrest that later developed into violent clashes between the protesting crowd and the police, leaving 10 people dead and scores of others injured.
Dissatisfied with the outcomes of the 2008 presidential election, hundreds of Armenians were holding protest demonstrations in Yerevan’s Liberty Square in late February. The crowd was led by first President Levon Ter-Petrosian who later became the head of the opposition alliance Armenian National Congress. The last days of the protests saw tents in the square with the names of different administrative regions of Armenia.
Following the calls of Nikol Pashinian, an opposition activist and the editor-in-chief of the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, the crowd was rallying round-the-clock, periodically cleaning the square of dirt and rubbish.
A Wikileaks cable released two years later said that the then president, Robert Kocharian, sanctioned special police operations in the area after the police forces and special services gave assurances for clearing the square of opposition activists within just a couple of minutes.
The leaked cable, dated March 10, 2008, was written by Dr. Joseph Pennington, a deputy US ambassador to Armenia, who revealed details of a secret meeting with Garnik Isagulian, Kocharian’s security advisor.
According to the diplomat, Isagulian had admitted that the police operations were sanctioned by the second president.
Early in the morning on March 1, police officers assaulted the peaceful crowd in the square on allegations of finding weapons, arm supplies and Molotov cocktails. Most protesters, including women, were being beaten in the vicinities.
A spontaneous protest erupted hours later in Myasnikian Square (outside the French and Russian Embassies) where the crowd dispersed from Liberty Square had gathered together to continue the rally. The police were redeployed in the area by the afternoon.
The atmosphere was growing tense, with several buses being turned over and rumors circulating that a child had been shot to death in Liberty Square early in the morning.
Rumors about deaths emerged a day later, but no exact number was reported.
Myasnikian Square hosted a commemoration ceremony loday. A crowd headed by the leader of the opposition Heritage party, Raffi Hovhannisian and the opposition Armenian National Congress layed flowers at the Myasnikian statue to remember the victims.
Following the March 2008 events, Armenian directors Tigran Paskevichian and Ara Shirinian produced the documentary Armenia: Lost Spring, to describe the tragic developments. The film is presented below.