On February 28, at the Media Center was held a press conference and a debate on the following issue: “Student strike: youth protest or civil distress?” The participants were: Daniel Ioannisyan and Arman Aleksanyan, organizers of the strike and students of the Yerevan State University, Anna Davtyan, student of the Yerevan State Pedagogical University, Raffi Karamanyan, head of the Yerevan State University student council, Nersik Margaryan, head of the Yerevan State Pedagogical University student council, Vazgen Mkrtchyan, head of the Medical University faculty of pharmaceutics student council, Avetik Ishkhanyan, head of the Helsinki Committee and Edgar Vardanyan, expert from the Armenian Center for Strategic and National Research.
During the active debate, the striking students stated, that they are under pressure from their universities' authorities and are recieving threats, which were retaliated by their student councils, that “the students are free, and can participate in the strike, although they will be absent from class, and face problems in the future.
“Many students are not in scholarships, and by answering the call, they can follow the crowd and participate in the strike. And if they are absent from classes a lot, they can get expelled, as a result of which their tuition fees, which is quite large, will be lost,” Vazgen Mkrtchyan told, answering the question of why they do not want summons to the strike being heard around universities.
Despite that all the participants of the student council pointed out that educational institutions must not be politicized, Nersik Margaryan said that he is a member of the Republican party, but “takes his party business outside of the university.”
Strike participant Daniel Ioannisyan presented, why their struggle is necessary, what are their conditions long-term and short-term conditions and noted, that despite the fact that the student councils were founded to protect students’ rights, they are not taking steps on that path.
“They do not discuss the numerous trials brought on the education system, do not protest against the low quality of the education and the annually rising tuition fees etc,” Mr. Ioannisyan told us, mentioning, that in reality the student councils are encouraging students to become members of political parties.
Avetik Ishkhanyan, human rights activist and president of the Helsinki Committee noted that a strike is a generally accepted and legal means of protest and in this case expelling students is not something to be viewed as a course of action.
“I remembered my student years in the Soviet period, when we tried to participate in demonstrations on April 24. Voluntary public order squad members closed the doors, and we tried to escape from windows and go to the demonstrations. But at that time, no one threatened to expel us from the university,” – Avetik Ishkhanyan told to Media Center.
You can watch the whole recording of the press conference by following this link.