Persecution of the youth democratic movement in Armenia

Children of the plant workers demonstrating in Argel
PHOTO: Youth Democratic Movement

In 2016, the basalt stone processing plant in  Argel  was built and put into operation in the Kotayk region of Armenia located about 30 kilometers north of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Soon after, and a group of local people started to organize themselves and point out the devastation of the environment that the plant was causing. Their main concern was the waste water from the plant, which was released directly into the River Hrazdan, which is used by locals to irrigate their fields. The waste water also has nearby water springs and more than five sources of drinking water. Therefore, the local people had no drinking water. They were also worried about the emissions in the air, which often exceeded the binding limits.

Local activists from the unofficial " Youth Democratic Movement " took the initiative to inform the residents about the operation of the plant. For this, they are prosecuted and their initiative cannot be officially registered because they would be immediately shut down by the responsible authorities.  

Activist Mariam Avetisyan, together with experts, and the Armenian Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health, informed the authorities about the harm to the environment and the factory workers . In addition to his violations of occupational safety, he did not pay their salaries for six months.

Soon after Mariam and her colleagues experienced threats and blackmail, and were offered bribes in exchange for their silence, with omeone broke into the office of "Youth Democratic Movement" and took all the photos and videos. Some of their phones were wiretapped, and some of the movements were expelled from universities because of their activities. According to the activists, the people behind this are top managers of the plant, oligarchs from Russia and Armenia, and local crime bosses.  

As a result of activists' activities, worker strikes, and alleged economic problems, the plant stopped its operation temporarily. According to the local media , the plant is for sale to pay the employees' salaries. Although, sources say that the plant still works at night, and in the near future, its operation will officially start up again.