YEREVAN'S BUS FARE PROTESTS: A TIMELINE

Posted on July 29, 2013 by Christian Garbis in Featured, Headline, News

July 18: Fares for public transportation by bus or minibus
are scheduled to increase from 100 to 150 dram. The owners of
48 companies operating privatized transportation routes had filed
petitions with the Yerevan municipality to increase the fares, citing
high maintenance costs and price increases in liquefied gas imported
from Russia, which is used to fuel minibuses. Electric trolley bus
routes, favored by senior citizens because of the cheaper fare,
will also go up from 50 to 100 dram. The fare hike is the first in
well over a decade. The announcement is made by Henrik Navasardyan,
head of the Yerevan Municipality's Department of Transportation.

1x1.trans Yerevan's Bus Fare Protests: A Timeline Photo by Anush
Khachatryan

July 19: Young activists protesting against the slated price increase
congregate in front of Yerevan City Hall. Protesters at one point are
seen throwing 50-dram coins in the direction of the main entrance,
which is heavily guarded by policemen. One coin accidentally lands
on the head of Mayoral Advisor Albert Gevorgyan while he is talking
to journalists.

July 20: The new fare prices go into effect. Three young activists,
Davit Haroutyunyan, Sona Msryan, and Arsen Ohanyan, are detained for
passing out flyers that call on commuters to refuse to pay the new
fare. At bus stops, protesters tape flyers to the windshields and
windows of buses instructing people to continue paying the 100-dram
fares. They also hand them out to passengers when buses pull up at
bus stops. Announcements are made with bullhorns urging citizens to
continue paying the same fare. Activists claim that the new fares are
unjustified since the bus routes are owned by government officials or
individuals with close ties to the government, and are thus lucrative
businesses.

July 22: The citywide protests continue to gain followers. More
activists are detained. Celebrities who sympathize with the movement
begin offering free rides to people waiting at bus stops. Bus drivers
continue to accept the 100-dram fares, some begrudgingly, as reports of
quarrels with passengers come online. The social media, specifically
Facebook, is being used as a main channel for creating awareness and
disseminating information about the situation on the ground.

July 23: Protesters face resistance from riot police, and six more
activists are detained. They are released shortly after hundreds of
people swarm in front of the police headquarters. Small protests
continue at bus stops throughout the city center. Meanwhile,
Hetq Online publishes an article claiming that Navasardyan owns a
Yerevan bus route, and that one of his sons runs a company that sells
advertising space on public transportation vehicles. The news story
stirs even more controversy and outrage.

The movement's name, "I Will Only Pay 100 Dram," is revealed with
the announcement of a rally scheduled at Mashtots Park-a symbolic
site of civic protest.

July 24: An innovative carpooling initiative goes online on a new
website called freecar.am, where motorists who have spare seating
offer their services to people who cannot afford to pay the new fares.

(As of July 28, 269 drivers have signed up.)

Karen Andreasyan, an Armenian human rights defender, in a statement
putting pressure on Yerevan Mayor Taron Markaryan, says that the price
hike is unjustifiable without public debates and a signed order by
the mayor instating the new fare. Markaryan himself announces that
he signed the order on July 19, only one day before the new fare
price went into effect. Per Armenian law, it is illegal to put new
directives into force without prior notice.

Purported overtures made by the Heritage and Prosperous Armenia Parties
to lend sponsored support to the movement are rejected by its leaders.

July 25: In a move signaling the understanding that the civic movement
has no political undertones, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan-during
opening remarks of a meeting with his cabinet-hails the initiative,
stating that civil society is taking shape and the government must
do more to address public concern.

Activists continue their protests unabated. Some are seen in
Republic Square distributing flyers printed with articles on public
transportation per Armenian law.

Just before 6 p.m., Mayor Markaryan announces that he is temporarily
suspending the fare hike, but makes no mention of when prices may
increase in the future. Hundreds of activists take to the streets in
celebration, marching through Liberty Square and down Mashtots Street,
the tricolor in hand.

July 26: Activists continue to congregate en masse in front of
Yerevan City Hall, calling for the dismissal of Navasardyan and Misak
Hambardzoumyan, the director of Yerevan Trans Ltd., a transportation
operator. They are met by a persistent wall of police, but remain
peaceful. Activists also demand that commuters obliged to pay the
higher fare over the last week be reimbursed.

July 27: A sit-in protest continues in the evening at Yerevan City
Hall, where activists strategize to determine the direction the
movement will take. A similar gathering is held at Mashtots Park.

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