SOCIETY | 03.09.13 | 12:52


ArmeniaNow reporter

The flaring passions over the 60-year-oldPak Shuka (Covered Market)
produce market in the heart of Yerevan, have escalated into a
standoff between those who want to see the site maintained as a
cultural landmark, and those who support its transition into a modern
supermarket and a source of jobs.

Enlarge Photo

Those who support development by the building's owner, Parliament
Member Samvel Alexanyan,are demanding that members of the opposing
social initiative group "Liberate the market from the oligarch"
back-off and stop hampering construction.

The stand-off against the market reconstruction has received another
spur after oppositional Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper published a story
claiming that the interior has been altered beyond recognition, turned
into a "whitewashed" shopping center, a second storey has been added,
an escalator installed and by September 15 another store of Yerevan
City supermarket chain will open.

Prior to this deputy culture minister Arev Samuelyan made a statement
that the ministry had not licensed any construction at the Covered
Market, neither had it approved any architectural plan.

"The construction there is illegal. The ministry has constantly voiced
this issue and acted within the limits of its authority,"she said. "We
have sent numerous letters to all the bodies in charge".

Architect Sashur Kalashyan says City Hall had promised to dismantle
illegal structures and punish the wrongdoers, however after seeing
the market interior it is apparent the beloved building's character
has been changed completely.

"The municipality claimed the construction inside the market had
been suspended and the building was under its control. However, now
the news is that it will open in two weeks. What is that supposed to
mean?" says the architect.

"Liberate the market from the oligarch" initiative group has three
demands: to hold the owner liable as the law provides for, make him
compensate the damage caused to the monument and restore its original
interior, implying dismantlement of illegal structures, restoration of
the monument back to its original state. They also demand to suspend
the owner's rights to use the monument and carry out any economic
activity on its premises until the above listed demands are met.

Group coordinator Garegin Chugaszyan says should the listed demands not
be met, the owner should be legally stripped off his ownership right.

Meanwhile on Monday hundreds of Alexanyan's supporters rallied next
to the market - employees of Yerevan City supermarkets located in
different parts of the Armenian capital - armed with tricolors, "Yes
to new jobs" posters, whistles, chanting "Alexanyan-philanthropist".

Water and juices were being distributed to them all along during
the protest.

Civil activists rallied at Mashtots Park at the same time said that
they did not go to the market area out of safety concerns - the number
of police officers on site was far not enough to prevent a clash,
bound to happen had they gone.

"Whether they wanted a clash, I cannot say, but this speaks for it.

They came in great numbers and the police would fail to hold them,"
says Yeghia Nersisyan, one of the activists. "For how long can
Alexanyan have his employees go on strike and bring them over to the
market premises?"

Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan has released a statement that the law
enforcement bodies should take up the covered market issue, rather than
ministries or the city hall. It is doubtless that the construction
is illegal, as the urban development and culture ministries, as well
as Yerevan city hall representatives have repeatedly stated.

From: Baghdasarian