Mayor Gordo Whitewashes Authoritarian Regime in Armenia

A missed opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Armenian people.

1 min read
A group of people in uniform
A man being arrested by a "red beret" police unit in Yerevan on June 12, 2024. Photo: Horizon Weekly

It was a cruel irony for the Mayor of Pasadena to pose for photos in Vanadzor, Pasadena’s sister city, with the “acting head of the Vanadzor community,” while the democratically elected Mayor of Vanadzor, Mamikan Aslanian, remains imprisoned for the last two years after defeating the ruling party’s candidate in the December 2021 election.

Armenian and US flags on a conference table.
Photo: Armenpress

Victor Gordo’s joining in the U.S. Department of State delegation participation in a U.S.-Armenia Local Democracy Forum follows growing criticism of a brutal dictatorship’s denial of the most fundamental of human rights – the right to peaceful assembly.

A mere five days before his arrival in Yerevan, there was violence and blood on the streets of that city. Protestors had gathered in front of Parliament where police launched dozens of stun grenades directly into peaceful men, women, and children, resulting in over 100 injuries.

One protestor lost three fingers because of the stun grenades. The police targeted an outspoken critic of the regime, Dr. Abraham Gasbaryan, inflicting a concussion and several broken ribs.  Also targeted by the police were a dozen reporters and cameraman covering the protest.  Among the injured were Vazgen Yetumian, a cameraman with the online news service, who sustained a broken leg from the multiple grenade explosions.  Also injured were cameraman Narek Hayrian of civilnet and Hovsep Hovsepian of

Mayor Gordo made this public statement about his trip:  “It’s interesting to see a new democracy begin to develop,” he observed. “The number one issue, I would say, is community involvement, engaging their community at the local level.” 

No, Mr. Gordo, there can be no community involvement when the fundamental human right to peaceful assembly is brutally denied by an authoritarian regime. The resort by police officers to launching stun grenades against protestors and the media is a violation of that right and not only endangers the lives of those victims of excessive force but also undermines the rule of law and democratic principles.

Mayor Gordo’s trip to Armenia was a missed opportunity to stand in solidarity with the aspirations of the Armenian people to exercise their democratic rights and to call upon the authoritarian regime in Armenia to refrain from violence and adhere to principles of human rights and the rule of law.

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William Paparian

Paparian is a former Mayor of Pasadena.

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