Over a dozen activists stood outside in the cold today in solidarity with the residents of the southern Armenian city of Qajaran, where a recent government decision has meant that over 180 hectares of land in Syunik marz (“province”) is now “priority public interest” land and thereby no longer belongs to the city but to the state, who plans to sell it to a mining company.
As reported by the Epress.am corespondent on the scene, the environmental activists were standing in front of the Government of Armenia building holding signs and speaking to the press.
“Since by recognizing them as priority interest, these lands will be handed over to the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine [Plant] which is going to begin mining in that area. To exploit those lands as a mine will make the existence of this village impossible. The mine and the village are not compatible there — it will lead to the displacement of this border village of 130 homes and about 300 residents,” said activist Apres Zohrabyan.
Zohrabyan said this decision was made 6 months ago and recently the appropriate bodies wanted to put it into effect. But the villagers pushed back the equipment brought there and obstructed the work.
The environmentalist also said that the villagers have not received compensation since officially it’s not the village that’s being uprooted. But this displacement will be unavoidable because, according to Zohrabyan, no reasonable person could live next to a mine.
“And the money which they’ve given to take those lands are ridiculous — 12,000 drams [approx. $31 USD] per hectare,” he said.
Also participating in the protest was well-known local environmental activist Mariam Sukhudyan, who said they’re supporting Qajaran (also spelled Kajaran) residents, who are protecting the border. According to her, it’s also a question of national security.
“We see today that mining doesn’t stem from the public’s interest, but from the interest of some private individuals. We’ve made contact with the head of the village; he said they’re threatening him, his life is in danger, though they’re ready to fight till the end. Then we found out that they took him to the police station, kept him for a few hours, then that man began to backpedal, saying nothing happened to him. We understood that the pressures are continuing. And that today government members went to Qajaran testifies to the fact that the pressures continue,” she said.
A group of environmentalists, she continued, is planning to go to Qajaran in the coming days.
“If those people are truly, fairly going to go to the end, we are with them. In any case one has to understand and place importance on [the fact] that he is the owner of this country, whether standing before him is [Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine General Manager] Maxim [Hakobyan], [Armenian President] Serzh [Sargsyan], I don’t know, a Chinese, a Russian… it doesn’t matter, on the other side of the scale is his child’s future — which is more important? That is, in any case he has to stand up and fight, just as the residents of Qajaran are doing now,” she said.