Besides getting tangible result, there is need to affect people’s consciousness


Interview with Gayane Melkom Melkomyan, member of the group of "We are the owners of this city" civil initiative

The movement "We are the owners of this city" started more than a year ago. What positive changes have you reached in our city and what do you consider your biggest achievement? 

The most important achievement that I remember is our last victory at the Vishap (Dragon) alley. Vishap alley is a small alley at the Nor Nork II unit with some dragon-stones that are monuments of historical and cultural value. The area was privatized for several years and changed different owners; the last owner wanted to build a residential building on a big part of the alley that would damage not only the green area of the alley but also the dragon-stones that are of cultural value. Residents raised an alarm, and together with a number of other civil initiatives and deputies of "Heritage" faction we consolidated and started our fight, movement by different actions. As a result the mayor accepted us, then he met with the owner of the area and offered him a different area. Thus, the Vishap alley was rescued. We consider this our biggest victory, which shows that when citizens take care of things that belong to them they reach a positive result.      

Besides, there was a yard at the Komitas region with a problem of illegal construction. Mainly the deputies of "Heritage" faction and also we helped the residents to gain a positive result. If I am not mistaken, the case is now in the court.

There are some other problems with other parks and yards, these cases are in the process, there are no results there yet.

How was the "We are the owners of this city" civil initiative founded?

It happened during the spring of last year. I was in Canada then for studies and I learned that some construction was started at the Student's park.  We were all very angry and excited and in our discussions we had an idea to create a group that would fight against such phenomena. I started the group, then I met Vahram, Mariam and the others that are in the initiative group now. We did not know each other before, we found each other in the group. A nucleus was formed that very rapidly gathered several thousand supporters in the Facebook social network. We started some actions to stop the construction at the Student's park and restore its former look. Thus we started our activities but then we felt that it is not enough, so we started fighting against illegal and willful acts in other parks and public areas. In this way we started our activities that continue till today. 

From the very beginning we had some 4000 supporters in Facebook, and the nucleus was 5 people (sometimes more). In our Facebook group there were people of different ages, also some celebrities joined us. But in fact joining our Facebook group does not mean that these people are physically present at our actions. They express their support in the social site, but when we have action, it is sad to accept, but the number of people is much smaller and most of them are young people. It is interesting that most of them actively participate also in actions organized by other civil initiatives.     

How important is the existence of such initiative groups and in your opinion what do they give to our society?

I think that the most important thing is not the visible, tangible results achieved but the effect that such initiatives have on the consciousness of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia. That is, when people see that by fighting for your rights you can achieve certain things. Apparently, it affects our consciousness, our ability to demand; I have noticed that during discussions, meetings, actions, even in Facebook.  

Besides reaching tangible results, saving the parks, our initiative initially had the goal of affecting people's consciousness to make them more demanding and become more responsible and exemplary citizens.

What are your plans, how do you see the future of "We are the owners of this city" civil initiative?

First, we want to increase the number of our supporters and I believe that our last victory will have a positive effect in raising people's belief in our initiative and generally in their approach to solving problems.

Sometimes there are moments when you feel frustrated and think that nothing can be changed like it happened with the Student's park at the beginning. At such moments you think that there is no future but the case of Vishap alley proved the opposite. So my wish is to have more victories that will help us to get rid of all the pessimism in us.

By increasing the number of supporters I mean the spread of the philosophy of the "We are the owners of this city" initiative, so that everyone thinks that we are the owners and we are responsible for our city. This is what I basically want to take root among us and spread like the "domino effect".

Interview by Mary Alexanyan

Photos by Hayk Bianjyan

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