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A female councillor on Yerevan’s City Council was attacked by a number of her male colleagues, after she brought jars of sewage in to a debate to protest living conditions in one of Yerevan’s districts. A protest rally was held later that day, and the brawl sparked discussions on misogyny in society and politics.
Footage from a number of outlets showed councillor Marina Khachatryan being physically prevented from presenting the jars of raw sewage to Mayor Taron Margaryan on 13 February.
Khachatryan is pushed several times by a number of male councillors from the ruling Republican Party. One of them is seen to slap her while another grabs her by the hair from behind, pulling her away.
Khachatryan’s colleague Sona Aghekyan was also physically removed from the room by a group of councillors along with her. Both are members of the opposition Yerkir Tsirani (Apricot Country) party.
The head of Yerkir Tsirani, Zaruhi Postanjyan, told the council ‘this smell will accompany you in all the places wherever you are’, according to RFE/RL’s Armenian service Azatutyun.
According to Armenian investigative news site Hetq, Khachatryan said the ‘sewage was a gift from residents of Nubarashen neighbourhood to Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan for not taking steps to repair the local sewage system’. It showed how dirty the water in the district is.
On 12 February, protesters blocked the road leading to a prison in Yerevan’s southern district of Nubarashen. According to Caucasian Knot, dozens of people blocked the road, asking the authorities to look in to pollution from a damaged sewage pipe.
Dozens of women’s rights activists gathered in front of the Mayor’s Office to protest Khachatryan’s treatment, and what they say is misogyny in the country.
Caucasian Knot quoted activists as saying the brawl proved that women in Armenia ‘are not protected from violence both in the family and at work’.
One activist said that these councillors should not have the right to represent the people. Others called for public condemnation of violence against women, regardless of political beliefs.
‘The only thing [Khachatryan] was actually threatening was the status quo, both in terms of politics and gender dynamics’, an Armenian blogger on women’s empowerment wrote.
Online news site EVN Report quoted former member of parliament Arakel Movsesyan, from the Republican party, as saying that Khachatryan was ‘lucky’ he was not in the council during incident.
‘I will not go into details of what I would do, but what the [Republican Party] men did, they did well’, Movsesyan said.
OC Media has reached out to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment.