Update, 4:55 PM ET, July 31 2016: After two weeks, the standoff between police and armed men ends, according to security forces. Twenty were arrested. Demonstrators dispersed peacefully on Sunday.
Two weeks ago, when armed men seized a police station in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, demanding regime change and calling for all to take to the streets, it seemed unlikely that anyone would listen.
But that was two weeks ago. All hostages were released on July 23 (six days into the conflict, and the day after the president’s website finally made mention of the situation). But the standoff between the men—who want the release of opposition leader Jirair Sefilian and the resignation of Serge Sarkisian, Armenia’s president—and authorities has continued. On Saturday, after police threatened to storm the station, dozens were injured, and an officer was shot dead.
What’s more, thousands in Yerevan have taken to the streets. As the Guardian notes, this itself is not new news: this is the fourth consecutive summer of protests in Armenia. But it is the first demanding not reform, but regime change. Whether authorities will be able to resolve this conflict wiht their civil society is still to be seen.
That it has devolved into violence is not without irony. Sefilian has been an outspoken critic of how Sarkisian has handled the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, a conflict between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan that has lasted for decades, with the most recent flare-up of fighting in April and deaths on both sides since then.