'Only bloodshed will clean out these bastards'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"We should kill these bastards to clean our country," Nairi Hounanian said to me as we watched the opening session of the newly elected Armenian National Assembly in June. On Wednesday, he made good on his word.

"We should kill these bastards to clean our country," Nairi Hounanian said to me as we watched the opening session of the newly elected Armenian National Assembly in June. On Wednesday, he made good on his word.

Eight people, including Vazgen Sarkissian, the Prime Minister, were shot dead when Mr Hounanian, a former TV journalist, and four others burst into parliament, taking hostage some 50 MPs. The gunmen surrendered yesterday.

Nobody who knew Mr Hounanian should have been surprised by his actions. He is clearly not a hired assassin and had no political backers. He simply did what he had been telling everybody he was going to do. Last night when his telephone conversations were broadcast live on TV, he sounded very calm and showed no sign of shock, confusion or aggression. He spoke with exactly the same matter-of-fact tone he always used in Yerevan's cafés and bars.

I remember Mr Hounanian repeating that "only bloodshed will clean this country from these bloodsuckers". One of his major complaints was that there were never any proper elections in Armenia. The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the last elections in May, pointed out that there was room for progress.

Back in the summer, when he was just back from Crimea, I ran into him in a café near the opera square in the centre of Yerevan and asked him what he was up to. He replied that he was planning bloodshed in Armenia because "this is the only way to force the people in charge to stop sucking the blood of the nation". Of course, nobody took him seriously.

I first met Nairi Hounanian at Yerevan University, where he was an enthusiastic student who graduated in philology in 1990. In 1988, when the Armenian National Movement was agitating for independence for Nagorny Karabakh, the Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Mr Hounanian founded the Union of Armenian Students.

He went on to become one of the first post-Communist professional journalists and was among the founders of the nationalist Dashnak party.He set up the party's information centre and joined a progressive television news programme, which was banned by former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.

In 1994 he was expelled from the party for misbehaviour and left for Crimea, where he was said to be an activist in the local Armenian community.

He said he had a house in Yevpatoria, where he lived for a few years before returning to Armenia a few months ago. Recently, he had tried to get back into journalism and had a short-lived talkshow in which he interviewed politicians and academics about the 1915 Armenian genocide. He also travelled to Turkey.

Although Mr Hounanian clearly had no political backing for his action, his brother and an uncle were among those who joined him on Wednesday. Nairi Hounanian would have used his journalist's pass to enter the assembly, which has no security checkpoints and is guarded by a couple of unarmed policemen.

Yesterday he was unrepentant for his act. "I am ready to stand in front of the court, but only if all other robbers and national criminals stand too," he said. He admitted to one mistake, however. He said he was "sorry" for killing the seven officials who died alongside Mr Sarkissian who, he said, had been his sole target.

Comments