Pope Francis visited Armenia to promote the values of peace and reconciliation, but, for many ordinary Armenians, the pontiff’s June 24-26 trip only deepened a divide that separates them from their own government.
During public events for the pope in both the capital, Yerevan, and the northern town of Gyumri, police arrested political activists demanding the release of alleged political prisoners or blocked their attendance at liturgies and prayer services.
“The regime’s whole operation was devoted to one thing – making sure the pope does not know of the fact that for years there have been political prisoners in the country …” drily remarked Syuzan Simonian, a member of the opposition New Armenia movement.
Both the United States Department of State and London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International have cited Armenian police targeting government critics, but have not provided details about actual political prisoners.
Those who claim that such prisoners do exist in Armenia, however, were kept well away from the pope.
To read the full story
Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Armenia and editor of MediaLab.am.