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Armenia: When Freedom Causes Social Friction

In 2015, Iranians accounted for just less than 10 percent of Armenia’s roughly 1.2 million tourists, according to official data, about a 2 percent decline from 2014. (Photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

The influx of Iranian tourists in March to celebrate Nowruz, the traditional Persian New Year, is a major economic event for businesses in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. But while plenty of restaurants and clubs in the city display signs in Farsi, reports of discrimination against Iranian visitors suggest that the tourism surge is a source of social friction.
 
Most of the discrimination reports are hard to verify and are generally spread by word of mouth. They include alleged confrontations involving Yerevan residents and Iranian tourists, or stories of taxi drivers, restaurants and supermarkets allegedly overcharging visitors.
 
Thirty-year-old tour guide Yasha Solomonian recently sparked controversy on Facebook when he claimed that he had witnessed a staff member at a toy store in downtown Yerevan deny an Iranian family entrance.
 

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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.

Armenia: When Freedom Causes Social Friction

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