On Tuesday 13 February, member of Yerkir Tsirani opposition party Marine Khachatryan was violently slapped and pulled out of a Yerevan Council meeting by male members of the City Hall after bringing jars of sewage to protest the current living conditions of the people in Nubarashen, an area that has been infected with sewage stench.
The reactions to Marine’s attempt to address important issues in the city are shocking. I can think of so many ways the male members could have reacted instead. They could have let her speak and finish making her point; they could have acknowledged the importance of the issue and finally kindly asked her to get the water out of the room in order to be able to continue working, promising to put this issue on the agenda. But she was pushed and slapped instead and treated as if she was a threat and not actually trying to improve living conditions in Yerevan. But the only thing she was threatening was the status quo, both in terms of politics and gender dynamics.
The horrifying images that have been recorded during the incident are an example of the conditions in which female politicians are working, whether it is in Armenia or beyond. In addition to being generally highly mistrusted by the general public and their peers only because of their gender, female politicians are working in an environment that is highly male-dominated and where their colleagues won’t hesitate to use sexist intimidation and even physical or verbal violence to shut their voices whenever they don’t agree with them.
I think that radical measures like the one Marine and her colleagues took by bringing sewage to the meeting are important to show how serious the problem is to people who are living in a parallel privileged galaxy. If the politicians in the room couldn’t handle the smell of the water for just a few minutes, how do people in Nubarashen do it on a daily basis? Why do THEY have to do it? When you think of all the money being invested in Yerevan and its luxurious buildings, cafés and restaurants, and all the people living just a few minutes away from the center that lack access to clean water or affordable health cares, you do feel a rage in you that is hard to contain and that demands these types of action. But regardless of political opinions, the way Marine was attacked can only be condemned.