Arpine Galfayan is a young active Armenian woman who I had the opportunity to meet for an interview. She invited me to the office of the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights in Yerevan where she is a volunteer. A non-governmental organization that strives to raise and analyze issues of public importance, mainly in the roles of education and citizenship in building a developed Armenia. Arpine Galfayan believes in people’s action and a strong civil society.
The Institute of Democracy and Human Rights main goal is to contribute to Armenia’s development of democracy based on the principles of human rights, social justice and solidarity.
They believe in individual and collective actions and create and promote opportunities for finding solutions to these issues by this means.
They support people who wish to become agents of democratic change and offers trainees and material support. By this they enlarge the circles of people with an interest and a spirit to fight for democracy and a stronger civil society. One can believe Arpine’s great interest for social movements and civil organization was born here during her time as a volunteer, but I believe that it was her interest that brought her to become a volunteer.
Arpine has a wide interest and does not focus on only one societal problem or question. Her focus is rather on social movements and civil society and fights for all important and up-to date issues.
“I believe a strong civil society is important to achieve a democratic society.”
This means that she sometimes concentrates on environmental questions and other times on democratic problems or issues concerning women rights among others. She emphasizes the importance of a strong civil society and supports anyone who is fighting for societal change or raising awareness of exceeding civil and human rights.
At the moment Arpine is active in the protests against the boutique construction of Mashtots Park in Yerevan, an up-to date matter that has upset many people and activist groups. Many people and groups have for several weeks located themselves in the park to protest against the governmental decision to destroy the park by building small boutiques in this central located park. For every day that passes without the government withdrawing the construction, activists and strong civil commitments becomes more vital. Arpine is one of those persistent activists who keep demanding the government to take responsibility for their action.
Another environmental issue that is up-to date in Armenia and has attracted Arpine’s interest is the expansion of mining by multinational companies and its’ negative impact on the environment. The waste from mining has destroyed many areas and made some regions inhabited due to environmental damage. In these areas it is not possible to find any clean water and birth defects and lung diseases have been reported as result of the waste dumping. Still, the mining continues to expand. Since mostly of the mining is exported, Arpine is worried that Armenia will end up as a third world country where the first world dump their waste and she continues to fight for a more environmental friendly policy in Armenia.
Arpine is also active in the group who fights for human rights in the Army; as you can see, Arpine is a very active woman in several areas.
I ask her how she looks at the Armenian activism that I have come to admire. She tells me about how activism has been more visible since the election of 2008, which resulted in demonstrations where the police shot around ten people to death.
“More people are becoming aware of our societal problems and becoming active. Everyone within activism supports each other and a strong solidarity has emerged”.
I ask Arpine if she has any role model or source of inspiration and I receive a delightful answer.
“I do not only have one role model, but so many. All those active people we do not see, but makes the movement possible.”
Arpine is inspired by everyone from Gandhi until today and all sorts of movements from Women’s rights movement to all Civil Rights Movements during history.
Her answer that comes to remind me that it is not only the leader of the movements that makes a strong civil society possible, but those who are not as visible are an equally important ingredient.
I thank Arpine for her time and the pleasant meeting. I leave the interview with a strong reminder about the importance of active people and a strong civil society to achieve a democratic society, but also to maintain it.