A controversial festival of Azeri films was held at a private restaurant outside Gyumri after some angry residents of Armenia’s second largest city prevented its holding at a local media club by staging a protest that also reportedly included an assault on the festival’s organizer Georgi Vanyan.
A festival of Azerbaijani films called “Stop” was to have been held in Gyumri on April 12, but it failed after dozens of protesters blocked the entrance to the Asparez club, where the films were to be demonstrated. The protesters demanded the organizer of the festival should vacate the building and the city and pelted him with eggs.
Protests in Gyumri and Yerevan were organized against the festival being organized by Vanyan, the director of the Caucasian Center of Peaceful Initiative, who had received grants from the United States and British Embassies for the project. Groups on social networking websites have been set up to call for “forbidding this shameful initiative.”
In Gyumri, Mayor Vardan Ghukasyan slammed the authors of the initiative saying “they have not descended from the Armenian nation” and “have nothing to do in Gyumri.”
In Yerevan a group of protestors held posters saying “No to grant-taker Vanyan and the anti-Armenian activity”. They handed in an open letter to the Ministry of Culture which, in particular, said: “Armenia has neither diplomatic nor cultural ties with Azerbaijan; therefore, the organization of such festivals should be banned in Armenia once and for all.”
According to Vanyan, the festival was meant to introduce to the Armenian audience to the best samples of the contemporary Azerbaijani film industry.
To avoid further incident, Vanyan and his colleagues were taken from the city by a police vehicle accompanied by another police car.
In the evening the Asparez club issued a statement, condemning the violence against Vanyan and calling the action “unbecoming of a Gyumri resident”. According to the journalistic club, the show of the films took place at a restaurant on the Gyumri-Yerevan highway for people who went to Gyumri from Yerevan and met Vanyan there.