New Mayor Bans Street Trade in Yerevan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Yerevan’s new municipal administration faced angry streets protests on Wednesday against its decision to ban all forms of street trade in the Armenian capital.

Mayor Karen Karapetian ordered the ban shortly after taking office a month ago. Police began enforcing it this week, clearing sidewalks of people selling a wide range of goods, from agricultural produce to construction materials.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of them now risk losing their sole source of income as a result. About a hundred vendors gathered outside the Yerevan Mayor’s Office to express anger at the measure and demand a meeting with Karapetian.

The small crowd chanted “Karen, come down!” and “Work!” Some protesters tried to enter the municipality building but were held back by police officers guarding it.

“He gives us no jobs, no pensions but tells us to stop working. Why?” said one angry man. “How many families will now be left hungry?”

“We don’t steal, loot or kill. We are fighting for survival,” argued another, female trader.

Virtually all of Karapetian’s predecessors already attempted such bans but eventually had to back away in the face of a similar backlash. Street trading was only mostly driven out of downtown Yerevan.

“All previous mayors realized that you can’t deprive people of means of survival. But this one doesn’t offer us any alternatives,” said Aram Arakelian, another protester.

Arakelian, 36, is one of about 200 traders selling household goods and construction materials on a busy street section in the city’s central Kentron district. He said all of them have installed cash registers and hired accountants in recent years to pay all taxes required by law.

“After all, nowadays no factory, no enterprises provides as many jobs as street trade does,” Arakelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “People have borrowed loans with their apartments used as collaterals and found ways of supporting their families. But the mayor made at least 12,000 Yerevan residents jobless in one fell swoop.”

Neither the mayor, nor his aides agreed to meet the protesting traders. Hovannes Ghalechian, an official from a municipality department on trade and services, was authorized to talk to only journalists covering the protest.

“No action not allowed by law can be justified on social grounds,” said Ghalechian. He said the municipal authorities are ready to open new retail markets for the traders.

“Street trade is not only illegal by law but also dangerous for health,” added Ghalechian. “They are not interested in moving out probably because it’s more beneficial to do business on sidewalks … They may be paying taxes, but that doesn’t mean they can sell things anywhere.”

The explanation will hardly be accepted by the traders. “My apartment is used as collateral, I sell eggs to support my family,” said one middle-aged man. “Why is [the mayor] banning that. Will he support my six kids?”


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  1. manooshag said:

    Hye, proof again of the inept leadership of Haiastan… this leadership of Haiastan is still misdirected and still ‘learning on the job’… Citizens using honest methods to feed their families are faced with the Serge mentality… as Serge and his cohorts allow such abuse our own citizens of Haiastan!
    Abused and mistreated by these inept leaders – who know not how and when to govern – not only with our ‘foreign relations’ but now, even to suffer abuse to our own Armenian citizens of Haiastan seeking honest ways of pursuing to provide food and homes for their own families… Such behavior reeks of the the Turk mentality… sadly, such actions against our own citizens of Haiastan – such barbarity to our own by incapable but well fed leaders… assures the need of Serge and cohorts to resign – to leave Haiastan. Manooshag

  2. Norin Radd said:

    Funny how diligently this new mayor jumps at the opportunity to deprive the common folk in Yerevan of their fundamental livelihood, yet criminal enterprises and monopolizing oligarchs are allowed to run amuck on our fair streets of Yerevan. I guess selling a few dozen eggs or some fruit on the sidewalk (which incidentally takes place in just about every country in the world and is not disallowed by the said country’s own government) is a huge criminal act compared to the meager tax evasion, monopolization, and selling of our countries natural resources to foreign governments that the “legitimate” oligarchs and mafiosos pull off daily in Yerevan.

    If things continue as they are, all of these neanderthal mafiosos and “families” that have killed and swindled their way into controlling key enterprises in our motherland will only have each other to look at and flash their jewels or cars; everybody else will have emigrated out of the country.

    Pchatzatz avazakner. . . .

  3. eddy said:

    Stupid way to teach people to obey the laws.. Give people more time… with unlawful actions one can not force people to respect the law! How about all illegal cafes around opera and within parks? How about illegal cutting of tress, constructions and hunting of animals by people in arms with oligarchies?

  4. Vacheh said:

    No wonder why 700,000 people have left the country for good. Mafia-supported major can only protect the interests of his bosses, who own supermarkets and sell goods three time more expensive than street vendors. Does the major know what percentage of the ordinary population buy their daily groceries from street vendors and not from expensive supermarkets. I bet he knows and he is aware that it is not a small percentage. Where are those street vendors going to earn money to feed their families? Does the major have a plan to offer them a meaningful job? Avagh, avagh, avagh. Where is Zoravar Andranik or Zoravar Dro and their jokats to teach the major and his mafia-backers a proper lesson.

  5. Pingback: Armenia: protests of street vendors against municipal banning « streetvendor’s blog

  6. Saro said:

    If the government cannot and won’t support its people, then why should the people elect its government?
    I, or anyone else for that matter can do a better job at running the country. Armenia is a small country and the people are desperate that they will accept anything positive from its government. It should be easier to govern Armenia, you know it’s not as complicated as it is in the US. Imagine how Serge would’ve run the US if he was its president!

  7. Avery said:

    Vestiges of Soviet-style arbitrary rule mentality.

    Why should one man have the legal right to negatively affect, even possibly destroy, the livelihoods of thousands of ordinary residents by an arbitrary decision ?
    What’s the emergency that the city’s Mayor has to make such an executive decision on a day’s notice ?
    Even if there are good reasons for it – say health codes, litter and such – why not give a notice of 12 months, so people have plenty of time to adjust.
    Or designate areas in the city where ordinary folks can sell their produce, as is done at “Farmer’s Markets” in many cities of US, or something similar to swap meets, where people sell whatever they have, in a designated parking lot or such.

    Why should people have to beg anyone – the Mayor, the President, the Courts, the King, the Queen….. – to be allowed to earn an honest living by trading goods ?

    It must be a fundamental, inalienable right – not a favor or privilege granted or withdrawn by some potentate.