Why Is Armenia Prosecuting a Yazidi Human Rights Activist?

Published June 16th, 2021 - 08:46 GMT
Sashik Sultanyan
A criminal investigation against Sashik Sultanyan was launched last October. (yazidis.info)

Armenian-Yazidi human rights defender Sashik Sultanyan has been facing charges of "incitement," following a criminal investigation over a press interview in June 2020, in which he criticized government treatment of the Yazidi minority.

The prosecution of Sashik Sultanyan, who is facing trials in Armenia based on the statements he made during an interview last year, has urged Human Rights Watch to release a statement in which the organization called on the government of Armenia to drop charges against him and to abide by international laws that give every individual the right to express themselves.

Sultanyan, the chairperson of the 2018 Yezidi Center for Human Rights, had talked about different examples of discrimination his people live through in Armenia; saying that they are only underrepresented in government positions, but also lack the right to celebrate and develop their own culture, including their language which they cannot learn at schools. Sultanyan had also said that the Yazidi minority in Armenia lives "in fear."

These statements had led the leader of the Veto Movement, a group often expressing hostile sentiments against human rights defenders, to file a complaint against Sultanyan. Last May, officers from the National Security Service confiscated several computers and telephones used by Sultanyan amid investigations. 

Human Rights Watch has called charges of "incitement" against Sashik Sultanyan "flawed," hoping that authorities drop the charges and grant members of minority groups the freedom to talk about the injustices they face in Armenia.

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