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Oleg Dulgaryan

HRD, Head

Oleg Dulgaryan is a prominent Armenian environmental human rights defender. He is the Head of Centre for Community Mobilization and Support (CCMS), a grassroot human rights NGO working to address social and environmental issues in Armenia and promote human rights, civic activism, and community development.

Oleg started his journey as a human rights defender at age of 18 in the early 2000s by founding "Rodnoi Ochag" (Native Hearth), a group whose goal was to protect refugees' social rights and to initiate integration projects. In 2009, Oleg Dulgaryan - together with other activists and groups from local villages in the Lori region - established the CCMS, which has now evolved into one of the leading environmental rights organization in Armenia, with an expansive network of activists and local communities fighting for a clean environment at the national level.

Oleg Dulgaryan, alongside many other local activists, has been outspoken about unsustainable and destructive mining practices, toxic pollution resulting from past industrial activities (such as the waste dumps from copper and molybdenum mines in Akhtala or the “arsenic cemetery” in Alaverdi), poor water and air filtering issues of large mining companies, and the numerous attempts of opening new extraction sites. According to his research, almost all the country’s mining sites have poor filtration systems. This leads to significant environmental damage, and negatively affects the public health and livelihoods of local communities, particularly those dependent on agriculture and tourism. As a result of Oleg Dulgaryan and his team’s activism, there have recently been some successes: for example, mining company Alaverdi Copper Smelter has now implemented a filtration system that reduces the toxic emissions..

As a result of his powerful advocacy and human rights work, which includes confronting mining corporations (including those that are partly co-owned by the state), Oleg Dulgaryan has faced a series of threats and attacks, including harassment, intimidation, defamation, property destruction, legal actions through Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), and even the targeting of his close relatives such as his mother. In most of these cases, the alleged perpetrators were the mining companies and other people linked to them.

In a recent case, a series of media and social media pages labelled Oleg Dulgaryan as an “Azerbaijani agent” working against Armenia's interests. Following this orchestrated and widespread defamation campaign, Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) - the largest mining company in the country - accused Oleg Dulgaryan of defamation and threatened a lawsuit, demanding compensation of one million Armenian drams (approximately EUR 2300), as well as a public retraction of the statements allegedly defaming the company. When Oleg Dulgaryan did not comply, ZCMC filed a lawsuit demanding 6 million drams (approximately EUR 14 500) in court. However, the Court returned the suit due to unspecified technical problems, and ZCMC was unable to resubmit it before the deadline. Oleg Dulgaryan views these patterns of intimidation and harassment as a way to silence him, his team members, and other activists working on environmental issues.

Despite these challenges, Oleg Dulgaryan continues his peaceful work to protect human rights, advocating for greater transparency, sustainable development, and better policies on environmental protection. His resilience and dedication demonstrates the critical role of human rights defenders in promoting sustainable development, and stronger, united, and vibrant civil society in Armenia.