For Heghine Simonian, the memories of her 27-year-old daughter’s suffering are still raw. She can hear her daughter’s pleas for relief from the pain caused by terminal-stage breast cancer, yet no help was available -- for the simple reason she lacked access to painkillers.
As elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Armenian women can expect to receive an array of toasts, flowers and little gifts on March 8, International Women’s Day. But there is one thing Armenian women won’t enjoy, or get anytime soon – a law covering domestic violence.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited Armenia on December 12 in what Ankara has portrayed as an attempt to jump-start a stalled rapprochement process. But many in Yerevan perceived the trip as designed to counter Armenia’s efforts to win worldwide recognition of the 1915 Ottoman-era mass slaughter of Armenians as genocide.
When Mariam Avanesian and her family fled to Yerevan from Azerbaijan 25 years ago this month, they thought they were lucky; they had escaped physical danger, and left behind an apartment rather than “a grave” in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. But moving to Armenia didn’t mean the end of uncertainty for Avanesian’s family members, and tens of thousands of others.
The Armenian government’s recent amnesty of several hundred prisoners has more to do with politics than a desire to reform the country’s justice system, human-rights activists contend. Authorities in Yerevan concede the existence of problems, but assert change is coming.
In what many local observers see as the latest in a series of pushbacks against government critics in Armenia, military investigators have filed criminal charges against Volodya Avetisian, a retired army colonel who launched a series of protests this spring for better benefits for Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans.
Heated differences of opinion are nothing new in the South Caucasus, but when they come with sluggish police investigations into violence against protesters, locals expect answers. So far, in Armenia, there have been none.
Over the past month, civil activists speaking out against Armenia’s surprise September 3 decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union and against past plans for a public transportation fare hike have suffered attacks in the capital, Yerevan, that left them with numerous injuries. One of the attacked, Haykak Arshamian, a 42-year-old project coordinator at the Yerevan Press Club who took part in September 4 protests against the Customs Union, claims that the Yerevan rally, attended by hundreds, “alarmed” the Armenian government and “this is the consequence.”
“This is a warning message not only to me, but to all those who might attempt certain activities and object to the new stage of Armenian-Russian relations, which have brought to nothing the efforts of building economic relations with Europe,” he told Asbarez.am.
Arshamian suffered rib fractures and heavy injuries to his jaw and facial tissue from a September 5 attack by male youths dressed in black. Another protester, 43-year-old Suren Saghatelian, a board member of the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center and project manager for the Christian charity World Vision Armenia, received a head injury and a nose fracture, for which he had to undergo surgery.
Officials have offered no official comments on the violence against the Customs-Union protesters. The police launched a preliminary investigation, but filed criminal cases only nine days later. The action came the day after a September 12 statement from the US embassy condemning the assaults.