Getting to the “paradise” of freedom fighters is not easy. At the end of the Muratsan street, there is a bakery with an old, Soviet-era signboard. The thin baker of the bakery guides you to the iron gates. Beyond the gates there is a parking lot. You turn right immediately there and wade the walls until you reach the yard—the “Paradise” door of 12 freedom fighters. This is their last refuge.
They are convinced that they will no longer be able to obtain their own homes, and each one treats his/her semi-destroyed cell as a hearth. There are no electricity and water in the building. The walls collapse on your head, and some of the rooms have no doors or windows. There are birds’ nests under the corridor ceiling of the third floor, swallows are flying under the ceiling. Maryam Ohanjanyan, the girl in wheelchair, greeted us, saying:
“Pigs live cleaner than us. There is no water, there is no electricity: they were turned off two months ago. We live in dirty, inhumane conditions. We carry water from fountains.”
Mariam is 21 years old, suffers from an incurable illness, child brain paralysis and weakness of the lower extremities. She came here a couple of months ago, with her mother Margo Babayan, who has fought in the war. After, once again, being thrown out to the streets by their last tenant for delaying the rent, they came here and occupied one of the empty rooms. The woners of the 110 Muratsan building, The Defense Ministers of the Republic of Armenia, have provided rooms to several NGOs here years ago.
On the first floor, the most favorite of the ministers, the coordinating council of the “Soldier” NGOs is located, the chairperson of which is Margarita Khachatryan, the famous “Maroz”. On a door that is not possible to close is written “HAB” [Armenian National Army, an armed organization that was neutralized in early 1990s]. “It is a sad memory; this is all that remains from HAB. Their headquarters was here, then they moved to Moskovyan street,” says freedom fighter Gagik Yeghikyan. He is here since April 5. He does not want to tell how he lost his house. He is from the Arabo detachment, lost his right hand in 1992. His family consists of 11 people.
The Ministry of Defense, so to speak, has “conned” Yeghikyan and his large family: they delayed allocation of state money for improvement of living conditions so much that Gagik Yeghikyan’s sons have married. In 2013, instead of a sum for a 4-room house, they received money for a studio—13 million AMD [about $25,000]. He only managed to buy a land with this money in an auction, but did not have means to build a house. So, he moved to 110 Muratsan street with his wife, children and grandchildren.
Manvel Khachatryan, the chairman of the Freedom Fighters NGO, is settled on the second floor. Disabled, he has wandered in Russia for many years and returned to his homeland with his family in 2012 with no permanent place of residence. He looks like a “boss”. The office is decorated with tricolor [Armenian flag] and statesmen’s pictures. My question “are you the commandant of this building?” makes everybody laugh.
“He is the General of this building,” replies Yeghikyan. All stories told by Manvel Khachatryan are about the war to which he has participated since he was a teenager.
In early April, o a Saturday, the Defense Minister of that time Vigen Sargsyan sent his people headed by his deputy Artak Zakaryan to 110 Muratsan address to check out the area. Zakaryan saw the disabled girl, was moved and promised to solve her apartment problem in a week. He gave promises to others too.
“We waited and waited, but he did nothing. I went to see him on the Genocide commemoration day; I told him that I found a cheap house. He said, “in a few days, in a few days.” Then the Minister’s resignation followed. Now what shall this child do, who shall she demand her house from?” says Manvel Khachatryan. His friends and he are offended. They say: “Nobody remembered about this building for 20 years. Just when we came here, everybody remembered about it, turned off the electricity and water.
Several days ago the current Minister of Defense demanded that the Chief of Police Valery Osipyan evicted the freedom fighters from 110 Muratsan building. The freedom fighters obeyed the police order, collected their things. The things such as TV sets, kitchen cabinets, sofas, worn, old items are still lined up downstairs. They say, when pushing the disabled girl’s wheelchair, the policemen were almost crying.The residents of 100 Muratsan building complained to the head of the Government Control Service Davit Sanasaryan.The Defense Minister had to give explanations to the Government.
Describing that 12 families have occupied the second and third floors of the building belonging to the Ministry, the Defense Minister noted that two of the families have received financial support for obtaining housing, which they failed to do, and the other families are not beneficiaries of the housing security program for servicemen at all. He stated that relevant subdivisions of the Defense Ministry have conducted explanatory work with the persons mentioning that the territory was illegally seized and must be freed, but the latter refuse to comply with legitimate demands. “Taking into account the above mentioned, I applied to the Chief of Police of the Republic of Armenia asking for his intervention to resolve the issue,” Davit Tonoyan wrote.
On the morning of June 28, at the Prime Minister`s instruction, relevant people visited and promised to turn on the lights and water. “We have participated in the Karabakh war, and we went to the April war like one person; do we have no contribution for Armenia yet? I have been paying rent for 25 years, I do not know how to pay my debts,” says Margo Babayan, mother of the disabled girl:
“My only son now serves at the frontline, defends Armenia and his sister is left in the streets. How can I tell my son we are being evicted? I have never been weakened so far but I am weak in my country now. People become happy about great thing, and I am happy when we have electricity. When my child told me that the electricity will be restored, I started crying in the middle of the street.”
The silent witnesses of these conversations are Nzhdeh, Vazgen and Nikol [national heroes], who look proudly from the walls of Manvel Khachatryan`s makeshift workshop.