On Friday, September 1, Defense Minister Suren Papikyan finally received the parents of the soldiers who disappeared in the 44-day war.
According to eyewitnesses, upon entering the Ministry of Defense, they were subjected to a thorough and humiliating inspection. They took the cigarette packs from the men. The search of women’s bags was carried out by men.
“They conducted such an inspection, so strict that they even took the cigarettes from the men. During this time, we went to many places, to the Prime Minister, to the head of the National Security Service, but they never took cigarettes from us. Smoking is forbidden anyway, but this time even women’s cosmetics were checked. Moreover, women were checked by men. Let them bring women to check us; what right the military police officer has to enter the victim’s mother’s bag,” says Arsen Ghukasyan, the founder of Huysi Chrag [Light of Hope] NGO.
He and another one of the parents of the missing servicemen were not allowed to enter. “My access to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense is prohibited because I made a statement in which I used the word ‘tuziks’ [means small dogs, being used to indicate cowards],” explains Arsen Ghukasyan.
He says that he had no expectations from the meeting anyway. “The National Security Service deals with captives and missing people, and investigative bodies deal with investigations. Especially from the latter, I haven’t seen do anything about missing persons. For example, there is an investigative procedure regarding my nephew, but nothing has been done during three years. I even applied in writing to interrogate person “X”, but they did not interrogate him. They say that they sent a notice twice, but he did not show up. Well, he doesn’t show up, bring him to you.”
According to the participants in the meeting, the Minister of Defense did not say anything new to the parents. This upseted the families. Two of them left in the middle of the meeting. Although Karine Manavazyan, the mother of one of the missing persons of the Chemics’ Military Unit of Etchmiadzin, participated in the 2.5-hour long meeting, she is upset too.
“We remained there 2.5 hours; Suren Papikyan did not give a specific answer to any of our questions. Whenever we said something, he replied: ‘I will try to be useful’. I don’t understand why they put him there. And, they say: we are working, we are working. How are they working when we give 2-3 victims dayly,” says Karine. She was surprised by the minister’s speech. “He said, ‘until the peace agreement is signed, we cannot give any specific positive answer about your children: the issue of your children will not be resolved until the peace agreement is signed’. This sounds like blackmail.”
She tells that two days ago, during the meeting with the Deputy Minister of Defense Arman Sargsyan, one of the parents, a man with the surname Abajyan, got into a heated argument with the Deputy Minister. For that, this time he was not allowed to participate in the meeting with the Minister.
“When our conversation started, I said: I’m sorry, we have a parent downstairs, he wants to participate. Papikyan said, no, he has insulted me, I won’t let him come upstairs. In the lobby downstairs, the parents asked for water, but they were not given water. And there was another scandal and fight with the law enforcement officers. The police officers guarding our Arsen, security workers or something, raised their hands [used force]. And they did it on that tense day, September 1st, when we had a victim in Sotk,” says Karine.
She asked the Minister: “How can it be that the commander of the chemics’unit of Etchmiadzin who caused so many people’s death, who ran away, then came back, is considered a traitor, a case has been opened, but you brought him to the Ministry of Defense, gave him a position, made him sit next to you? He answered that he is not next to me, he is sitting three doors away. In a word, they supposedly accepted the parents but, in reality, they just got rid of us,” says Karine.
Let’s remind: the case of “Chemics’ Military Unit” is in court. Because of the former deputy chief of the general staff of the armed forces, Andranik Makaryan, commander Arsen Abgaryan, and 2 other people, more than sixty soldiers were surrounded by Azerbaijan in Zangelan. They do not accept the accusations. Arsen Abgaryan currently holds a position in the Ministry of Defense.
Why were people checked so strictly when entering the Ministry of Defense? “An how strictly! There were women who had medicine in their wallets, they didn’t let them to take it with them. We said: if the person feels sick, you won’t even have time to call an ambulance. It doesn’t matter, they didn’t let it,” says Karine.
The father of missing serviceman Narek Hovhannisyan, Karen Hovhannisyan, says: “We went, we met, but to no avail. They almost told us what, was there a war? I know one thing. as of today, we do not have a structure, a person, we don’t have an organization that can bring back our child, answer our question.”
What is the reason for the delay if they were not to tell you anything? Karen Hovhannisyan contacted his son Narek, who was lost in Jebrail, for the last time on October 5, 2020.
“They conducted DNA research. My son’s feet are size 43; they gave me a body of a shoe size 41. They say this is it! Well, is such a thing possible, you tell me?” says Karen Hovhannisyan.
All he needs is information about his son. “It is their duty to give us information, that is their job. If they don’t have any information, why do they take us back and forth?”, the father of a son is upset. He feels neglected, he says, no one from the state authorities calls the parents to see how they are.
“They are people, they are parents, they need to learn something from somewhere, they cherish hope. But they are manipulated. We met with Arman Sargsyan, he said, ‘I can’t tell you anything, I don’t know where your child is’. Papikyan did not say anything. They send people here and there saying ‘I don’t have it, go to investigative body’. We go to the investigation, they say, ‘I can’t say anything in the framework of the proceedings”, Arsen Ghukasyan complains in a conversation with Forrights.am. He is upset with the public’s indifference towards the soldiers.
“3 days ago, three boys were killed. One of them was somehow brought back to life, thank God. But on the same day, September 1, there was a celebration with magnificent fireworks in Tallinn. In Yerevan, there was a “party” and a concert in the Victory Park, car sirens, noise, fun. Our children are slaughtered, and people rejoice.”
Let’s remind that Minister Papikyan’s meeting with the family members of the missing servicemen was not taking place for a long time.
In July, it was still promised that they would be received and their questions would be answered.
On July 26, relatives of servicemen had to close the Baghramyan Avenue. The demonstration was dispersed, no meeting took place.
On August 30, they were invited to the military department, they were told that they would see the minister, but the parents were received by Deputy Minister Arman Sargsyan.
The parents were heartbroken and even refused to leave the Ministry building. A couple of dozen people did not go home and stayed at night near the Ministry of Defense building.
The next day they were promised that they would finally see Minister Suren Papikyan. But, on the morning of August 31, the parents received a call from the Ministry informing that they would see the Minister the next day.
On September 1, the meeting finally took place and, in fact, as the parents testify, it was accompanied by new scandalous incidents.