On April 18, the government adopted a decision, according to which the list of diseases that are considered unfit for military service is reduced. According to this decision, young people with mild mental retardation, skull fractures, brain neoplasms – cysts, and nocturnal enuresis can be conscripted into the army. The justification of Nikol Pashinyan’s government is that they are trying to eliminate corruption risks with this tightening.

During the government session, Minister of Defense Suren Papikyan justified that the number of people exempted from military service due to these diseases has suspiciously increased every year. According to him, if in 2020, 188 conscripts were declared unfit due to symptoms of mild mental retardation, that number almost doubled during the winter draft of 2022.

The basis for examining and inspecting conscripts diagnosed with cysts was mostly the MRI examinations carried out at the initiative of the conscripts themselves. Of the more than 1,400 MRI scans submitted during the 2023 summer draft, half of the draftees were declared unfit for service.

This decision of the government and the justifications of the officials caused worries among the parents whose sons have health problems and are in pre-conscription age. The woman, whose son is 17 years old, alerted the editors of Forrights.am and mentioned that they have already received a notice from the Military Committee to appear in front of them. The citizen only presents her son’s situation on the condition of anonymity in order not to be targeted by state agencies. According to her, her son has mild mental retardation.

“My son has a number of problems: forgets his name, the place of our house, his birthday. He is examined and treated from the age of five. He communicates with people with great difficulty, he cannot establish new contacts. It’s a serious problem when the child doesn’t get in contact,” says the mother and tells how the boy got lost when he left the house alone.

“There have been occasions when he left the house and got lost. Once he went to another administrative district by mistake: an unknown woman realized where we live and brought him to our area where he was able to find his way. He didn’t even remember my number to call. This incident happened a year ago. If you ask him the address of our house, he does not know, he cannot tell. Children with such problems do not take responsibility, they do not make their bed, they take off their clothes and throw them on the ground. Will they live like that with my child in the army? They won’t live,” says the mother, expressing fear that her son might even harm himself.

Nazeli Movsesyan, a human rights defender of the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, notes that it is obvious that those with health problems will be in a more vulnerable situation. According to her, the question arises as to how their rights will be protected in the army, who will guarantee their safety, when even now there are many incidents caused by interpersonal relations in peaceful conditions.

“For example, in the case of recruits with mental problems, there used to be a regulation, when they were taken to the service and problems arose during the service, they were discharged prematurely. The law was changed in favor of recruits, which was justified. Now, in fact, we have returned to the previous state. It is unacceptable when a recruit with problems with communication, a recruit with problems related to mental development will go to the army: their problems will deepen,” she said.

According to the human rights defender, if there are separate military units for those with problems, they are still being targeted.

“There are separate military units where conscripts with nocturnal enuresis serve. This also has problems, because the society’s attitude towards them is negative in some cases. The conscripts mentioned that the residents of that area where their military unit is located recognize them by their faces and show a discriminatory attitude. These are issues that need to be investigated and a decision made, taking into account the reasons. In fact, we have a change that is detrimental to conscripts,” said Nazeli Movsisyan.

Narek Kirakosyan

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