Death of 7 army servicemen in two separate non-combat incidents this week highlighted lingering abuse and serious problems within the country’s armed forces. Defense Ministry said Artak Nazarian, 30, commander of rifle platoon, head of the military base near Chinar village of Tavush region killed himself on July 27th, even as relatives question the official version and autopsy reveals traces of violence on the body.
One day later, on July 28th, deadly shooting occurred in Martuni region of Karabakh. Conscript Karo Ayvazyan shot an army lieutenant and a sargent, killed 3 other soldiers and shot himself.
The Armenian Armed Forces have been plagued with bullying and other abuses resulting in at least a dozen non-combat deaths each year ever since their establishment in 1992.
The Armenian military insists that it is doing its best to address the problem in earnest. It says the number of such incidents has steadily and significantly declined since the late 1990s.
Senior and mid-ranking army officers have rarely been prosecuted in connection with those crimes. Those who are put on trial usually get off with short prison sentences.
Media passivism, Facebook activism
The state-controlled television has kept silent on the tragic incidents in the army which should become the central issue on news agenda and serve as basis for discussions on necessity of reform in the Armenian Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, a group has been set up in the Facebook social networking site, which calls for proper investigation of Artak Nazarian’s death as well as investigation into the 6 other deaths.
More than 300 people have joined the group at the moment of wirting. The group is entitled “Don’t keep silence!”
However, I am facing a personal dilemma when writing on the tragic deaths in the Armenian Armed Forces as well.
The call of duty forces me to speak up. However, every reported death of an Armenian soldier serves the purposes of propaganda machine in neighboring Azerbaijan, which is engaged in a bitter conflict with Armenia over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Voicing concerns with the situation in the Army will hardly help improve the situation, but it will certainly step-up bellicose rhetoric in Baku and might one day turn into a catalyst for resumption of hostilities and a new, more bloody war.
So really, this is one of the cases, when I have no idea, which is the appropriate course of action to take.