A controversial video, entitled “The real face of the Army”, which showed an unidentified male humiliating two young boys dressed in military uniforms, was swiftly taken down from YouTube as soon as it became viral.
“No description for the video is provided, and it’s not known when and where this video was taken,” Unzipped wrote in his blog, posting the video. “What is depicted in this video is simply disgusting,” the blogger continued, citing recent cases of “suicides” and non combat deaths in the Armenian army.
The video was put into circulation in a time, when Armenian Army has just recovered from loud scandals after deadly shootings which claimed more than half a dozen lives in several bullying, harassment and army violence incidents. It also came at a time of intensified clashes between the Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces.
This led some Armenian bloggers to argue, that the video is anti-Armenian propaganda disseminated by Azeri special services, some also claimed it is not the Armenian army at all.
Before the video was taken down I was able to check and see, that the viral one, which generated the most buzz, was uploaded by Slaq.am, a very new online news resource, which is registered by a unknown Armenian company. This doesn’t mean it was the original uploader of the video, but anyway.
The video was re-uploaded again by other YouTube users and will most certainly be reappearing despite attempts to silence it.
One of the recent uploaders, aramanoogian, had this to say about it: “Do people and organizations in the Diaspora care enough to raise the issue of abuse and mismanagement in the army with the representatives of the regime in Yerevan? Would they demand the sadistic officer shown in the video to be court marshaled for humiliating those young… Armenian soldiers? After all, considering that this is happening on a very wide scale across country, this is as close to jeopardizing national security as you are ever going to get. Wake up, people! Tomorrow it might be too late.”
Even if conspiracy theories cannot be excluded altogether, I’m more inclined to think, that this was a genuine video. It’s not a secret, that Armenian Military, like the armies of most other ex-Soviet countries, including rival Azerbaijan, has 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.
PS: It was a hard decision for me to write about this video, and I initially chose to keep silent, even though I’d seen it early on Saturday. It seemed unreliable: because it came at a least convenient time for the Armenian army and because it really was unclear who, where and when are pictured in it. However, as the video got viral, I took it as an indicator, that further discussions are necessary on the state of the Armenian Army, and I’m convinced, that raising these issues will help strengthen the army and not the opposite.