Denial, Sexism and Stereotypes: Domestic Violence in Armenia

Following the 1991 euphoria over the independence of Armenia, a number of socio-economic problems surfaced which Armenia and the diaspora were unprepared to handle and even grasp. The time has come when we, as Diasporan Armenians, pay more attention to the social issues in Armenia rather than only feeding and clothing the needy and engaging in solely humanitarian projects. While the latter is important, the prevailing backward mentalities regarding many issues act as a handicap for individuals and families, leaving them unable to improve their living conditions.

Zaruhi Petrosyan

One such issue is domestic violence. While domestic violence is a worldwide occurrence, what is particular to Armenia is the denial of this problem; for the diaspora, it is a novel issue we have to come to grips with. Like any problem, we should not be embarrassed to name it and recognize it; instead, we should be ashamed if we don’t address it and rectify it. Slowly non-governmental organizations and independent observers are shedding more light on sexual harassment and favors in the workplace, domestic violence and psychological abuse, sexual assault, incest, and sex with minors. For us Armenians, such problems are not only foreign to our community but also a huge embarrassment. However, we have to overcome these feelings of shame and help those who are being victimized by such acts.

In Armenia, in addition to societal denial is the lack of government support to counter these problems. There are no laws to hold the perpetrators accountable or protect the victims, and only at the NGO level is there some support structure to assist the victims.

There are five stages of dealing with any negative issue in Armenia, be it extreme poverty, AIDS, trafficking, or domestic violence: Denial. It is thought that these things happen only in western, perverted societies, but not in Armenia. While it may be acknowledged that there are some cases, they are seen as rare and only occurring within bad families. When more evidence is brought forth, then one is questioned, even jailed, for libel, and accused of bringing out the negative and damaging Armenia’s image. These reactions are residues of Soviet society, where everything had to be presented as ideal, and even people with physical or mental disabilities were not seen in the streets, their facilities kept at the periphery of the city.

Today in Armenia independent studies have indicated that 40 percent are victims of domestic violence. Many families don’t even consider this to be a problem, and are not cognizant that violence is unacceptable. Therefore, these statistics are considered to be conservative.

While in Yerevan there is slightly more liberalism, by and large a woman has few options and is raised to be dependent and subservient to her husband in all aspects, including economically. She has no real say or right in the family. An empowered woman is considered to be a threat to the family. Women, especially in the rural areas, think that it is normal to be beaten, as it was the same with her parents. We observed, through my work with the Tufenkian Foundation’s Women Support Center, that a battered wife thinks her husband loves her, that he is beating her for her own good so she can improve herself, or that it is her fault for provoking him by not cooking or cleaning properly.

Psychological abuse is even worse in Armenia as it exists in about 70 percent in families. This is manifested in prohibiting a woman from leaving the house, or calling friends and family, not giving her any pocket money, and restricting other freedoms such as getting an education and being allowed to work.

Domestic violence is nurtured by the predominance in society of sexism and stereotypes, and a mentality that considers this a family matter that should be free from outside interference—police, parents, neighbors, etc.

We have a tremendous task ahead of us to fight such a destructive mentality and belief, and to raise awareness in Armenian society about domestic violence as an unacceptable, abhorrent, and punishable act. Fortunately there are active NGOs in Armenia for whom advocacy plays an important role.

After the brutal death of Zaruhi Petrosyan, other women have been killed or stabbed. A group of seven NGOs came together to create the “Coalition to Stop Domestic Violence in Armenia.” While the infrastructure (shelters, employment, legal protection) is lacking to help these women, we are still able to fight to protect women’s rights and give psychological and legal counseling, restore a woman’s self-worth and confidence, and empower her with the mechanisms to survive on her own and not be emotionally and economically dependent on an abusive husband.

Diasporan support for such organizations is of paramount importance. While money is always needed, equally important are volunteers and your letters and petitions to Armenia’s government officials to put pressure on them to recognize the problem and pass appropriate legislature.

Mary Matosian

Mary Matosian

A trip to Armenia in 1981 changed Mary Matosian’s life. She rediscovered her ancestral roots and dedicated herself to extensive work in the Armenian communities of New York and Paris before moving to Armenia in 1990. During the 1990s, she put her methodical research and organizational skills to work as director of “Aznavour pour Armenie,” implementing grants from the European Union’s Humanitarian Commission. She joined the Tufenkian Foundation in 2006 and serves as country director, splitting her time between New York, Armenia and Karabagh.


  1. Absolutely horrifying but the truth… Why we face such matters in our own families and why women continue to take such abuse even after they are told it is not acceptable is beyond me… I understand it is hard to forget old habbits, or not have strog support or continue how it used to be because it is easy and saves the family from breaking; however why allow such pain and embarassment…why???? especially over the wife you took to bore and raise your own children.. the provider and care giver..why would a man, an ARMENIAN man put the most sacred and holly individual, the woman of the house through such pain.. did we, meaning the Armenian mothers, wives, women in general not went through HELL in the Ottoman Era?? is not that enough? if our men are smart enough, they would keep their hands to themselves and get out of that hetamnats mentality hopefully VERY soon… i am embarassed for them…. absolutely cowardly to raise a hand on your wife and keep her as caged bird…

    Note: not to say there are women who provoke such actions but this does not mean the rest should get the same treatment… that is wrong..

    Artnatseq tuxamartik… yete duq mer hye axchiknerin lav chpaheq.. el ov piti pahi… xelq havaqeq…


  2. It is horrific and unacceptable to read this social condition in Armenia. However, I would very much like get some facts and figures, and with geographical distributions and frequency of occurence.  The last thing we need is to blow things right out of proportions and add to the already poor reputation of our hayrenagits in Armenia.  My constant struggle is to bring Armenians from all countries to understand and respect each other (as it should be). We are an ‘engangered species’, and lets not contribute to our own extinction.

  3. I do not knowabout the author of this article Mary Matosian, nor about her sponsor the Tufenkian Foundation, and I do not know about this newspaper where this article appears. I simply would like to suggest that opportunities for employment, opportunities to serve in the military, and opportunities in education will accomplish more towards the intended purpose of strengthening the traditional values of the Armenian Family, then this line of activism.

  4. Historically, the Armenian women have been known to be one with the Armenian men… Any treatment of women as a lower class being must have been learned of another society, another government. 
    Armenian men, Armenian women have suffered the worst that the Turks could devise… Today, our Armenian nation has need of both our men and our women to strengthen our fledgling nation… Too, as citizens of our Armenian women homeland all deserve honesty and recognition for all that they are facing, for all that  they are endeavoring to accomplish for our Armenian nation, today.
    There is not room for any heathen unChristian attitudes for men and women towards each other – as all seek to advance our Armenian homeland, now, for their children’s future.

  5. Interesting the last two comments are male-dominant thinking and reactionary in fear.  I live in Armenia and see this kind of problem daily.  Hiding your head in the sand will only make it worse, ad like the genocide, make it happen again.  The idea that Armenia is somehow exempt from the social problems of the rest of the world is both hubris and absurd.  Of course it happens and of course it happens every day and to someone you know.  Mary is a brave soul to write this and I hope she reaches another Zaruhi to get help before she is killed too.  Shame on you who try to hide it!

  6. The Author,Mary Matosian suggests:

    ” The time has come when we,as Diasporan Armenians, pay more attention,to social issues in ,Armenia.”

    Dear Mary,

    Could you please,  tell me  whatever happened to that ,YELLOW BASTARD, who killed my ‘SISTER’ sweet Zaruhi? I’m PISSED. Yes,I ,as Diasporan, do pay attention to social issues in ,Armenia.

  7. Manooshag and Gayane,

    That’s right! Blame EVERYTING on Turkey (Ottoman or present day) and all Turks (just as you’ve always done)! Be prepared for a MASSIVE reprisal from God almighty!!!  FYI, this story deals with a sensitive issue not uncommon to almost all areas of the world! yet, we don’t hear any of them say that “it’s the Turks/Ottomans fault”. Time for you two to grow up already!!

  8. Robert: you again.
    I heard somewhere you Turks are allegedly ‘proud’ people. Have you no shame ?
    Why are you still here ?
    Didn’t you promise not to come back ?

    here:  [from the HAMSHEN Armenians to Resettle thread – May18, 2011 “
    “…..To all of the ARF posters on this site,…….”……  “ As for me and this site, I may return one day, after there has been a change in the editor’s position”]
    Didn’t really think we’d forget your solemn promise, did you ?
    Maybe you best admit you like ArmenianWeekly, and you like all the, quote, ‘ARF posters’ on this site: otherwise, why do you keep coming back for more ?

    And time for you to go back to your Turk blogs that you are so fond of.

  9. Ahhhh how do I love thee oh Robert, the Prince of Thieves or should I say Lies…:)

    Now it is either you or me who can’t read and understand English… i know for sure it is not me because I wrote what I wrote.. not if you don’t or can’t understand what I wrote and instead you come up with your own interpretation, then I say you my friend need serious help..

    In what section of my comment did i BLAME Turks for the abuse our women receive as you put it… Here is a simple instruction for you… Take your one set of eyes preferrably with reading glasses or magnifing glass and re-read my comment… the comment who was addressed to those men who abuse our women… comment that was addressing how disturbing it is to see such treatment from our own men when our women suffered ENOUGH in the Ottoman Era … this means… open your ears…. our women were tortured, beaten, abused ENOUGH under your ancestors, and SHOULD NEVER EVER exerpience such treatment from their own husbands….No where in my post did i say it is TURKS FAULT for Armenian men (those limited number who do such things) turned abusers…. but I DO BLAME INDEED ON TURKS IN THE OTTOMAN ERA for putting our ancestors women especially through such agony, pain and humiliation…. KABISH??? GET IT? GOT?
    Massive reprisal ALL RIGHT… and the arrow is pointed AT YOU and TURKEY Robert.. so YES INDEED BE PREPARED….

    P.S.  Avery jan.. mersi for keeping her solemn oath which he breaks over and over.. oh sooo typical of them.. typical product of their beloved lying machine govt..sooo sooo sad..

  10. Correction: I mean to say “his” vs “her” referring to Robert in my last post.. but then again who knows if Robert is really a he… curious minds are acquiring..

  11. Dear Gayane
    It is precisely your way of thinking that has resulted in this dreadful situation for which your seem so surprised. An Armenian woman is not sacred nor holly. She is a human being entitled to equal rights and the right to live in a safe environment so that she can live and prosper with dignity and the way she wants to live her life. She does not need to be kept by Armenian men. I wish you would understand specially as a woman that a relationship is not about keeping women well or badly, it is about mutual support and love. And to say that some women provoke violence is appalling. This is exactly what Zaruhi’s husband thought. There can be no room or justification for violence in any cicumstance.

  12. Jay, I too, am awaiting!! for Zaruhi’s death to be addressed… Armenia’s men cannot face the fact that abuse of their women  will show the guilt of the Armenian men, whether educated as the police, government leaders, or more… married to Armenian women, WHY? to have someone to abuse – their own wives… their grandmothers, their mothers, their daughters to share that same fate as their own mothers??  This is an issue to be addressed in many nations, the world over – the superiority of the male over the female who is the nurturing force of humanity… It is wrong, dishonest, and even evil.
    Today, in Armenia, Zaruhi’s case is being delayed Why??  
    NOTE: as is the Hrant Dink COURT CASE  which Turkeys bandy about – ENDLESSLY.

  13. Armenians can speak from our own history – a Turkey’s abuse and violation and cruelties by the Turkeys of our Armenian men, women, children, infants… via the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian peoples in early 20th century.  
    And still these ongoing abuses continue of our Armenian religious and historic sites – as Turks continue to pursue elimination of such sites. Obviously, erasing, and sharing – openly/brazenly – their Turkish lies with all the world (that the Christian Armenian peoples shall have never existed).  Sadly, still – Turkish inhumanity ongoing/unending – still pursued, still addressed – before all civilized world to know, recognize the

  14. Gayane, Dikrangerdsi-nehr-en: YES,  AL CHEE BEDEE BAD-AS-KHAN-EM ROBERTEEN
    Seerov, Manooshag

  15. Sireli Manooshag, My heart is bleeding just like yours.  Even though ,I am against the death penalty, but in the case of this ASS WIPE, who killed ,
    Siroun Zaruhi ,he should be excempt. 

  16. “Today in Armenia independent studies have indicated that 40 percent are victims of domestic violence.”
    Psychological abuse is even worse in Armenia as it exists in about 70 percent in families.”
    I don’t mean to sound like I’m discrediting you, but can we please get some kind of a source for these outrageous statistics? Preferably from somewhere other than a local NGO in who’s interests it is to over blow the problem in order to receive more funding/donations.
    Again, I don’t meant to discredit you, but just like another reader mentioned the last thing we need is to exaggerate this.

  17. Dear Serge….

    I am not sure why my comment hit a cord with you but maybe I did not use the right words or did not express my thought process clearly for you to understand that i am not saying those who provoke it should receive such treatment.. that is not what I meant AT ALL… but lets face it we are living in a perfect world… no one is perfect…and that goes for both women and men… …

    By holly and sacred, I meant Armenian women are to be cared for, loved, cherished and respected.. i never said they are not humans and should not be treated and respected as one… maybe I used the words in a different way and it did not serve my comment a justice. my apologies.. 

    My second comment that you misunderstood and it is probably my fault again..the thought process behind my comment of some provoke such actions WAS NOT to say they deserve such treatement.. not at all.. also, that was not related JUST to Armenians…..  such provocation should not and can’t open the door to abuse the woman both physically or mentally…and this should not be a precursor to continue or be a guideline for other men to do the same……. i am not a doctor, scientist, physocologist or any other professional who deals with human mind, and behavior so i can’t say this 100% …but i understand such treatment can and Shall NEVER be allowed but unfortunately this is a dynamic between woman and men that may never cease to exist… again just my opinion….

    and I do agree with your reasoning and i was not too far from how you see this matter….but i hope I kind of cleared what I wanted to express…

    Thank you


  18. I do not understand what is the point of talking to each other.    This is something horrible and must be rectified by the Government of Armenia through Hranoush Hagopian.  There must be a petition prepared to be signed by all the world and submitted to the Government of Armenia that has got its head in the sand and cannot comprehend the great harm that this is causing the nation.l   The Government itself has the most backward mentality and must come to its senses and realise that they are following turkish inherited mentality.  First and foremost that bustard and his mother must be jailed for life or killed in order that the rest of the people do not dare to continue with similar acts.

  19.  All I hear about is, PETITION,PETITION and more PETITION.From what I gather,If there’s No Petition then there’s No Solution? The HELL with the petition.  I have signed so far three petitions and have heard nothing yet. First thing first. the Armenian media  (Diasporan included) is not doing enough to cover the dillema our Armenian women are facing in ,Armenia,  The media is  too frikkin’ busy covering stories about two old farts in the Caucases bickering about a church. WHY does the Armenian government has to see a,PETITION? Are they blind and stupid or WHAT? What’s this Bullcrap about PETITION? It’s their OBLIGATION to protect their citizens. Someone  from the media needs to GRAB Serj by his chicken neck and raise this ISSUE, Ask him how many more innocent ,Dead Zaruhis, we have to read about before the government steps in? I’ll be glad to do it if ,ArmenianWeekly, puts me on its payroll. Not kidding.  My suggestion to concerned ,Armenians,
    Write to ,Serj Sarkissian and the National Assembly, and express your concern. The HELL with the PETITION.

  20. I believe domestic violence is common due to us Armenians being brought up with Turkic thinking about women. We need to get rid of anything that is backward Turkic from our culture.

  21. “I believe domestic violence is common due to us Armenians being brought up with Turkic thinking about women. We need to get rid of anything that is backward Turkic from our culture.”

    John,  how old are you ?

  22. No , No, No..

    In fact , Adam and Eve were actually Armenians. There was a third one nobody told you whose  nationality was Turkish  who gave them an apple to force them commit sin.

  23. I would not be suprised Necati.. Everything is possible from the sneaky, conyving, denialist Turkish govt.. the snake in the Garden of Eden definintely resembles how your govt is… so are you speaking of your own experience with how your govt is? lol


  24. Gayane,

    I am so happy to achieve to make you laugh finally,  a  good progress..,  isnt it ?

  25. Don’t get too stocked about it sir..Unfortunately you made me laugh not because you are genuinely funny….but.. well.. you already know and i don’t want to waste my time writing it again…….

    have a wonderful day

    The story is very sad indeed.  But look in your own communities – how many stories like this you can pull out of your Sunday paper?  People engage in domestic violence all the time – check out US, Australia, German, Russian newspapers – it’s all the same.  Violence against women, children, elderly.  How many sex offenders live a few blocks away from you or your friends who are less privileged? 
    What is different about this story is that it gets promoted over and over again with the only one purpose that does not serve the Armenian cause – to divide Armenians.  It is a political technology created by some specialists like the US Ambassador to Armenia who formerly created turmoil and bloody “revolutions” in Ukraine and later in Kyrgyzstan while serving as a top “diplomat” there.  She is a graduate of the US WAR College and a good student of her professor – Stephen Blank – an ardent Armenophob. 

  27. (Sorry, I don’t have time to translate…)

    Le bizness de l'”humanitaire” en Arménie…

    Tous les problèmes dénoncés dans le texte ci-dessus sont réels. Ils sont sérieux, graves, et nécessitent qu’on s’en occupe.
    Mais leur présentation dans des articles de ce type est toujours grossièrement exagérée.
    Systématiquement.  Donnant l’impression qu’en Arménie, il y a une femme battue dans chaque foyer, une femme psychologiquement violentée dans la moindre entreprise, et chaque homme n’est qu’un macho-misogyne-phallocrate sadique, tordu et sanguinaire de la pire espèce, qui passe son temps à écrabouiller chaque femme qu’il croise dans sa vie ou sur son chemin.
    Pourquoi ?
    Parce que ces «ONG» doivent procéder ainsi, pour obtenir des subventions des gouvernements étrangers dont ils dépendent.
     Si, sur le terrain, ces soi-disant organismes avaient vraiment l’efficacité dont ils se targuent, le
    stratagème aurait été justifiable. Mais ce n’est nullement le cas, et ils n’ont qu’une activité épisodique, anecdotique, superficielle et insignifiante, en Arménie. Pire, ils font souvent n’importe quoi, se mêlant à la politique la plus douteuse. Comme par exemple, dans le cas au moins de l’un d’entre eux, l’organisation régulière de réunions édifiantes entre Arméniennes et Turques, toujours en Turquie, pour discuter de ces problèmes. Réunions auxquelles assistent de pétendues «réfugiées» azéries, venues expliquer que la solution réside dans leur retour en Artsakh. Le rapport étant bien sûr évident entre les deux sujets…
    De plus, les fondatrices-directrice-militante uniques de certains de ces «ONG» somme toute
    individuels (one-woman show) confondent trop souvent la défense des droits des femmes avec le féminisme le plus extrémiste. Desservant, du coup, la cause qu’elles prétendent représenter, et aggravant plutôt la situation – et spécifiquement le cas des celles qu’elles sont censées défendre – .
    Ce sont les diverses associations de la Diaspora qui doivent s’impliquer dans les problèmes en
    question, directement ou par voie de pression soutenue sur les autorités, et non pas ces «ONG» bidon qui ne sont que la source de revenus familial de quelques rapatriés improbables, partis à l’aventure en Arménie parce qu’ils n’avaient rien de bon à faire ni rien à perdre dans d’autres pays.

    Haytoug Chamlian

  28. I Google translated Haytoug’s comment and I FULLY agree with the man.

    According to American news reports, a quarter of women in the United States, the home of freedom and democracy, are attacked by their partners. Well, imagine if such a thing was reported about Armenia; we’d have every single Amerikahay up-in-arms demanding a bloody revolution in Armenia and we’d have Washington/Western funded “rights” organizations instigating them and guiding them. The point is that every nation on earth, including the finest nations of the western world, have sociological problems. Armenia is no different. Armenia’s problems, however, are our internal matters that we need to workout amongst ourselves in an objective, rational, constructive and patient manner. We must also realize that Armenia’s one thousand year old damage (cultural and genetic) will not be fixed in a single lifetime. Constantly attacking the Armenian state over our sociopolitical problems (many of which are in fact natural growing pains) and constantly blowing things out of proportions, however, has in fact a counter-productive effect. And such approaches gives our enemies, Turkish and Western intelligence services alike, the opportunity the co-opt our organizations and subvert our statehood.

  29. present status of violence in armenia must be considered normal since it is the worst economy of the world after madagascar.

    You armenian diaspora enjoy capitalism in the US /EU , but people in ex-soviet armenia are starving.

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