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Students Continue Protests as Government Defends Military Draft Law

For the past few days, university students in Yerevan have been staging demonstrations protesting a new draft law, approved by a parliamentary committee, that would eliminate deferment from Armenia’s mandatory military service for students attending university, essentially calling for all males to enlist in the military at the age of 18.

A scene from the Nov. 7 student protest (Photo: Photolure/Vahram Baghdasaryan)

The student protesters argue that without the deferments currently in place, it would become harder to go to college and “become scientists or scholars.”

On Thursday, several organizers of the student protests met with Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who was accompanied by Armenia’s defense and education ministers, Vigen Sargsyan and Levon Mkrtrchyan, respectively, who had already met with student leaders a day before.

Much to the dismay of the students, Karapetyan was steadfast in defending the measure, which the government argues impacts only a small percentage—15 percent—of students who receive scholarships to study at state universities. Students who pay for higher education already are drafted at 18.

The prime minister also told the students to offer amendments that may be considered when the measure is debated by the parliament in full.

“The opposite side did not share our view. Therefore, we will continue our struggle,” one of the protest leaders told more than a 100 fellow students rallying outside the prime minister’s office in Yerevan, reported RFE/RL’s Armenian service. Another leader urged the students to continue the boycott that began on Tuesday.

Mkrtchyan, the education minister, gave the students a similar explanation when he met with them on Wednesday.

“When it comes to serving the homeland, no citizen of the Republic of Armenia will have privileges,” Mkrtchyan told several organizers, according to RFE/RL. He argued that more than 85 percent of male students attending state-run universities are already drafted for military service at 18.

“There is quite strong political support behind [the bill]… I don’t think that this bill is subject to withdrawal,” added Mkrtchyan.

Should there be a larger discussion about the elephant in the room: What has given impetus to this bill?

Will the children of government officials also enlist at 18, or will they use their parents’ positions to avoid military service? And, is emigration of young people from Armenia impacting service in Armenia’s armed forces?

 

A version of this article originally appeared in our sister publication, Asbarez News, on Nov. 9. Ara Khachatourian is its English editor.

5 Comments on Students Continue Protests as Government Defends Military Draft Law

  1. One million Armenians have left the country since independence because of no job opportunities ,no justice in the courts ,very poor monthly salaries and a dictatorial and authoritarian government ,and people are still leaving, out of those one million people who have left we could have had today at list an extra 15 000 soldiers. Now there is a crisis in the army , Azerbaidjan is getting stronger , we have corruption in the Armenian army and we have less men to fight ,so they have to find other ways to bring in more soldiers and they are starting to take excellent students out of the schools to draft them into the army while the children and grand children of the oligarchs are bribing the army not to have them drafted . The root of the problem is the incompetent Armenian government.

    • I hate Serjik and his oligarchic club aka Republican party more than anyone else, but those who are really interested in science will be given the opportunity to avoid conscription in case they agree to serve for 3 years, instead of 2. And they will be deployed in army units where they can actually utilize their education. So if you have a degree in computer science, you can work in the cybersecurity unit instead of the frontline. The idea is to eliminate a loophole that allows many young men to dodge draft by infinitely dragging their education.
      There is absolutely no doubt that there is corruption in Armenia and it is a problem that needs to be addressed. But it is simply unacceptable to criticize every move and decision even ones that are necessary for the security of the country. Conscription or mandatory national service exists in many countries including European ones. In some countries such as Iran, you are obliged to serve in the army and on top of that work in your country for as many years as you received free education in governmental universities.
      And lets not get all worked up about Azerbaijan getting stronger. winning a few army positions in a surprise attack is certainly not a sign of getting stronger! The leadership in Azerbaijan is far more corrupt and incompetent and according to Russian official statistics, there are more Azerbaijani citizens living in Russia then Armenian citizens. So emigration is not only Armenia’s problem.
      Again, I am not trying to justify the ruling elite in Armenia but I am not sure these young men are really concerned about corruption or their own careers.

  2. Why is all this fuss about for the national defense? Why are they trying to evade conscription? Armenia needs soldiers.

  3. “Corruption” exists everywhere, especially in Azerbaijan, especially in the United States. Western inspired slogans like “there is corruption in Armenia” is simply an excuse self-hating Armenians use to abandon their homeland and avoid any form of responsibility towards their state.

  4. That said, this law is meant to eliminate corruption in that it no long gives the sons of the upper class in the country an easy way out of avoiding military service. With this law every 18 year old in the country has to serve regardless of class. If Armenians are not willing to serve in their country’s armed forces, regardless of “corruption” in the country, than Armenians don’t deserve statehood. This kind of constant whining and infighting is why Armenians (and Greeks) lost all of Asia Minor to Turkic peoples during the past one thousand years.

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