It may seem like a bad topic to write about in this season of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and the annual Armenia Fund Telethon (this year dedicated to developing Artsakh’s tremendous agricultural potential), but a reader brought an article to my attention titled “Murders, Suicides, and Fatal Accidents Plague the Armenian Military”, published by OC Media, which contains some very worrisome data.
If the numbers are accurate, in the 2010-2016 period more of the deaths suffered by the armies of the republics of Armenia and Artsakh are noncombat- (259, or 59%) than combat-related (213, or 41%)! (Please see the accompanying chart, below, which I have replicated from the original article)
We all hear about these deaths, but not in the aggregate—which comes as a bit of a shock. Why are there all these needless deaths?
Some of it may come from hazing, which evidently traces back, systemically, to Soviet times, but all militaries have been known for it since… forever. But judging by the causes of death, that cannot be the main reason.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why this is going on; it must stop, and stop immediately. There are evidently laws on the books in Armenia to fight this phenomenon, but, clearly, they are not working for whatever reason—because they are insufficient to the task or unenforced. This is a matter of the countries’ survival, given our bloodthirsty eastern and western neighbors.
The good news is that the army enjoys a high level of trust among Armenia’s citizens—65% of respondents to one poll, though 62% also believe it is nontransparent. Interestingly, three quarters of young people say that problems and incidents in the army should not even be discussed or publicized.
That approach is corrosive, because, in time, abuses leading to deaths will erode the positive numbers cited above; it cannot be any other way. Heavy-duty pressure, very public, is the only way to induce rapid change. Really, the only change required is simple: Up and down the chain of command, everyone in the military must act with decency and respect.
Let’s get on this. The security of the slivers of our homeland still under Armenian control are at stake. When you donate to Armenia Fund this year, send a note along saying you want to see a fundamental and rapid reduction in the noncombat military death statistics.