"Mothers in Black" of Armenia

Dying during the military service and the concealment of the investigations is a major problem in Armenia. Every week, mothers whose sons were killed during the military service gather in front of the presidential palace and demand justice.

International Women's Day has just passed. Once again, men emphasized women's important and major role in society by giving pretty gifts to the women they “loved”. The employers who pay less for their women workers just because they are woman gave gifts to them on that very day. And none of them understood that what those women need most is to gain their rights. On March 8, mothers were showered with appreciation because they keep the country strong by giving birth to soliders who will protect the country. It is this last point that I want to deal with. I will write about the struggle for justice of the mothers who “gave birth soldiers” for their sons who were killed during military service. I will write about how they became “the other” during this struggle for justice. I will also briefly mention their touching stories. 

The mothers of the soldiers who died during military service have been in pursuit of justice for their sons. These young men didn't die in a clash or attack; they were killed while they were doing their military service. For some time now, mothers demand to meet with Armenian President and Commander-in-chief Serzh Sargsyan and they want him to initiate inquests for punishing the perpetrators. Referring themselves as “Mothers in Black”, these women gather in front of the presidential palace every Thursday. However, police forces try to stop them on the ground that they are disturbing the people who work there. 

A wall of police forces cannot hear you

On February, I contacted one of those women and went to the presidential palace with them for protest. What I saw was terrible. 20-30 police officers were there for a protest carried out only by 5-6 people; they were waiting for the “protesters”. All of a sudden, about 15 officers started to run toward a woman in black who tries to pass by the palace. They formed a wall of police forces in front of her and they stopped her. The woman reacted: “I am a citizen of this country, I can pass by wherever I want. Why don't you let me?” However, a wall of police forces cannot hear you. Even if it hears and understands, it should obey the orders coming from the “top”. The police forces started to push her for taking her to the opposite street. She fell down in a fit and one of the officers shouted for calling an ambulance. I was shocked by what I saw, but the others didn't seem to feel like me. I guess, they got used to it, since this happens every week. I was shocked not only by the action of the police forces, but also by the fact they did this to a woman whose son died during military service.

The women kept protesting in the opposite street, since they couldn't have managed to go to the presidential palace. They all mentioned when their son died, how the case is closed and how the perpetrators haven't been punished. The stories are more tragic than the other. The injustice they are faced with and the desperation they feel is almost visible on their faces. 

“I didn't kill him, leave me alone, it is enough”

A woman told about what she went through: “The commander killed my son; everyone was talking about this at the beginning. Then, during the trial, an army friend of my son was accused. The trial went on for 5 years and in the end, the accused solider reacted and said: 'I didn't kill him, leave me alone, it is enough.' However, the real killer is never punished.” The mother thinks that the reason is the fact that the killer is related to the people on the top.

“They killed my son, because he witnessed oil theft” 

At that point, another mother started talking: “They killed my son, because he witnessed oil theft. They hanged him after strangling him. Though he had two rope marks on his neck, they still say that he committed suicide. He must have hanged himself twice. It is proven that my son died while he was lying on the ground.” One of the protesting mothers said: “They always get away with murder; so, they got used to it. They haven't considered that someone might react. For 15 years, the investigation cannot explain the blow on my son's head. However, the murder took place in a 9-square-meters room.”

“His army friends loved my son”

The woman whom the police forces attacked that day expressed her agony: “We had been living in Russia since 2000. After years, he decided to return to his homeland for doing his military service. We found out that he died, while we were in Russia. We didn't believe the reasons they told. They said he died due to electric shock. If so, why were his cloths torn? Why were his face and body swollen?” She provided some pictures showing those swellings. “His army friends loved my son. They don't tell anything, because they are threatened. I got together with them. They all know that my son didn't die because of electric shock, but they cannot say anything. One of his friends told me that I should give up or else it will end badly. However, we have nothing to lose. My husband have been beaten up twice.” His husband had a heart attack during one of their gatherings in front of the palace because of police attack, but he was there on that day. 


Mothers in Black gathered together and started protesting in 2009 for the first time. Their protests started in front of the government building and now, they continue protesting in front of the presidential palace. At the beginning, there were more people attending the protests. Some of the mothers stopped coming, because they are frightened by the threats. 

According to http://safesoldiers.am/, 777 people died during the military service. 172 died due to ceasefire violation, 204 were murdered, 87 committed suicide and 164 were killed in an accident. 80 died due to health problems, 8 died due to negligence/inaction, 30 died due to safety rules and 32 died due to other reasons. 

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Lusine Martirosyan