These are photos of a vigil held close to the “Harsnakar” restaurant in Avan where three military doctors were beaten on June 17, one of whom, Major Vahe Avetyan, died yesterday from severe head trauma. He was only 35 years old.
The vigil apparently turned into a full-blown protest when the police tried to restrict the demonstrators’ movements. Eventually some of them made their way to the building and were somehow able to write nasty slogans on the walls.
“Harsnakar” is a high profile establishment owned by oligarch Ruben “Nemets Rubo” Hayrapetyan where the wealthy have extravagant wedding parties. Although what exactly happened two weeks ago is still, quite bizarrely, not entirely clear, apparently the doctors were entering the restaurant to join some kind of celebration but they were not dressed appropriately, having shown up in athletic clothing and were essentially asked to leave by the waiter and/or security guards. Vahe purportedly went home to change but he returned still wearing his cap and made a wise crack about whether they would let him in anyway. Minutes later he and his friends were being rushed to the hospital. Six men allegedly involved in the beatings remain behind bars.
Some sources are saying that not only was a bodyguard directly implicated in Vahe’s beating, it was Hayrapetyan’s personal bodyguard himself, Garik Markaryan. This means Hayrapetyan was likely on the premises at the time since he doesn’t go anywhere without protection. So with my limited knowledge on the basics of criminal law, Markaryan could be charged with either murder or manslaughter, and if we follow that train of logic, Hayrapetyan could be seen as being guilty by association or an accessory, depending on however that plays out, but he’s immune from prosecution anyway since he is a member of parliament. And of course, being Armenia, the judicial system is flawed to the extent that if the president or prosecutor-general issues a verbal order a judge has to make a ruling that complies. My prediction is that the bodyguard will either get some kind of slap on the wrist or be found not guilty on the grounds of having committed an act of self-defense. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll get some jail time to put society at ease that indeed justice had been served. But given Armenia’s track record and the degree to which how utterly powerful these oligarchs have become whereby they can resort to severely beating someone in the clear light of day at a public venue, knowing they can get away with it, I don’t know how realistic that is.
I am going to be honest and say that I hadn’t been reading the Armenian news for one week so I could concentrate on some personal affairs and I didn’t want to know how Vahe’s status was progressing. It didn’t sound good based on what I had initially read and there was little hope for optimism, and I began to live by the old adage that ignorance is bliss. My wife told me the bad news last night and I felt numb to it, perhaps because it was late and I was falling asleep. Then, naturally, as we spoke about the incident several times during the day today I ruminated about what it meant to kill a serviceman, a doctor, anyone, over a cap. There’s really nothing more to say, is there? I mean, you don’t bash someone’s head in without the intent to do some serious damage, i.e., to kill. How long can this senseless violence continue? How long are these oligarchs going to rule Armenian society and cynically manipulate the system? Why aren’t Armenian citizens standing up to this oligopoly, and why don’t they put an end to it? How did they let things get so out of hand in the first place, by allowing apathy and the immorality of the ruling elite overtake them?
There are no easy answers, I know. But remember that Vahe’s kids will be asking these same questions soon.
Photos by Anush Khachatryan