An 18-year-old ethnic Yazidi man has claimed he was abused immediately upon being conscripted into the Armenian armed forces.
On 2 February, relatives of Vle Feroyan appealed to the public after they said they had lost contact with him. Feroyan contacted them the following day and said he had escaped to a nearby forest and would return home, after being beaten and forced to clean a toilet.
The commander of the Kapan military unit, where Feroyan was serving, denied the allegations. He said Feroyan was ordered only to clean the area assigned to him, and that the commander personally set an example by cleaning his own room. He said that Feroyan had refused to comply with his orders and had deserted his unit.
Feroyan’s grandfather has claimed that Feroyan and another Yazidi soldier were both targetted on the basis of their ethnic background.
He said they were not allowed to sleep in beds or eat in the kitchen, and that they were forced to stay outside overnight.
Taguhi Tovmasyan, an MP from the Parliamentary Commission for the Protection of Human Rights, contacted both the relatives and commanders who she said had offered conflicting statements.
‘Listening to the explanations of all sides, it must be noted that such incidents are unacceptable in the army and must be eliminated’, Tovmasyan wrote in a Facebook post.
She added that any tasks given, including cleaning duties, should be given in accordance with the law as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.
‘The strange thing is that the incident took place hours after [Feroyan’s] conscription’, Tovmasyan told RFE/RL. ‘The conscript still has to adapt; he must be helped to adjust to his new environment. Instead, they put demands on him that, in his opinion, were unacceptable and incomprehensible, so he had to take an extreme step’.
RFE/RL also quoted Armine Sadikyan, from rights group the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Vanadzor, as saying that she was not aware of cases of discrimination against Yezidi service members in recent years.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Deputy Defence Minister Arman Sargsyan urged people to wait for the conclusion of an investigation by the Kapan Military Police.
‘I will believe in the results of the investigation’, Sargsyan said, insisting that ‘everyone’ was interested in finding out the truth, himself included.
‘If there was an incident of violence, there will be consequences,’ he said. ‘If it turns out that the offender was a commander or one of his colleagues, their actions will be evaluated’.
Feroyan’s family, meanwhile, have expressed hopes that the ministry will not reassign Feroyan to the same military unit.