Sanasar and Marineh Ghevondyan, residents of the village of Odzun in the Lori Marz, have brought four male sons into the world. The eldest is thirteen and the youngest is three. “We have lived together for fifteen years, eight of which my husband has lived and worked in Greece. Of course, during this time he has come and gone and has looked after the children and has never complained about anything”, recounts Marineh.
On January 2, 2008, Marineh is surprised to learn that her husband has married in Greece. “A woman from Greece called me on the phone and told me in a disparaging tone.” Her husband then contacted her and said not to worry, that it was a passing fancy. Marineh tried to present herself to her husband. “Do you know how he thinks? He says, ‘let me fill up the house, you’ll have no worries. Shut up and sit in your place. You have to look after the kids and do the chores. I will travel around. If I want a wife in Greece or not, that’s not your business.’ For the sake of my kids I haven’t said a thing against my husband. It’s out of the question.” During the eight years of his absence Sanasar Ghevondyan never contemplated how his wife, seventeen years younger than him, would deal with the split, especially since she was the mother of his four children. He never gave any particular thought to restarting family life back in Armenia. The tension in the Ghevondyan household grew with each passing day and soon spread to the husband’s circle of relatives leading up to the fateful day on July 17, 2008, when the family feud erupted and brought the family to ruins. What is so sad and tragic is that Sanasar Ghevondyan used his young boys against their mother. Sanasar had planned everything to discredit the mother and to woo away the boys from her. The bickering started when Marineh went into the other room to get a new set of clothes for the youngest boy, Gorik. Crying, the boy follows the mother. Instead of pacifying the boy, Sanasar orders his 13 year-old son Garik, “Go tell your sheep of a mother to come and shut this kid up.” Garik enters the other room and tells his mom, “Hey, you dumb animal, take care of the kid, pronto.” Insulted, Marineh slaps the boy on the shoulder. Sanasar orders the boy to answer his mom back and the two of them proceed to beat Marineh. “Heeding his father’s words, Garik picked up a coffee dish from the table and hit me with it. I picked it up and flung it back, breaking it. My husband handed one of the broken pieces to Garik and then held my hands together while Garik started to slash me with the jagged piece of dish. I couldn’t free myself from my husband’s grip. Later he dragged me out of the room and hit me in the face”, Marineh recounts while weeping. Given that Sanasar had long-range plans connected to his wife, instead of smoothing out the family tension, he directly went to the police with his boy. Marineh also goes to the police to report the incident. Materials are prepared at the Tumanyan Criminal Division for the investigation and what comes out as a result is what Sanasar Ghevondyan has wished for all along. According to the conclusion of Investigator Movses Tamazyan, “In the family home in Odzun, Garik Ghevondyan, born July 18, 1995, the adolescent son of Marineh Ghevondyan, insulted his mother and as a result the mother threw a coffee dish in the direction of her son. As a result the son sustained a minor physical injury.” During the family quarrel, Sanasar Ghevondyan hit Marineh once in the face with his hand and she sustained a minor injury. According to the investigator, police Lieutenant Movses Tamazyan; the young boy hadn’t committed a chargeable offense by insulting his mother. The investigator also didn’t show any interest in the fact that Sanasar, instead of punishing the boy for insulting his mother, slapped his wife instead. It turns out that the mother and son quarreled and that the father hit his wife to have it out with his son. Such deviations on the part of the investigative bodies do not take place by accident. What’s also comical is that in the eyes of the investigating officer the fact that a young boy insults his mother and that a grown man beats a defenseless woman weren’t viewed as chargeable offences. Based on the preliminary evidence no criminal case was brought forth and reconciliation was stipulated. Buoyed by his successes, on July 29, 2008, Sanasar Ghevondyan initiates a court case against Marineh and demands that he be granted custody for the care and upbringing of the children. On September 11, 2009, at the Lori Regional Court, Judge Souren Baghdasaryan, reviews the petition of Sanasar for custody of the children and partially finds in the favor of the father. Judge Baghdasaryan rules that Sanasar be granted custody of Garik (born July 18, 1995) and Arman (born October 17, 1997) and that Marineh retain custody of the other two boys, Karen and Gor. We should note that in his appeal Sanasar noted that his wife “had shown cruelty to the children and had beaten them.” His last trump card in the case was the conclusion drawn by Investigator Movses Tamazyan, which the court also took into account. This went up against the report given by the Odzun Village Mayor that described Marineh as a “positive individual “and the testimony of neighbors S. Kikanyan, K. Mayilyan, S. Atabekyan and L. Ohanyan, that “Marineh was a morally upright woman and good mother and that we never observed anything unhealthy from her.” Mr. A. Tamazyan, the Principal of the #2 High School offered testimony to the court that the family’s four boys never had any conduct violations while studying at the school and that Marineh was always attentive when it came to their education and upbringing and that the children always came to school properly dressed Brushing aside these testimonials, the court found that the parties to the conflict differed little in terms of their moral and individual characteristics but that in terms of property and housing conditions, Sanasar Ghevondyan had certain advantages given that he owned a private house and had adequate material resources whilst Marineh lived with her parents and sister’s family in a three room apartment where it wasn’t possible to raise four boys. Marineh Ghevondyan now works and is trying to get back on her feet in order raise her young boys. She is concerned that her husband will take the boys to Greece without her consent. She told us that she had word that the father had already visited the passport division in Alaverdi to get the children’s passports ready. She is fearful that the four boys will grow estranged from one another. She is also concerned about other possible consequences stemming from the trait in Garik to raise his hand against her. She is aware that her husband has convinced Garik that she is “immoral”. However, she hopes that her son will one day know the truth.