Tuesday, 25 September

Young Teacher and Dancer Jailed for 5 Months for Helping His Friend



Hetq continues its series on those who were arrested with Shant Harutyunyan last November with today’s spotlight on 24 year-old Sevak Mnatsakanyan.  

A physical ed teacher, Sevak was also a member of a dance troupe and would go on regular expeditions throughout Armenia and Karabakh, learning and teaching other youths about Armenian history and culture. A real patriot, Sevak, his father says, could not stand idly by in the face of injustice.  

Sevak was born in Hrazdan, went to school in the town of Kaghsi, became the Yerevan Cup Holder in judo, and has participated in various international contests. His parents and brother, Masis, describe how Sevak went the 5 km on his own from Kaghsi to get to his judo practice. Though he was only 10–12 years old at the time, his goals were already laid out. He is member of both the Masounk (Relic) national song and dance ensemble and the Nakhnyats Hetqerov ("The Footsteps of our Ancestors") cultural center. He graduated from the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture and he completed his master's degree with honors. Prior to his arrest, he worked at the No. 148 high school in Yerevan as a physical education teacher.  


"As a scrupulous educator, he received a certificate from the [education] ministry, but now they want to label him a hooligan. That is to say, […] they can label [him] however they want — this is ridiculous even," said Sevak's mother, Nora Zakevosyan, in conversation with Hetq.  At their home, the Hetq correspondent was informed that Sevak's elderly grandmother lives with them and in order to preserve her health, for the past 5 months they have hidden from her the fact that her grandchild is in prison. The grandmother, who has hearing problems, believes that her grandson is participating in concerts with his song and dance ensemble. I was forced to introduce myself to her not as a journalist but as a former member of Sevak's dance ensemble. 

Sevak's parents said their son was active since childhood, taking an interest in national traditions, the origin of military dances, studying the connection between military games, art and dance. With the goal of recognizing national values, they organized scientific expeditions with adherent youth. For one month, the group of youths went to various places in Armenia and Karabakh, taking with them experts from different sectors: dance, song, martial arts, and Armenian history, so the youths become familiar with both the area and culture. It was on one of these trips that Sevak became acquainted with Avetis Avetisyan, also imprisoned that day in November, and they became good friends.  


Sevak's father, Bakhshik Mnatsakanyan, stressed that on the day of his arrest, November 5, 2013, Sevak saw his friend Avetis had been pushed to the ground and came to his aid, helping him to get up. "And [now] they're using this against him — that he interfered with the work of the police. We were constantly calling [him]; he was unreachable. Then we found out from friends that he was arrested. At the end of January, when the ban was lifted, we went to see him. We saw [him] for one hour through a double-pane glass [window]. We weren't allowed to even approach our son. Now Sevak is refusing visits; he doesn't want to see us through the glass," said Sevak's father.  

"Sevak is not the type to break; he is a man with a strong will. He is the type to fight against unlawfulness and injustice. Two years ago, for example, a tree had been cut down in our courtyard at night; the traces quickly being covered up — they wanted to turn the garden into a parking lot. Sevak couldn't remain indifferent. He is the type [of guy] who in such cases can't sit at home, not go out, not struggle. Many prefer to turn a blind eye to injustice, to be silent, live with their head down, but Sevak is not one to live like that, for which I am proud. I too would act that way; I too would protect my friend. It's a way of expressing protest. If it was according to law, they generally shouldn't have arrested the boys. My wife is a repatriate; we've always had a connection with abroad. We didn't have a desire to live away from our homeland. To whom should we leave our land and water and leave? We always thought this way. And the reason for emigration, before the issue of [lack of] daily bread, is injustice," said Bakhshik Mnatsakanyan.  

"They want to break active youth — with criminal charges and arrests. It's simply shameful to apply the hooliganism charge, but, god forbid, if suddenly there's a war, I am certain that it's those supposed hooligans who will go protect our homeland on the frontline," said Sevak's mother, who graced the homeland with three children, one of whom is doing his duty and serving his country, protecting the border. 

A video about Sevak Mnatsakanyan titled "Armenian Son in Chains" and prepared by Sevak's friends can be viewed here.


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