As a result of an unlawful decision by Felix Yayloyan, former mayor of the Arabkir district of Yerevan, sixteen-year-old Badal Harutiunyan is out on the street. We wasted months trying to get Yayloyan to explain why. Instead, Yayloyan smiled from the campaign posters for his reelection that were plastered all over Arabkir a few months ago. On pre-election TV programs, he talked about his benevolent activity and made various promises.
In 1989, three year-old Badal Harutiunyan fledBaku,Azerbaijanwith his father and grand- mother. After being registered as refugees by the Committee on Refugees, they were housed in the basement of the building at50 Baghramian Avenue, which was unfit for human habitation. Badal spent his childhood there. He graduated from eighth grade with honors but then was forced to quit school. In 2001 an official from the Arabkir mayor’s office named Levon (Badal remembers only his first name) promised to give Badal’s family a new apartment in the building located at43 Aghbiur Serop Street. “In 2001, this guy Levon came from the mayor’s office and said there was an apartment and if we agreed we could trade. My father agreed. It was very bad, worse than this one, and the neighbors told us that it wouldn’t be legally ours. That’s why I didn’t give them any documents, so I could get my old apartment back. They gave me some documents to sign- I didn’t sign them,” Badal says.
With Levon’s encouragement and direct help they nevertheless moved to the first floor apartment of the new building. Before they had been there a month, Badal’s father and Grandmother died. The fourteen-year-old boy was left alone. It soon became clear that the apartment had an owner, and Badal was ordered to vacate it. “They made Badal move in here- Levon did it. Levon said that in a month they’d move him out. Levon was hoping to get Badal’s apartment, either to sell it or to live in it himself. He left them and went away,” says Armik Minassyan, a resident of43 Aghbiur Serop Street.
Badal was forced to sell the furniture and leave the apartment. For a month he stayed with one of his father’s acquaintances. Then the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) helped him get into the Yerevan School of Law, Economics, and Management and he was housed in the Zeitoun dormitory. FAR gave him 10,000 drams a month. Badal couldn’t pay his electricity bill, and nothing was left for food. He began to work washing cars. He couldn’t go to classes. Seeing that he wasn’t going to classes, FAR cut off his financial aid. Badal has been going to the district mayor’s office for over a year-and-a-half in order to “get the key to [his] old apartment”. But they don’t give it to him, saying, “Go away and come back in a few days.”
We wrote to Felix Yayloyan trying to find out who the basement apartment at 50 Baghramian had been given to, and who the district official named Levon was. Trying to find out who the mayor sold the apartment to. According to our information, criminal charges have been brought against the former mayor of Arabkir for the unlawful allotment of properties in the district. So Badal’s story is not Yayloyan’s only unlawful action. Today the door of Badal’s old apartment is still closed. The neighbors say that there are some people who come and go, saying they are going to open an office there.
We took Badal’s problem to the Department of Population and Migration, where they filled out an application for a court hearing. That was the extent of their involvement. But when Badal applied to the department for a new passport, they required that he bring proof of his address from the district mayor’s office. Now Badal works at a private car wash. He washes cars and carpets. The owner of the station, Artur Iskandarian, has also given the boy a place to stay. Badal is saving the money he earns to go to medical university. If it weren’t for Artur, he would probably be in a house of correction. Children his age who are on the streets eventually take the road of crime.