“Mkrtich Arakelyan came and threatened us, demanding that we sign papers relinquishing our rights to the land. We told him that we wouldn’t give our garden to anybody. He said once more that he would take the matter into his own hands and we would be paid afterwards. Mkrtich Arakelyan is now working for theBangladesh[the southeast district of Yerevan] electricity supply network. Later we found out that he was parliament member Harutiun Pambukyan’s representative. For a year and a half, different people have been tormenting us, threatening us, mocking us, saying, ‘Who are you to get any land?’ They were Pambukyan’s representatives, too. The name Pambukyan had never been mentioned before. We turned to the district mayor’s office, and they told us to warn whoever came that if they bothered us again, they would take measures,” Rima Hairapetyan recounts.
On October 5, 2001, in Decision # 1212, Yerevan Mayor Robert Nazaryan approved the results of the auction that had taken place on September 26, 2001, in favor of Harutiun Pambukyan. At first glance, nothing out of the ordinary seems to have happened. For 2,461,200 Drams (about $139,000), Pambukyan, a citizen of Armenia, bought a garden, a small building and a small pool located on 1,300 square meters of land near Halabyan Street to build an apartment house. Or it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, if the plot didn’t include the garden, the building, and the pool.
The garden was planted by 88-year-old Araksya Hairapetyan. She lives in the housing complex of theInstituteofPhysics. Her son, Slavik Hairapetyan, a former employee of the Institute, was killed in the Karabakh war in 1990. The garden, which has 200 trees of 21 sorts, is 13 years old now. All the trees bear fruit. Hairapetyan cultivates the land with her two daughters, Rosa and Rima. They all are pensioners. “I have applied several times to the district mayor’s office to rent this land, but I was turned down and told that the metropolitan railway will be built here,” Araksya Hairapetyan told us from her bed.
In December 2002, in response to her written request, she received the following message from the head of the city’s architecture department, S. Kotolikyan: “In relation to your inquiry about the allocation of the plot of land (1,300 square meters) in the southern part of the housing complex of the Institute of Physics, which has been used by you since 1991, we would like to inform you that the plot in question is located on land allocated to the Yerevan Metro for building a railway bridge. Therefore, we are unable to comply with your request.”
Her daughter Rosa said, “I lived in Dilijan. When my brother died I came to live with my mother. We all have been cultivating the garden, we don’t have any jobs. And now we are afraid of those visitors. The last time some people came and said, ‘Where are Demirchyan and Sargisyan now? You can be liquidated, too, if you don’t give up the land.’ After each of their visits my mother gets sick. During the elections, people advised us to call the president’s hotline. We called and were told that our problem was serious and we should send a letter. So we did.” And here what Katolikyan wrote this time, exactly two month after his first response: “In relation to your written request to the president of Armenia about the allocation of the plot of land used by you in the southern part of the complex of the Institute of Physics, we would like to inform you that part of the land in question was put up for auction at the suggestion of the Achapnyak district mayor’s office. The auction date was announced in the press in advance. According to the October 5, 2001 Decision # 1212 of the mayor ofYerevan, the plot in question was given to Harutiun Pambukyan, who was declared the winner of the auction. The other part of the plot is located within the limits of the land allocated to the Yerevan Metro for building a railway bridge over theHrazdanRiver. Taking into account the above mentioned, we cannot comply with your request.”
Meanwhile, people have continued to visit the family demanding that they vacate the land. But they don’t intend to do so. And in October 2003, Harutiun Pambukyan brought an action against Araksya Hairapetyan, asking the court of first instance of the Achapnyak-Davidashen districts to evict her from her land. On November 13, 2003, Judge E. Danielyan found for Pambukyan. “If the verdict is not complied with voluntarily, it will be implemented by court executors at the respondent’s expense.”
“I told the court that there are more than 200 fruit trees and bushes, a pool, a stone-built bathroom and a toilet there. They said they were prepared to pay for it. And I responded that we don’t need the money, that we didn’t know about the auction, that we too are ready to pay for the land. I said that we have cultivated the garden since 1991. We were unable to become the legal owners because they didn’t allow us to. And now they have sold it to somebody else,” Hairapetyan’s other daughter, Rima, explains.
They still believe that since they are the family of a soldier killed in action, that since they have cultivated the garden for 13 years, the land will remain theirs, and they have appealed the court decision. They still believe that it is possible in this country to defend their rights, even if they are up against a member of parliament.