"Every time I had a client I wondered how Armenuhi could get away with it. How could she sell me like this and I couldn't do anything? I took the only chance I had and I escaped from that hell," recalls Narine Karapetyan, who had been tricked into going to the United Arab Emirates for prostitution.
On November 20, 2003 , Vanadzor resident Artak Simonyan signed a document stating, "I am paying $200, an insignificant portion of our debt to Narine Karapetyan, to compensate for material losses she suffered as a result of the sexual exploitation we subjected her to in the United Arab Emirates in 2001." As we have previously described, Artak Simonyan's sister, Armenuhi tricked at least four Vanadzor women into going to the United Arab Emirates , where she took their passports and forced them into prostitution. Narine Karapetyan fell victim to her in 2001, and took her case to the Prosecutor General of Armenia in 2003. In August 2003 charges were filed, and the case is now being investigated by prosecutor Armen Tamazyan.
The new Criminal Code of Armenia, which came into force on August 1, 2003, contains a provision on human trafficking: "Driving people to prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, to forced labor or services, to slavery or to a state equivalent to slavery or to a subordinate condition, as well as recruiting, transporting, hiding or receiving people in order to obtain their organs, is subject to punishment in the form of a fine from 300 to 500 times the minimum wage, or corrective labor for up to one year, or detention for up to two months, or incarceration in prison from one to four years," reads Article 132 of the Criminal Code.
Rafik Giulnazaryan, senior assistant to the Prosecutor General, says he helped Narine Karapetyan write her appeal. He advised her to mention procuring and recruiting women. This was in 2001, under the old Criminal Code, which had no provision on human trafficking, but contained only one relevant article - #226- which defined punishment for procuring and recruiting.
Narine Karapetyan has filed her complaint against Armenuhi Simonyan. However, Giulnazaryan says, the investigation has ascertained that Armenuhi Simonyan is not a procurer but a go-between. Her main occupation is prostitution. "Armenuhi Simonyan assists a number of procurers. When she visits Armenia , she just happens to take some women back with her to the Emirates. We know who the main procurers are. We are going to bring them back to Armenia ," Giulnazaryan says.
He also noted that Narine Karapetyan, who went to the United Arab Emirates with a group of other women from Vanadzor, probably knew in advance where she was going and why. Among the women recruited by Armenuhi Simonyan, only Narine has complained. She maintains that Armenuhi had promised her a job at a factory, saying, "Armenuhi deceived me, and she took the money I earned - $8,750. I want my money back." And Giulnazaryan explains: "The money Narine Karapetyan earned must be returned not by Armenuhi but by their principal procurer. Armenuhi paid the money she took from Narine to people who were above her." Narine Karapetyan has also accused several law enforcement officers. She insists that they too were involved in the affair. "I consider that to be nonsense and provocation. We have no evidence at all regarding these people. They are not involved in this business," Gulnazaryan says.
It is not clear yet how long this case will take. The lawyers say there won't be much progress until the procurers are brought back. And no one can say when that will happen. "We are interested to see the case resolved in Narine's favor. She lives in really very hard conditions. But it is still obscure why she's the only one who lost out. The others don't complain; some of them are even very happy," Gulnazaryan says.
To be continued