Tale of Terror: Young Newlywed Seeks Justice for 10 Months of Cruel Mistreatment
Ten months after getting a divorce, 20 year-old Mariam returned to Armenia.
Her father, Hamazasp Gevorgyan, says he didn’t recognise Mariam at the airport.
They immediately went to the police and Hamazasp says that they were all touched by Mariam’s story to the point of tears.
“Even Prosecutor Arsen Arsenyan got all emotional. But afterwards...,” Hamazasp says, hiding his own tears.
Two years ago, Russian resident Haykanoush Mikayelyan visited the village of Taperakan in Ararat Marz and asked the Gevorgyan family to give their daughter Mariam in marriage to her eldest son Davit Ziroyan. Haykanoush said that her son was divorced.
The Gevorgyans had confidence in the family since Haykanoush was sister of the mother-in-law of their middle daughter.
“They also had a house in Artashat and had built a small holy statue in the yard. We figured they were God-fearing folk,” says Hamazasp Gevorgyan.
Mariam after getting married
The two got married in November, 2009 and left for St. Petersburg in Russia.
Mariam says that’s when the trouble started with her mother-in-law. On January 6, Armenian Christmas, Mariam says that the woman savagely beat her, leaving blue welts on her face.
Mariam, a high school grad, says that she was only allowed out of the house in St. Petersburg the first few days after arriving.
She says that except for the two brothers of her husband, everyone else in the house took part in beating her.
Mariam showed us the cuts on her shoulder where her husband and mother-in-law stabbed her with a fork. They also used a hot iron on her, leaving scars on Mariam’s hands and waist.
“They’d use any excuse to beat me, even accusing me of putting a hex on them. My mother-in-law made me stick out my tongue to burn it. Then, she washed my mouth out with soap, Mariam recounts.
|The cuts of fork||The scar left with hot iron in still on Mariam’s waist|
She only shared a bed with her husband for those first two weeks. The family stopped her from even sleeping in a bed and the young woman was forced to sleep in a chair in the corner of the room for months. Mariam had to shower with cold water.
“Once I scribbled the words ‘help, I am being tortured here’ on a piece of paper and tossed it out the window. They found out and beat me even harder,” says Mariam.
Mariam’s father said he would telephone Russia to speak with her and that the mother-in-law would keep him waiting for ten minutes before putting Mariam on the line.
“I got suspicious. Mariam would just say that she was fine and not to worry. She never asked how we were doing back home. Somehow, I found Davit’s former wife and went to their house. Her mother told me to go and bring back Mariam to save her before it’s too late,” says Mr. Gevorgyan.
He told Haykanoush to send Mariam back to Armenia because he missed her so. Haykanoush told him that only Davit could decide. He refused, telling Mariams’s father that they hadn’t raised her in the proper manner.
Mariam says her husband’s family never even told her about the phone calls from Armenia and ridiculed her by saying ‘you’re even no good to your folks back home’.
Even when Mariam was allowed to speak to her father, Haykanoush was always listening in, telling the girl to watch what she says.
Mariam decided she had to flee from that hell hole and one day in late September 2010, almost ten months after getting married, she saw her chance and took it.
Her husband Davit was asleep and her father-in-law had gone to the store for some milk. He had left the door open. Haykanoush, not realizing her husband had gone out, went into the other room to make a phone call to Armenia. Mariam took off.
“My face was beaten and my feet swollen. Where was I to go? It was dark, so I went to a neighbour’s apartment. They told me to go to the police. I was afraid so I waited all night on the stairs till morning. I wanted to go to the church for assistance,” says Mariam.
Mariam was found and brought back inside. But her in-laws suspected she might have told the neighbours about her harrowing experience. They decided to wait about two weeks for her wounds to heal and then sent Mariam home on October 15.
Her father says Mariam was too scared to tell them anything after returning to Armenia. But she finally broke down and told them everything.
|Haykanoush Mikayelyan (in the center)|
He says that Haykanoush’s sister recently paid them a visit and offered them hush money.
Mariam says that her husband’s former wife, Monica, also came round the house and told her that the same stuff had happened to her. Monica married Davit in 2005 and also was taken to St. Petersburg. She stayed for three years.
Mariam refused to talk to Hetq about her experiences with the family in Russia; it’s was too painful to recollect.
“I went to the police but nothing was done. Money covered it all up. No matter, God sees all that happens and the guilty will be punished in the end,” Monica told Hetq.
On October 25, Mariam and Monica filed a statement at the Ararat Police Department. A criminal case was quickly launched against Davit.
Police in Armenia told Mariam’s family that Davit had been taken into custody in Russia but that he had pleaded innocent to the charges, arguing that many of Mariam’s wounds predated their marriage and that the rest had been self-inflicted.
Since the charges against Davit Ziroyan only carried a maximum three years sentence, the prosecuting investigator decided to pardon him and drop the case. Davit never spent one day in jail.
Davit’s mother Haykanoush is in the process of being extradited to Armenia.
Police here in Armenia tell Hetq that the case must be reviewed before any specific charges according to RA law can be made.
Mariam’s father Hamazasp has given up all hope of getting justice for his daughter. He’s now looking into petitioning authorities in Russia to see what can be done.
Top photo: Mariam before getting married