Yerevan Deferment Protests Continue; Negotiations with Government a Dead End

By Nelly Petrosyan

Yerevan university students who’ve been boycotting classes to protest a government bill that would do away with most student draft deferments say they’re ready for a long battle.

They plan to march on the National Assembly today a 5pm.

Davit Petrosyan, a member of the “In the Name of the Development of Science” initiative, told Hetq he and others left yesterday’s meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan disenchanted.

“During the negotiations, we expected concessions and a chance to examine the arguments. Nothing of the sort happened. And it pains us students. If we go into a meeting where one side has already made up its mind to turn down our points, then how can we believe the other side to ready to make concessions?” said Petrosyan.

Vahram Dumanyan, Dean of Yerevan State University’s Faculty Informatics and Applied Mathematics, told reporters that he needed more specifics on the bill, but confessed that there are those defending dissertations merely to avoid military service.

Karen Grigoryan, the university’s public affairs chief, said that all the talk about students being victims of official intimidation is not true. He even said that the university administration is allowing students to join the protest. (For days, many doors to the university had been locked, preventing any entrance or exit)

Some students say they are being psychologically intimidated by officials and some instructors who ask them, “Are you opposed to military service?”; a loaded question by itself.

Alik Gharibyan, who heads the university’s administrative office, isn’t too impressed with the political maturity of the students.

“Our students, I believe, are not yet politically mature enough to participate in political events. But they have the right to fight for their rights, and no one stops them. We face a national security issue with Turkey on one side and Azerbaijan on the other. Scientists must be drafted and all others with no familiarity with weapons. In no way am I calling for the formation of a militarized state, but at least we should be ready for all eventualities.”

Garik Misgaryan, who served his two-year stint in the army and now studies history, said it was difficult getting used to university life after the military.

Misgaryan also doubts that the bill will cut down on corruption, as argued by its backers.

“Now, scientists are given a small opportunity to get a deferment. They’ll be cutting this as well. We’re creating a militarized state. During the April 4-Day Karabakh War, they were declaring that we don’t need science, but rather weapons. If you have the mental prowess to build weapons, why don’t you, rather than buying them from Russia?”