BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It may seem like a bad topic to write about in this season of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and the annual Armenia Fund Telethon (this year dedicated to developing Artsakh’s tremendous agricultural potential), but a reader brought an article to my attention titled “Murders, suicides, and fatal accidents plague the Armenian military,” published by OC Media, which contains some very worrisome data.
If the numbers are accurate, then in the 2010-2016 period, more of the deaths suffered by the armies of the Republics of Armenia and Artzakh are non-combat (259, or 59%) rather than casualties of war (213, or 41%)! Please see the accompanying chart which I have replicated from the original article
We all hear about these deaths, but not in the aggregate, which comes as a bit of a shock. Why are there all these needless deaths?
Some of it may come from hazing, which evidently harks back, systemically, to Soviet times, but all militaries have been known for it since… forever. But judging by the causes of death, that cannot be the main reason.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why this is going, it must stop, and stop immediately. There are evidently laws on the books in Armenia to fight this, but clearly, they are not working, for whatever reason – because they are insufficient to the task or unenforced. This is a matter of the countries’ survival, given our bloodthirsty eastern and western neighbors.
The good news is, the army enjoys a high level of trust among Armenia’s citizens, 65% of respondents, though 62% believe it is non-transparent. Interestingly, three quarters of young people believe that problems and incidents in the army should not even be discussed or publicized.
This is corrosive, because in time, abuses leading to deaths will erode the positive numbers cited above, it cannot be any other way. Heavy duty pressure, very public, is the only way to induce rapid change. Really, the only change required is simple – up and down the chain of command, everyone in the military must act with decency and respect.
Let’s get on this. The security of the slivers of our homeland still under Armenian control are at stake. When you donate to Armenia Fund this year, send a note along saying you want to see a fundamental and rapid reduction in the non-combat military death statistics.