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Armenians oppose government's military program

16 June 2017 [17:48] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

By Rashid Shirinov

The new idea developed by the Armenian authorities, aimed to militarize the country, seemingly failed to gain support among the Armenian population.

The new Nation Army concept, promoted by the Armenian authorities, is raising concerns among some observers, claiming that the country, already one of the most heavily militarized in the world, is giving the army too much influence over the shaping of its future, EurasiaNet states in its recent article.

Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan launched the Nation Army program in October 2016. The concept is going to potentially allow the total mobilization of society in the service of national security.

“All the governmental bodies, civilians and anybody else must correctly carry out their role in the defense of the country,” Sargsyan said while presenting the program. The minister also noted that the military will assume a greater role in Armenia’s economic sphere.

So far, the Armenian government has introduced several specific initiatives related to the concept. One of them, “I Have the Honor,” targets for the university students of Armenia – they are proposed to pass military training and then serve in the army for three years as officers. Notably, their service period will be extended for a year in this case – currently Armenians serve in the army for two years.

Another program, called “I Am,” is designed for those recruits who wish to serve on the border – that means mainly in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. In this case, they will serve same three years and will get five million drams ($10,360) at the end of the service.

The new concept by the government shortly became the cause of discontent among ordinary Armenian citizens and civil rights activists.

“The Nation-Army concept is part of a trend in Armenia in which the state is raising not a citizen, but a soldier,” Edgar Khachatryan, head of the NGO Peace Dialogue, told EurasiaNet. “And in the future, this citizen would not stand up for his or her rights, but would carry out orders... This is the shortest way to establishing a military dictatorship, and I see things trending in that direction.”

In addition, the Armenian authorities adopted the law obliging each working Armenian citizen to contribute 1,000 drams (about $2) per month so that those, who have suffered while serving in the Armed Forces of Armenia, can receive a small compensation for the crippled health and life. This law also caused strong criticism among citizens of Armenia who complained that the government is robbing its poor population while military officers get rich.

The Armenian government presents the “Nation Army” concept as way to address problems with corruption in the conscription process, in which Armenians from wealthier families tend to get out of military service by paying a bribe.

However, people in Armenia have another look at the issue. “This is just a project aimed at getting poor people to serve in the military [and not leave the country],” Artur Sakunts, a rights activist and head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly told EurasiaNet. “The children of oligarchs will again avoid service in the army, corruption will not cease, [and] generals will continue to grow rich at the expense of the army.”

Currently, Armenia is the third most militarized country in the world, and it seems that the country’s government seeks to fully militarize the Armenian population, apparently against neighboring Azerbaijan, whose 20 percent of territory it keeps under occupation. All the military rhetoric by the Armenian government spark resentment in the Armenian society, whilst the authorities ignore this and continue to forcibly militarize the country.


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