|Faith Fight Continues: Jehovah’s Witnesses targets of hate attacks|
|By Vahan Ishkhanyan
|Jehovah’s Witnesses say violence against them continues despite the attention of local and international organizations who oversee human rights abuses in Armenia. The five cases reported last year (see Dangers of Bearing “Witness”) and two this year remain unresolved. Khachik Hovhannisyan and Mariam Aghajanyan, husband and wife, say they were attacked and Khachik beaten on July 31, while visiting a friend on Belinski Street.
“We heard someone shouting as we were entering the building: ‘Hey, you, don’t enter there.’ I turned and saw someone shouting from the other side of the street. I asked: ‘Are you talking to me?’ He said: ‘Yes, come here, aren’t you a Jehovah’s [Witness]? I’ll stick the brochures into …’.”
They were relieved, the couple said, to see a policeman approach. But the policeman asked aggressively: “What are you doing here?” The man shouting on the other side of the street crossed it and attacked them: “He held my throat and started to beat me, he would beat me with his feet and hands, striking at my genitals.” Mariam says the policeman joined the man in beating her husband. It turns out that the attacker, Grigor Sargsyan and the senior inspector Armen Sargsyan, are brothers, Mariam says.
“I was humiliated; my dignity was trampled. They cursed and beat me in front of my wife,” says Khachik, 45. “I am a master of sports in wrestling. I would defeat both of them.” But Khachik says he did not fight back because his religious faith prohibits it.
Despite the information Khachik Hovhannisyan had provided the police and the prosecutor’s office three months after the incident, the Erebuni police department refused to bring a criminal case into action. A notice delivered on October 4th says Kachik Hovhannisyan has not been beaten; there has been a brawl and inspector Armen Sargsyan has interfered in an attempt to settle down the quarrel.
The spouses appealed with a protest to the prosecutor general against the decision of the police.
Armen Khachatryan, 25, says a clergyman had violently forced him and another person sharing his belief, Hamest Petrosyan, out of the village of Lusarat, Ararat province on June 1st. “We were talking with a villager and I was reading an extract from the Bible, when a person I don’t know approached and asked who we were,” says Khachatryan. “He did not wait for me to finish the reading to answer the question, but took away the book from me and told us to leave the village. Hamest tried to take the book back, but he seized her hand.” The person they did not know was Father Varuzhan Terteryan.
Khachatryan says to avoid complicating the situation they moved to the center of the village, as the clergyman went in their direction threatening and cursing: “The next time you come, we will kill you, and cursed us badly. I said, there is a woman here, you could at least be respectful of her. But he replied there is no woman there, caught me on my neck and pushed me forward.”
The Ararat police have refused to bring criminal case into action based on the information they give. And the investigator refused to answer the inquiry by ArmeniaNow.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses explain intolerance against them with the continuing anti-propaganda in the mass media. Frequently enmity and false information are spread about religious organizations.
A number of mass media signed a Code of Ethics and created an observer body on March 10th. The Center of Cooperation for Democracy non-governmental organization has appealed against AZG daily, a signing part to the code, insisting the newspaper disseminates religious intolerance and false information. On September 12th the observer body has come to a conclusion saying AZG should be more responsive in giving evaluations and presenting facts and reminded the provision of the code prohibiting from propagating ethnic and religious enmity.