In early August, Vardan Vardanyan received a call from one of his son’s friends in the army.
He was told that for the past 9 days, his son, Hovhannes Vardanyan, 19, who had already served 14 months of the mandatory 24 months in the army in the Nagorno-Karabakh province of Askeran, has been in the psychiatric ward in Yerevan.
The details of what happened are described in the 10-minute video below (in Armenian only) called “Hovhannes Vardanyan’s life after the army” and prepared by local youth civic initiative “We won’t be silent.”
The young man can be seen constantly pacing and citing the soldier’s oath, as well as repeating phrases such as “I give myself over to my homeland,” “I am subject to a 2-year service in the Republic of [Nagorno] Karabakh [armed] forces” and “Our president is my sanctuary” and “My sanctuary is our president” (continuing to praise the president).
After four minutes, a voice off-camera asks Hovhannes to describe what happened to him.
– They wanted to hit me, rape me.
– The officers.
– Name names.
– Volfogar. I don’t remember their names. Shalon.
In the video, Hovhannes’ father says in attempting to find out what happened, he called the regiment commander, introduced himself and asked where Hovhannes Vardanyan was. He said he didn’t know and hung up. The second time Hovhannes’ father called him, the military official said you’ve called the wrong number and do not call this number again. For three days Hovhannes’ father continued to call, but his calls went unanswered.
There has been no response to the family’s appeals from the defense ministry since Aug. 3, said Hovhannes’ father.
While his father spoke, Hovhannes (“Hovo”) took off his shirt, wrapping it around his neck, leapfrogged sideways on his hands and feet, calling himself a white eagle, dancing and juggling invisible objects.
When asked about the official version of events, Hovhannes’ father said he was told his son was scared. “He served a year and two months and wasn’t scared and just now he got scared?” he said, adding that he received a call from Hovhannes’ friends saying his son fought with a senior officer, then for a long time there were no calls and then a call that Hovhannes is in the psych ward — and this not from army officials, but from Hovhannes’ friends.
Hovhannes’ father, when urged by the voice off-camera to explain the cause of his son’s state, said it was because of the fight and that his son was beaten, lifting Hovhannes’ shirt and pointing to his son’s legs to show the traces of the beating on his back and legs.