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‘To Hell With Human Rights:’ Armenian Protester Subjected to Punitive Psychiatry

“To hell with your human rights,” Vazgen Arakelyan, a psychiatrist at the Nubarashen mental hospital, replied when Helsinki Association for Human Rights representative Eduard Danielyan told him the hospital was violating Vardenis resident Armen Yeranosyan’s rights by subjecting the man to involuntary psychiatric treatment.

As previously reported, Yeranosyan was forcibly taken to the Nubarashen hospital on October 22 by police officers after staging a 5-day hunger strike and stitching up his lips outside the Government building in protest of being unfairly fired from his job. Shortly after talking to Yeranosyan on the phone today, our reporter, along with Helsinki Association human rights activists, went to the mental institution to find out why exactly the man had been admitted against his will. 

Nubarashen director Armen Ananyan assured the human rights activists that Yeranosyan had been brought to the hospital because he was going to kill himself by jumping off the Kievyan bridge in Yerevan. Ananyan went on to claim that Yeranosyan’s supposed suicide attempt had been prevented by two young girls who noticed the man on the bridge and called police.

“He was in a bad place mentally [when he was brought in]. I talked to him again this morning, and it was clear to me that he needed to stay here. A person is involuntarily admitted to a mental institution when he is a danger to himself or others. I’m not sure that he won’t try to kill himself [if we let him go],” Ananyan said.

When Yeranosyan was finally brought to the room, however, he told the visitors an entirely different story: the man insisted that he had had no desire to kill himself; he was continuing his sit-in outside the government building when police officers phoned him and told to go to the Kievyan bridge “to talk and find a solution to the issue,” Yeranosyan claimed. At the bridge, however, law enforcement officers detained the man and forcibly took him to a hospital.

“They twisted my hands, pulled one of my legs over my head and tied the other leg to my hand to prevent me from moving. They took me to a hospital and undid the stitched [on my lips]. They called me names; said I was a provincial moron, and when I mentioned [the Ombudsman] they began to swear at me. I don’t even want to speak about the way they treated me. As for the girls at the bridge, I was crying so they came over to see if everything was alright. I had no intention of killing myself; I have an 80-year-old mother, I have loans, I want to start a family one day. Why would I want to commit suicide?”

After unstitching Yeranosyan’s lips, police officers took him to the Nubarashen psychiatric institution where, according to director Ananyan, the man signed a paper that he was staying there voluntarily. Yeranosyan, however, assured the visitors that he had had no idea what he was signing, to which Ananyan responded by saying that Yeranosyan was lying and urged him to “be a man and tell the truth.” Yeranosyan, nevertheless, remained adamant that he was being kept at the psychiatric hospital against his will.

Helsinki Association head Nina Karapetyan then demanded that Yeranosyan be released, insisting that the hospital was violating the man’s rights by subjecting him to the Soviet practive of punitive psychiatry. Enraged by the human rights activist’s statement, psychiatrist Vazgen Arakelyan yelled that he would not let them take “the patient” away and if they did, he would sue the human rights organization. When Eduard Danielyan tried yet again to explain that the hospital was violating Yeranosyan’s rights, Arakelyan replied: "To hell with human rights; what matters is that he be cured.” 

Only after a long dispute did Nubarashen director Ananyan allow Yeranosyan to leave with the representatives of Helsinki Association.