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Soldier Subjected to Violent Beating by Commander Soon Died from Sarcoma Complications

22-year-old Vanadzor native Khachik Barseghyan completed his mandatory military service in late 2014; a little over a year later, on March 27, 2016, the young man died from sarcoma in his leg. Barseghyan's mother, Sonik Ghazaryan, is convinced that her son's condition exacerbated after he was violently beaten by a commander during military service.

Barseghyan started having the first symptoms of the disease in 2012, six months into his service in a Belahovit military unit, his mother said in an interview with Epress.am. “Officials called and told me that my son was suffering from bedwetting and leg issues. I went to the military unit; my son was in the infirmary. Doctors said there was nothing serious, that he'd be fine.”

When the soldier went home on leave a few months later, Ghazaryan continued, he was limping and there was a severe wound on his leg; “It was so deep and the pain was so intense that I had to take him to the hospital. Shortly after going back to service, he was transferred to the Muratsan military hospital but was soon taken back to the unit. 

“I was always very attentive to my kid. You know how it is – soldiers are not taken care of in Armenia; mothers have to look after them. It's a fact. [Military officials] told me I had to pay 4000 dollars to exempt him from service, but my son insisted that I do not, 'where would you get that kind of money?' he argued,” the woman recounted.

When the pain in the young man's leg got increasingly worse after he was finally discharged, the mother took him to several doctors who attributed the pain to a malignant tumor. One of the doctors also said that the soldier had previously received a severe blow to the achy part of the leg. “My son then said that he had been beaten up by the commander of his unit, Vigen Mkrtchyan. I complained to the military commissariat, stating that my son had been assaulted by one of the officers. They called the military unit and talked to Mkrtchyan who claimed that he had not beaten up my son, that we didn't have any proof.”
In April, 2015, Barseghyan's health deteriorated sharply, and the family took him for treatment to Moscow, where he was diagnosed with late-stage sarcoma. Upon returning to Armenia, the young man's leg was amputated, and he died after months of torment in March, 2016.

“I still can't understand why he had been drafted in the first place if he had a tumor. It couldn't have appeared out of nowhere… He had vein and soft tissue issues which would have come up during the pre-draft medical examination,” the mother said. She added that fellow soldiers confirmed that her son had been beaten up during service when they visited her bedridden son at home.

“They said they were too scared to say anything at the military unit because they were not just being beaten, they were being thrashed there. There was this kid, he was leaving for Poland soon, he told me that Mkrtchyan hit my son in the spot where the sarcoma was later found when he refused to run because of a severe leg pain. [Mkrtchyan] beat him up violently and then made him run… The kid also said that Mkrtchyan is a high-ranking official's son-in-law and is very powerful.”

Syuzanna Soghomonyan, a lawyer with the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Office representing Sonik Ghazaryan, told Epress.am about their intention to file a court complaint; at the same time, the lawyer did not rule out the possibility of the issue getting resolved out of court. “We are currently trying to establish a connection between the beating and the disease. We still can't claim that the sarcoma appeared during the military service; he might have had it prior to being drafted. Which, in turn, means that the young man should have been found unfit for service, and his conscription was illegal.”

Sonik Ghazaryan, a single mother, had to take almost 2 million drams (more than $4,100) in debt to pay for 6 chemotherapy cycles. She turned to Armenia's Ministry of Defense to help her furbish her son's gravesite and received a response that the furbishment would be carried out in 2017. In late October, however, the woman received another letter, which said that “Khachik Barseghyan is not listed in the Defense Ministry as a killed or diseased military personnel, so the applicant's request cannot be fulfilled.”

On November 24, the woman was invited to the defense ministry, where she was given 400 thousand drams as an aid. “I met with a ministry official named Ghevondyan, who said he did not understand why the gravesite issue was not being taken care of. He said I was getting the aid as a mother of a soldier.”