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‘Police Are Not Private Guards:’ Armenian Law Enforcers Have ‘No Mechanisms’ to Protect Woman From Abusive Husband

After a Thursday hearing of their divorce case at Yeravan’s Malatia-Sebastia district court, Yerevan-man Ara Khachatryan blocked his soon-to-be ex-wife Naira Smbatyan’s and her supporters’ way with his car, not letting them leave the area. The woman phoned police to ask for help; however, those who arrived at the scene 40 minutes were officers of the Sixth Intelligence Directorate, who had been called by Khachatryan.

Immediately after their arrival, Smbatyan told Epress.am, the intelligence officers “attacked our taxi with such fervor that we had to lock the car’s windows and doors.”

“They said I was wanted and tried to open the doors. I’m not missing, I’ve just left my husband because I was being periodically subjected to physical, and, more importantly, psychological abuse. I left him on January 4 and returned to my father’s house. My husband has even attacked my father’s house several times,” Smbatyan added.

Smbatyan and her supporters – representatives of the Women’s Support Center NGO who are assisting the woman in her divorce case – insistently refused to exit the car, and the officers managed to convince all parties to at least drive to the Malatia police station for questioning.

Ara Khachatryan outside the Malatia police station

Once they arrived, however, Ara Khachatryan refused to go inside and remained seated in his car outside the police station. Being familiar with her husband’s aggressive and violent behavior, Smbatyan asked police officers to take measures to ensure that she and her supporters were properly protected, to which one of the officers indignantly replied: “Police are not private guards!” He then added that police were aware Ara Khachatryan was waiting for Smbatyan outside the building, but that “at the moment there is nothing we can do about it.”

“He has a right to free movement,” the officer explained to our reporter.

The chief of the Malatia police, for his part, claimed that “the law does not provide any mechanism to protect Naira.” The police chief, however, offered to provide a car “on my own initiative” so that the woman was able to leave through the back door.

“I’m scared; I won’t go to the court hearings any more. I’ve authorized my lawyers to represent me,” Smbatyan told Epress.am. The police officers’ conduct, the woman continued, was not surprising: several months ago Smbatyan reported that she had been subjected to physical abuse and the case was investigation by the Arabkir police department. But although the bruises on her body were confirmed as marks of beating, the investigator decided to terminate the case on the grounds that it was unknown who had beaten Smbatyan.

“This is absurd. It’s a domestic violence case; no one, except for her husband, could have beaten Naira at her house. We have appealed the decision to close the case at the first instance court,” Smbatyan’s lawyer, Stepan Voskanyan, said in conversation with Epress.am.

The woman herself is also unhappy with the investigation into the attack on his father’s house. “The police only recorded the property damage, ignoring his motive for the attack,” she said.