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‘He Kicked Me in the Face When I Tried to Leave,’ Woman Tells Court

At a Monday hearing in Yerevan’s Arabkir and Kanaker-Zeytun district court Yerevan woman Naira Smbatyan recounted how she used to be constantly subjected to psychological and physical abuse by her husband, Ara Khachatryan. After the woman’s testimony, Khachatryan demanded that the court hold the hearings behind closed doors and prohibit reporters from filming or photographing him.

The soon-to-be ex-spouses have four children; the youngest, their 3-year-old son, currently lives with Smbatyan at a shelter provided to them by the Yerevan-based Women’s Resource Center non-profit, which has also been ensuring that the woman receives proper legal aid in the court proceedings. The spouses’ three daughters, on the other hand, are under the custody of their father.

On January 4, 2017, the woman told the court, her husband began beating her when after yet another argument she wanted to take her son and leave the house: “He took advantage of the fact that I had bent down to pick my son up and kicked me in the face. Then he turned to my daughters and said mockingly, ‘I hit her good, didn’t I? That was really good! You should applaud me for that, kids!’ Before that, when I was crying, he told them that ‘we should have your mom admitted to a psychiatric ward.’”

Judge Arsen Nikoghosyan then interrupted Smbatyan’s testimony and asked the woman whether she was sure she wanted the hearings to be held publicly. “I want to speak out about domestic violence because I don’t want this happening to other women,” Smbatyan replied, insisting that the hearings should be held openly.

The day she wanted to leave with her son, the woman went on, her daughters  stood between her and the child, while the husband continued to hit her: “They were doing everything to prevent me from approaching my son. They pushed me out of the room and into the corridor, where the beatings [from Ara] continued. It was just us there, our neighbors were out of  town, so they couldn’t have heard the argument.

“Ara and his parents would constantly mock and humiliate me. When we had just gotten married, his parents would complain that I did not have a higher education. So I went ahead and completed a psychology degree at university. Later on, they would insist that it was not a real profession, that I was not a psychologist but a psychopath.”

This time the woman’s testimony was interrupted by her husband, who demanded that the hearings be held behind closed doors. “I want everyone who has come here to make a show of the trial out of the courtroom. I have solid proof that the organizations that is providing free food and legal aid [to my wife] actually does nothing for free… No one ever does anything for free… They want to in fact turn a family misfortune into a subject for public discussion, which can negatively affect these children’s future… These girls are almost all grown up, and they will soon have issues when it comes to getting married,” Khachatryan argued.

Smbatyan, in turn, claimed that her husband did not care about the children at all and has repeatedly used their underage daughters in his own interests.

The judge nevertheless adjourned the hearing to discuss the motion for a closed trial with the investigator and the prosecutor.

Speaking to Epress.am after the hearing, Naira Smbatyan’s lawyer, Stepan Voskanyan, they want the case to be heard publicly to ensure that law enforcement authorities investigate similar cases more objectively: “This story has been dragged out because no police departments have carried out effective investigations into this family’s issues. The investigations have all been one-sided and biased; a criminal case on physical abuse, for example, was terminated on the grounds that the perpetrator had not been identified. Naira and her husband were the only people at their house that day…”

According to the lawyer, Khachatryan does not want the public to find out about the lawlessness and crimes he has committed, hence his motion for a closed trial.