of the 10-digit cards will end with the
When the idea of introducing an identity card
in Armenia was raised last year, nobody expected
that the suggestion would be controversial.
Many countries, though by no means all, have
adopted a form of identification card. The proposal
in Armenia, put forward by the Government aims
not only to create a more stable framework for
state business but to end the misery of people
having to visit one office after another, lining
up to collect stamps on documents and signatures
to prove their place of residence or their right
to buy or sell real estate, etc.
Supporters of the ID card say that it will function
as a social security card and is intended as a
matter of convenience. Last year, a law was passed
stipulating that residents should have such cards.
The 10-digit number, representing a person's
birth date, sex and a registration code would
be issued once in a person's life. It would serve
as identification for civil and legal matters,
for opening bank accounts, for paying taxes, etc.
And, most importantly for reducing the load of
paperwork now required, it would be registered
in a central computer system available to all
"Thanks to this system the entire work of
both the government and citizens will change to
purely peaceful and certain relations," said
head of the Nemrut media-analyzing center Andranik
Saratikyan last fall. "Today people are facing
difficulties, are running from one authorities
to the other, are spending hours for having their
documents signed meanwhile all that paperwork
can be solved simply by one card."
It is planned that all citizens of the Republic
of Armenia as well as resident foreigners with
businesses connected to Armenia, must have ID
cards. The utilization of these cards is intended
to start from July 1, 2004, but already 257,000
applications have been submitted - as well as
here for an update on Government reaction to complaints.)
"As citizens of RA and believers of Armenian
Apostolic Church, we, undersigned, ask you not
to force us to get identification numbers as it
contradicts our religious beliefs
be loyal to our Armenian Christian principles
and let us not adopt identification systems. We
want to be recognized with our Christian names,
the names with which the Lord recognizes us,"
reads one letter sent to the Ministry of Social
Security, bearing several hundred signatures.
In this small country where everybody knows everybody,
it seems there are those unwilling to be officially
identified. Objections come in different forms.
Some, from religious conviction, fear that their
names are being replaced by numbers - a veiled
fulfillment of apocalyptic prophesy. Others reject
the whole idea of being given a number, recalling
those given to people sent into exile during Stalin's
repression. Then there are those who think that
sinister microchips will be implanted under their
"I am not going to replace my name with
a number. I was born with a name and I will die
with a name," says one elderly silver-haired
Hasmik Khachatryan, head of public relations
at the Ministry of Social Security, admits that
such views are common and that many worried people
visit officials with questions.
"They are not in touch with the situation
but they demand that we take their cards back
or just refuse to get one. Then when we talk to
them it becomes clear that some people scared
them with stories about chips being put under
their skin, or numbers tattooed on their foreheads,
the mark of the Beast and other fantastic nonsense.
People who have been living in hard social conditions
for many years are amenable to such stories,"
Khachatryan believes that more serious reasons
lie behind some of the misconceptions.
She says some sectarian religious groups have
spread false information through "black PR".
And some, she says, "are followers of the
Armenian Apostolic Church and are really concerned
about this system. We acknowledge their fears,
as it is a matter of freedom of conscience and
faith, and in this case we are ready to carry
out discussions both with the Church and with
those who are concerned over this situation."
The most widespread objection, though, has come
from some who have turned the issue of ID cards
into a show. Television talk shows, and even some
politicians, have used the issue to stir fear
among people who have not read the proposals and
do not understand them.
"It is just a wonderful theme for discussions
and shows. It gives opportunity to present yourself
to society and make sensational statements,"
says Khachatryan. "All of that is made by
people who have something to hide and who are
not honest in their relations with the government."
(For example businessmen who hide their income,
people who work but get unemployment subsidy and
women who marry but manage to get assistance a
s a single parent.)
Khachatryan assures that starting from next summer
identification cards will be put into operation
and people will see for themselves all the advantages
of this system. Till then, however, having a central
identification system is a topic for extremist
debate and wild speculation.