. . gradually giving up."
The Babayan family doesn't know how it will heat
its apartment this winter. In other years they've
been able to save money from the monthly budget
of 23,500 drams (about $42) for winter needs,
but not this year.
Sixty-four year old Marat Babayan and his three
daughters Nazeny, Arpine and Varsenik live in
their three room apartment on the outskirts of
Yerevan. Varsenik, who has been in fragile health
all her life has been more sick over the past
year and medicines have been costly.
The Babayans were given the apartment during
Soviet times, when the family was bigger. Since,
the mother, Raya Sargsyan has died (in 1990).
And, since 1995 their son and brother, Vahram
mysteriously disappeared from a military hospital
soon after being called into the army.
"I don't know what we are going to do,"
says 31-year old Nazeny. "My father used
to bring pieces of cardboard or acquire a few
wooden boxes from his work place, in addition
to that we would also buy wood with saved money,
and would manage to get by that way."
Like many throughout Yerevan, the Babayans gather
wood and cardboard wherever they can - from dead
trees or from refuse left in the street. But they
can never get enough to heat a three-room apartment,
so they all gather around a small heater in the
kitchen. And they all sleep in one room.
When raising his son, Marat had always thought
that by these years he could depend on Vahram
to help take care of the family. Now, the family's
existence revolves around his absence and its
increasing debilitating impact.
Vahram was studying in the Polytechnic Institute.
After his mother's death. He went through a long
period when he couldn't speak. His sister Varsenik
says that he was very sensitive.
"My son was suffering from brain concussion,
mental disorders, headaches, hepatitis, swollen
liver and bad vision," the father says, showing
documents that certify his son's condition. "He
underwent treatment at psychiatric and other hospitals."
Military doctors certified Vahram's illnesses,
but a military commissar told Marat: "If
everybody like your son evades military service,
who would be left to serve in the Army?"
From the first day of his conscription, Vahram
was in military hospitals. After six months he
Everybody in the family is sure that Vahram is
alive and will return. Up to this day the family
thinks that all their troubles and problems will
be solved with Vahram's return.
"Vahram is my only son, he must come back
to be a support for me and his sisters,"
says the father. "I am already old, who will
take care of his sisters?"
Ten days after Vahram's disappearance, the International
Red Cross visited the Babayans with a letter confirming
that the agency had found Vahram in a town in
Azerbaijan and that he was seriously ill.
Ten days later the Red Cross went back to take
some medicine, but Vahram was not there.
The Ministry of Social Insurance has offered
Marat 10,000 drams (about $18) a year to compensate
for Vahram's disappearance. Marat refuses it,
saying it is the government's way of getting him
to shut up about his son.
The organization Against Legal Violence has also
reached out. Once, Marat took 4,000 drams (about
$7), from them, but has since refused help.
family waits . . .
"Marat Babayan is an extremely honest person.
He always refuses our help, but as years pass,
I see him gradually giving up", says Larisa
Alaverdyan, president of Against Legal Violence.
Before becoming a pensioner, Marat Babayan was
an engineer. Now he works in the laboratory of
Yerevan State Engineering University. Before this
year he supplemented the family income by buying
merchandise and reselling in markets. But this
year, eight years into mourning the fate of his
son, he has not had the energy for added work.
"Yerevan was built with my hands. I have
been working for this country for 49 years, and
the only appreciation I was expecting was for
my son not to be called up for military service.
You took him from me, you get him back,"
complains the father.
The last official information about Vahram came
"Your application has been carefully investigated
in Armed Forces Headquarters of RA. Some inquires
have been made to International Red Cross organization
as well as other instances about your son Vahram
Babayan. The fact of your son being a captive
in Azerbaijan has been confirmed. The work directed
to that matter, realized by the Ministry of Defense
of RA, hasn't given any results yet."
"We have had no news from Vahram for eight
and a half years," says Nazeny. "Doesn't
the government realize that a man, the bread-winner
is missing from the family, how can we live without
For information about Against Legal Violence:
Call (374 1) 58.28.19; 56.82.72 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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