- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 16, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

My colleague Zhanna Alexanyan brings an interpreter into my office and with her help tells me: "I can't write any more stories like this. They are too depressing."

Read "At Whose Expense" and you might agree.

Sometimes we argue, Zhanna and I. She's from the school that says journalists should take action. I am from the one that says journalists should inspire action. She wants to topple regimes and I tell her to instead write stories that build new ones.

We agree, though, that the heart is a journalist's best resource. Zhanna, like some others on our staff, writes from her heart.

Stories like the one she wrote this week bruise. But if the tragedy is so powerful to reach emotions of the detached, how is it possible that people like Lida and Zhora Balagyozyan survive what this confounding country sometimes does to its people?

Their boy should have been learning music in the Conservatory. Instead he was taken by force to an outpost in Karabakh where another unwilling conscript shot him to death. They had argued over who should clean dinner dishes.

It is not the first time we've reported cases when Armenian conscripts kill each other. It happens so often that it can't be ignored. And so often that it sometimes is. The numbers are decreasing. But what is an acceptable number to reach?

I suggest that the parents of Hovhaness Balagyozyan and the parents of Artyom Sargsyan and of Artur Mkrtchyan -- those are merely the ones I quickly remember -- would say "zero". And so, perhaps, would the parents of their sons' killers.

Last year there were 69 murders of civilians in all the country. Sixty-two soldiers died in their units. Officials will not say how many were of criminal cause. The Ministry of Defense will not say how many soldiers it has, so ratios are inexact. But, for comparison: When a U.S. soldier was murdered by a fellow soldier three years ago, numbers released then showed that the U.S. military - with a force of about 460,000 - averaged about eight such crimes per year.

There are horribly justified reasons why mothers like Lida Balagyozyan worry when their boys reach conscription age.

The fortunate ones pay off officers and officials to keep their sons out of the service. Pay a bribe, or pay for a child's funeral must be how they justify it.

Lida Balagyozyan's artist son died a soldier's death, innocent but without honor. Just another crime. Another incident of soldier-on-soldier death that will be included in a number that, thankfully, is diminishing. But not enough to put music back into the Balagyozyan home.

It is a just response when a journalist feels the heavy-heart effect of her country's useless systemic illness.

Right or wrong, we mourn the Balagyozyans' loss with deeper pathos because Hovhaness was a gifted musician. That shouldn't matter. But to ignore that it does matter is a losing argument with human nature.

The boy shot dead in a remote district of Karabakh was an artist. He composed music and played piano in a hall named for one of his homeland's most famous composers. His own mentors applauded while his mother stood aside, conscious of her class.

I hope somebody recorded that recital.


Sour Forecast: Seventy percent of fruit crops lost to rage of winter; concern rises for winemakers

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Doubly Deadly: Cancer patients say treatment at state hospitals is short on compassion

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High Notes: Armenian youngsters earn praise and prizes in international piano competition

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  Photo of the week
  Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Dr. Lord George

He is already a Lord, and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And as of Wednesday George Robertson adds an honorary doctorate from the French University of Armenia. Following ceremonies at the university Lord Robertson spoke with students and media.



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