ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
July 9, 2004


Social Insecurity: Identity cards meet devilish resistance from religious extremists


When controversy stirred a year ago over issuing Social Security Cards in Armenia, officials predicted that by the time the cards came into use, their value would be understood.

Ten days ago, the first cards appeared. But so did more noise on the part of those who see the cards as anything from an annoying invasion of privacy to the apocalyptic “Mark of the Beast”.

"No to Numeration"

The term for implementing the card system has been extended until January 1, 2005, but it appears that for a small but vocal minority, resistance is endless.

“These cards are against freedom of conscience, faith and human rights,” says Armen Avetisyan, leader of Armenian Aryan Unanimity and a member of the Council Against People’s Numeration. “It’s been more than three months that with threats of being fired, everywhere people are being forced to be numerated, meaning to get those cards. These cards are a violation of human rights.”

Avetisyan was among a group that gathered last week near the Institute of Manuscripts for “fighting against satanic power”, advising others with placards that read “Don’t Sell Our Souls”, “Your Holiness, Don’t Leave Your Flock”, “No to People’s Numeration”, “How Many Heads of Servants Does Satan Have in Armenia?”

The group carried a special coffin in which it placed mockups of Social Security Cards, calling for the burial of the “evil” idea.

The intention was to carry the coffin to Republic Square. Police, however, confiscated the coffin.

“As it was planned, on July 1 the coffin had to be brought to Republic Square and people who were cheated and forced to get cards were to put them into the coffin,” says Avetisyan. “However, the action failed since before the protesters started acting police confiscated the coffin and the portrait of the social security card framed and tied with a black ribbon. If they don’t return our coffin in the nearest time we shall sue the police.”

Council Against People’s Numeration member Khachik Stamboltsyan says the group has more than 100,000 written complaints about the cards and more than a million followers who are fighting against “satanic cards”.

“We collect those cards from people and are going to return them to the ministry,” says Stamboltsyan. “Meanwhile, we will do anything to interfere with the implementation of that system.”

Religious extremists think the cards are Satanic

Ministry of Social Welfare experts dismiss the controversy as a misunderstanding, assuring that Social Security cards are not obligatory, but may be necessary for future interaction in government-related record keeping.

“If a person receives salary or pension, it’s clear that he’ll need a social card and if he does not depend on such things he can refuse it,” says Haykuhi Gevorgyan, a public relations officer at the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Gevorgyan says at present around 1.6 million citizens have registered to get social security cards and 1 million of them have already received them.

“The process continues, people call, ask questions and get registered to receive a card,” says Gevorgyan. “Everything goes its natural way.”

However, those who are opposed to the cards assure unanimously that the system is “a satanic brand”, “soul genocide” and is the best option to eliminate the nation physically and spiritually.

According to one widespread opinion among dissenters, people are numerated so that they lose their individuality.

“With the Lord’s help we’ve been fighting against cards for three years and we will continue fighting until we achieve what we want, since it’s even terrifying to imagine what information is put in those cards,” says Stamboltsyan. “That information is kept for 400 years and serves against our nation and religion. We cannot allow such a thing to happen.”

Stamboltsyan says his group has applied to many souces and also to the Catholicos to protect Christians from that disaster. However His Holiness Garegin II says he sees no threat in the cards and has received his on July 3.

&ldquoBy that step the Catholicos sold Christ for 30 silver coins,” says Stamboltsyan. “But with God’s power we will eliminate that system; there are many clerics who follow us.”


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