‘‘Scandal dies sooner of itself, than we could kill it.”Benjamin Rush
It has been seven months since the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended. But the fate of hundreds of Armenian soldiers is still unknown. The number of missing soldiers and those whose bodies cannot be found or detected has been kept a ‘secret’.
Many believed the number of fallen soldiers and those missing wasn’t revealed by the government due to ongoing searches in the territory of Nagorno Karabakh as well as the fact that Baku doesn’t confirm the number of Armenian prisoners of war.
However, the latest discoveries seem to be proving the point that Pashinyan’s government has been simply hiding the number of fallen soldiers
Hundreds of Bodies of Fallen Soldiers Stored in Improper Conditions
On May 31, relatives of Armenian soldiers who have been missing since the end of the war in November 2020, blocked one of the central streets of the capital Yerevan.
Arsen Ghukasyan, a relative of a missing soldier told in his Facebook live, that they learned horrific news about the dead bodies of Armenian soldiers as well as found an inaccuracy in numbers. “There are around 200 bodies of Armenian soldiers that have now appeared.
They have been stored in different places, including fruit refrigerators. Now they [the government] are taking them out and handing them over to their families,” said Ghukasyan.
Additionally, Arsen Ghukasyan told reporters that they have found a major inaccuracy in numbers as they are provided with different data each time. According to the missing soldier’s relative, they will be conducting an investigation on their own to find out the real number of bodies and remains.
Later on May 31, media outlets published photos from the tuberculosis dispensary of the city Abovyan, writing about hundreds of bodies being kept improperly – in non-refrigerated rooms, wrapped in polyethylene, thrown messily over each other.
The photos spread quickly, with people requiring an official explanation from the government and the Ministry of Health in particular.
A few hours later, the Ministry of Health came up with a clarification, telling people that the bags seen in the photos contain identified bodies and remains of soldiers. According to this statement, “The remains have been temporarily kept in a room with walls with thermal insulation because of the relatives’ wish to transfer them to another place. … The remains have been identified and ready for the relatives to take them.”
This clarification by the Ministry of Health didn’t help the situation. In fact, people considered this explanation absurd as there is no justification for the bodies of fallen soldiers to be kept in such disgraceful conditions. And what is more concerning, seven months after the end of the war.
Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan Apologizes for the ‘Omission’
On June 1, attempting to calm the situation and address the concerns of the relatives of fallen soldiers, the caretaker prime minister Nikol Pashinyan assigned the responsible agencies to conduct an investigation and make sure that proper conditions are provided for the bodies and remains.
On the same day, the Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan apologized to the relatives of fallen soldiers whose bodies have been stored improperly. “It was my omission that after relocation I didn’t visit [the dispensary] again to make sure the bodies are kept in proper conditions,” wrote the prime minister on her Facebook page.
The minister’s response to the situation caused a lot more criticism and public rage. People weren’t happy with Avanesyan’s appointment in the position from the beginning as a minister of health with a background in law didn’t inspire high hopes.
Anahit Avanesyan was appointed the minister of health five months ago and hasn’t contributed to the field in any significant way. Awarded with a Medal for the Service to Motherland in April for some vague reasons, the minister is now caught up in a scandal.
This should have cost Avanesyan her position if she didn’t consider the improper storage of the bodies of fallen soldiers to simply be ‘an omission.”
As a response to the absence of a proper clarification and apology by the government and the absurd statement of the Minister of Health, Arsen Ghukasyan, the moderator of the Facebook page “Ray of Light” ( a group of parents whose sons are missing) published a video depicting the dreadful conditions the bodies are kept in.
Against the background of public criticism and rage, the Ministry of Health released a statement on June 2 according to which two employees involved in the process of keeping the bodies and remains in improper conditions were fired.
The institution received a severe reprimand.
Everyone agrees, however, that it is not the employees to be blamed for the situation in the first place.
Anna Vardapetyan, appointed assistant to prime minister only recently, on March 2, is at the center of one of the biggest political scandals since the start of 2021.
Ruben Hayrapetyan’s lawyer Amram Makinyan has reported the case to the National Security Service of Armenia. The lawyer hopes that the NSS will investigate the case properly.
With so much responsibility, it is not surprising that parliament members are severely criticized when they fail.