Dressed For Death: Demonstrators Remember Beating Victim Vahe Avetyan
by Christian Garbis

July 2, 2012

YEREVAN (A.W.)-On June 30, several hundred people participated in a
candlelight vigil held at Harsnakar restaurant in Avan, the site where
three military doctors were beaten, one of whom, Major Vahe Avetyan,
died the day before from severe head trauma.

Photo by Anush Khachatryan The demonstration was organized by a
group calling itself the "Self-Determined Citizens of the Republic
of Armenia."

At first the demonstrators were on the sidewalk close by the restaurant
holding lit candles and posters reading, "I am Vahe Avetyan" and
"You can't get away with it."

Some demonstrators wanted to approach the restaurant and place candles
in the parking lot of the restaurant but the police initially blocked
their path. One of the organizers then convinced the police to let
a stream of people slowly approach.

The demonstration was peaceful, with people speaking to each other
quietly and lighting candles, while others wept and prayed. Anahit
Bakhshyan of the Heritage Party was visibly distraught when talking
to Civilnet.

"I am really tired of this lack of accountability," Bakhshyan said. "I
am disgusted by this situation but... at this moment, I can't find
the words. I can't find the way out, but I know this can't happen. I
know we have to do something, and if there's someone who knows what
to do I'll stand by him. But right now, I feel empty."

Armen Rustamian representing the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun also joined the

Rustamian (Photos by Anush Khachatryan) "The upper echelons of
the leadership must teach a lesson and certainly reiterate what is
demanded by law-that an obvious murder took place in public sight,"
Rustamian said. "If that is not explained, brought to light and
condemned... they will have to do something so that [the issue]
doesn't become complicated."

Some young people were able to approach the restaurant without gaining
notice of the police and wrote slogans in red spray paint on the walls,
such as "house of murder" and the word "oligarchs" crossed out.

When protesters realized that a wedding party was going on inside
the restaurant they approached the main entrance, which was guarded
by law enforcement officers, including high-ranking members of the
police department. When the police did not let protesters enter the
restaurant they began to chant "shame shame," chastising them for what
was perceived as an act of protecting the oligarchic establishment.

They also chanted the familiar slogan of the opposition-"Sergik go
away," referring to president Serge Sarkisian. The police formed a
human chain in front of the entrance and began to shove the protesters
away from the entrance. Some of the people from the wedding party
began to approach the entrance, which enraged the protesters even more.

The demonstration ended just after 10 pm and similar protests continued
Sunday in front of the Presidential Palace and Prosecutor General's
office. A memorial service was held for Avetyan on Monday afternoon.

"I am Vahe Avetyan" (Photo by Anush Khachatryan) That same evening
only a few hours after demonstrators left the scene Vartan Samvelyan
lieutenant colonel in the Armenian military entered Harsnakar with
the intention of blowing up the restaurant with explosives he was
carrying, as reported by Tert.am. He was arrested shortly thereafter
by the police and is under custody.

Harsnakar is a grand-scale restaurant and function hall owned by the
oligarch and member of parliament Ruben "Nemets Rubo" Hayrapetyan where
the wealthy have extravagant wedding parties. Hayrapetyan owns numerous
business ventures, among them the Bjni mineral water company (which
bottles Bjni and Noy), a hotel also called Harsnakar on Lake Sevan
and a bank. He is also the president of Armenia's Football Federation.

Although Hayrapedyan maintains he had no connection with the beating,
his own personal bodyguard, Garik Markaryan allegedly inflicted the
severe injuries on Avetyan.

Exactly what happened on June 17 between the quarrelers remains
unclear. Words were exchanged at two separate times between the
servicemen and staff over an apparent dress code violation, the second
conflict occurring after Avetyan returned to the premises having gone
home to change out of his athletic clothing. Just why Markaryan felt
obligated to severely beat Avetyan has yet to be revealed. Accounts
from eyewitnesses have yet to come to light, probably due to fear of
retaliation against them.

President Sarkisian was expected by many to publically convey his
condolences to the Avetyan family. Ironically, on Monday the Armenian
press published photos showing the president sitting side by side
with Hayrapetyan at the Euro Cup soccer championship game held July 1.