10 նոյեմբեր, 2017 08:54

Armenian Students Protest Against Banning Deferments from Military Service

Hundreds of Yerevan State University students are boycotting classes this week in protest of a proposed law banning deferments from Armenia’s mandatory two-year military service.

Currently, Armenian university students on government scholarships can postpone their service until after completing their undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.  

Under the new bill, deferments would be granted only to students who undergo parallel military training and serve in the army as officers for three years after graduation.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry says the law would close a loophole for avoiding military service and would reduce corruption among military and university officials. But critics argue the bill would prevent many students from pursuing higher degrees, stunting Armenia’s academic and scientific advancement.

On November 7, hundreds of students skipped classes to protest the law. In response, campus officials locked the doors to a university building to prevent protestors from recruiting others to join their demonstration.

The university’s actions invited widespread public criticism, and did little to subdue the rallies, which have grown throughout the week.

On November 9, Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan met with protest leaders, who are demanding withdrawal of the draft law. Minister of Defense Vigen Sargsyan, who initiated the reform, and Minister of Education Levon Mkrtchian were also present at the meeting.

Karapetyan defended the proposed measure and suggested the students submit amendments to the law after it’s passed. Parliament approved an initial reading of the bill, and plans to vote on a final draft by year end.

The Government’s initiative reflects the challenges of Armenia’s shrinking population, and the need for increased security on its borders with Azerbaijan and in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the past decade, Armenia’s population shrank by nearly 10 percent and approximately 350,000 people left the country mainly in pursuit of social and economic opportunities. Armenia has a population of 2.9 million, according to the National Statistical Service.