Monday, January 10, 2005


Today was a very depressing day for myself and Edik Baghdasarian, Editor in Chief of Hetq Online. Since 24 December we have been working on a special edition of Hetq that is due to go online on 12 January 2005. The edition will be dedicated to the homeless in Yerevan. Anyway, since 30 December we have been concentrating on one group of homeless in particular that is living in the open in a park situated right in the heart of the Armenian capital. Unlike many other homeless in Yerevan, they are not hidden away underground or in the main districts of the capital where foreigners rarely visit. They are quite visible to the authorities, the public and local and international NGOs.

Yet, nobody seems to care about them.

The group varies in size but as we've been visiting almost on a daily basis, we can quite categorically state that there is a core group of five people that sometimes increases in size to six or seven. Three of this core group are volunteer fighters from Karabagh. Edik knows this is true because he was also in Karabagh during the war. As horrible as the plight of the homeless is throughout the world, what makes Armenia different is that there are no organizations -- local, international or Diasporan -- that work with the homeless in Yerevan. Even in neighboring Georgia, a shelter for the homeless was opened in 1999 by the Pope of all people.

In 2003, the ARF-D attempted to push for a shelter to be opened in Yerevan so serious is the problem but it would appear that the authorities are dragging their feet on the matter. Even the Yerevan Mayor's Office refuses to accept that homelessness is a problem in the city.

There is an URGENT need for an organization to work with the homeless in Yerevan. Estimates for their numbers vary between 500-1000 individuals of which we know definitely of around 60-70 in just two weeks of working on the subject matter. However, what has concerned us prior to the special issue of Hetq Online due on 12 January is that in this group that we know living in a park in the center of the city, there is an urgent need for someone to step in immediately to prevent what we consider to be the likelihood of two individuals, Bash and Raffik dying this week.

The temperature during these past two days has plumetted and today, there was a noticeable deterioration in the health of Bash, a sixty year old with swollen feet who can not walk, and Raffik. The latter burnt his hand severly in a fire and runs the risk of infection in the wound in addition to looking as though he is unable to endure the sub zero temperatures at night for much longer. Unfortunately, the problem is that hospitals in Yerevan refuse to see the homeless. Instead, as is the case every year, the homeless are left to die on the streets.

In December alone we think that as many as 20 people died on the streets and we really don't want to see that number increase. Today, however, we have to admit that we are concerned that the death toll will increase by two very, very soon and we URGENTLY need to find a doctor who is willing to visit and examine these two cases in particular. As I said at the beginning of this note, there are no organizations dealing with the homeless in Armenia and while there is the need for someone to deal with this problem, the most immediate concern is getting a doctor.

The authorities don't care -- plain and simple. It is easier just to let the homeless to die. At the moment, Edik is personally treating Raffik's hand, changing the bandages, applying cream etc but the cold weather has now seen a deterioration in Raffik's general health. Bash has always been a concern and is almost certain not to survive the winter. If any individual or organization knows of a doctor in Yerevan who is willing to visit and treat these two cases please contact Edik Baghdasarian at Hetq Online urgently. Edik can be reached at or telephone (3741) 563 149.

We were hoping that the special issue of Hetq Online due on 12 January might draw attention to their plight (there is already a photostory online at: but to be honest, from visiting this one group today, I'm not sure that Raffik and Bash will survive that long. Really, I consider the matter of the utmost urgency and it amazes me that with all this money coming into Armenia as humanitarian aid that such a visible group can be ignored for so long.

Makes me question the effectiveness of that assistance to be honest and I have to wonder how much of it is actually spent on improving the social situation in Armenia and how much just goes on perks, salaries, restaurants, apartments, 4 wheel drives and the rest of it.

Thanks to anyone who can help,

Onnik Krikorian

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