Monday, June 20, 2005

The government has forgotten about them
[June 20, 2005]

Armenian men take advantage of a mentally disabled girl

“One day my sister Arus came with a girl, her name was Anna. Arus said ‘She'll be your wife.' I slept with Anna that day. She was my first girl. I haven't been with a woman since,” 24-year-old Arsen Gevorgyan told us, the second time we met.

Arsen was twenty at the time. Some time later, his sister Arus and Anna left for Dubai with the help of a recruiter named Gayane from Bangladesh . Gayane sold them to a pimp called Nano (aka Horse Nano), and they have been working as prostitutes ever since. Three years ago Arus was working as Nano's slave; she barely managed to send $50-100 dollars to her brother and sister in Yerevan . A year ago she ran away, unable to put up with the pimp's cruelty any longer, and is now living with a local Arab. She wants to come back to Armenia , but does not have a passport. When Armenian prosecutor Aristakes Eremyan was in Dubai she told him her story. He knows that Nano has Arus's passport. But he hasn't done anything about it.

Gayane is an experienced recruiter. She finds socially vulnerable families, who don't have money for food, and invites the girls to “enjoy the beautiful life of Dubai .”

Arus has been responsible for her brother and sister since her parents died, he father fifteen years ago, her mother more recently. After her mother died, neighbors say, their house became the site of a constant party. “Guys and girls would come and get drunk, disturb everyone,” said an old woman who lived nearby.

“I went to Dubai for my brother and sister. They don't understand that yet; they don't know what kind of work I do,” Arus said on the phone from Dubai . “But I'm tired, how long do I have to take care of them? I wish there was a place I could put them, so I wouldn't have to worry about them any more.”

Arus is 25 year old, her brother Arsen is 24, and their younger sister Gohar is 20. They all went to Nork's Boarding School #2.

“All three are ill; they have a certain degree of mental disability, which is getting worse as they get older. Their mother was sick, too,” said Samvel Ghazaryan, head of the special school. “They were living in Charbakh. When Arusyak finished 8th grade, her mother took the other two children out of school and said that her daughter would take care of them. After that, we never heard from them again.”

Two years ago, after their mother died, the three children sold their house in Charbakh and bought an apartment in Aeratzia. This past March, Arsen and Gohar became homeless. Arsen spent fifteen days in the local cemetery; Gohar stayed wherever she could.

They had been forced out of their apartment by Arus's boyfriend, Karen, Arsen told us. “Arusik would send $100 every month from Dubai. At first, Karen gave us $ 50, then only 10,000 dram (about $20),” he explained.

Eventually, Arsen and Gohar ran into a nurse from the school they had gone to, Anush. She took them back to her trailer. They are living there with Anush's family today. “We tried to find a job for Arsen but he couldn't do it,” Anush said. “ If he does any physical work, he gets tired and weak. He probably has some other illnesses too.”

“My lungs hurt, I can't breathe,” Arsen added. “I had a lung disease when I was a kid.”

Anush met with Karen to find out why he had forced kicked the brother and sister out. “Karen told me that he had bought the apartment from Arusik for $15,000 and had sent her the money in Dubai,” she said.

When we went to Arsen's apartment, there were workers there renovating it. We spoke to Marine Sarsgyan, the treasurer of the Shiraz condominium.“The apartment hasn't been sold,” she said. “The owner is Arusyak. If it had been sold, we would have been notified, since we need to draw up their papers for it. Their apartment has not been sold. They owe us 36,000 dram for our services. According to the passport registry, there are two people registered in that apartment. One is the owner, Arusyak Gevorgyan, and the other is her brother, Arsen.”

Gohar does not have a passport; Arsen's shows him as a resident of Aeratzia 5/21. He insists he never signed any papers connected with the sale of the apartment.

“We don't really talk with them much, “ said a neighbor, Jenik. “But I feel sorry for them, nobody cares for them. The other sister was OK, she used to take care of them.”

The shopkeeper in the building where Arsen and Gohar lived said, “Despite the way they act, they're still human beings. I try to help them, I give them food. They owe me, they took some food and cigarettes from me till Arus sends them some money.”

When we met Karen, he told us he hadn't bought the apartment. “Arusik sent some money and asked me to fix the place up. So I'm fixing it up. She told me that Arsen and Gohar should rent a place. My interest is that I am making some money in the middle.”

Arsen and Gohar receive no government assistance, even though they have the legal right to both disability and family assistance pensions. Twenty-year-old Gohar has no documents, and Arsen is not capable of dealing with bureaucratic issues. When there is no money in the house, Gohar goes out on the streets and earns money as a prostitute.

“The first time Gohar was with a boy she was 18 year old,” Arsen said, hanging his head. “ She said that it was with a potato seller in the toilet at the Malatia market. She got 12,000 dram for it.”

Arsen says his sister earns 1,000-5,000 dram a day, so that they have enough to eat. Once, she got pregnant. “She went to the hospital, and had an abortion,” Arsen said.

“Do you tell your sister to stop going with these men?” we asked him.

“She says, ‘If I don't go what will we do?' I came home twice and saw my sister sitting with guys and drinking. I stabbed her with a knife, once in the leg, and once in the head. I told her not to do it, and I went to work on the farms. Once I came back and saw she was with some guys. I hade a fight with them, they beat me up. After that I beat Gohar up and threw her out of the house.”

If social workers in Shengavit took an interest in these disabled young people, then perhaps Gohar and Arus wouldn't be working as prostitutes today.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Aghavni Eghyazaryan

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