Women abused in their homes, conscripts humiliated in the military, and children abused at schools. None of the above are new phenomena in post-Soviet Armenia. But that’s the impression one gets by observing Armenia’s social networking. Day after day, YouTube videos (largely shared through Facebook) emerge depicting human rights violations, followed by societal anger, activism, and some government action.
In early September 2010, a video emerged showing humiliation of two conscripts in Armenia’s military. Within one week, and after vociferous anger floating through Armenian accounts of YouTube and Facebook, the abusive career major was arrested. Less than a month after the military video, a video interview with a young woman (and her mother-in-law) describing her sister Zaruhi Petrosyan’s two-year abuse at the hand of the latter’s husband and mother-in-law resulting in Zaruhi’s death hit the Internet. Tens of thousands watched the video; over 3,000 signed a petition, sponsored by this author, to Armenia’s prime minister, demanding justice and swift passage of domestic violence legislation. And less than a week after Zaruhi’s video, a YouTube clip showing abuse of a middle-school kid in the classroom sparked more anger — resulting in the dismissal of the teacher.
None of the above human rights abuses are new to Armenia. But until recently, Armenian citizens have heard about these instances through unconfirmed rumors — state-controlled or self-censored media wouldn’t show these videos on TV and aggressive opposition newspapers are not a reliable source either.
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