Armenian women have been allowed to apply to the country’s two main military academies for the first time as part of ongoing reforms of the Armenian armed forces.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan announced late last week that “physically strong” women aged 18 and older will now be eligible to study in the Vazgen Sarkisian Military Institute, which prepares officers for ground forces, and Marshal Khanperiants Aviation Institute. It said female applicants have to submit relevant documents by July 1.
A Defense Ministry statement also said that strong health and good high school marks in physics and mathematics will be the key requirements in the selection process.
Artsrun Hovannisian, the ministry spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday that the landmark measure is aimed at promoting gender equality in Armenia and stems from ongoing reforms designed to bring the Armenian army into greater conformity with NATO standards. He said a larger number of female officers will “make the atmosphere in the armed forces more civilized.”
Hovannisian clarified at the same time that some military specialties will remain off limits for Armenian women. In particular, he said, they are not yet allowed to study at academy departments that train officers for tank and artillery units. But women can now become air force pilots or officers serving in air-defense or reconnaissance units, the official said.
According to the Defense Ministry, the total number of female soldiers and officers in the Armenian army stood at over 1,400 as of last November. The vast majority of them are believed to hold clerical positions in the ministry, army detachments and other military structures.
Still, the number of women performing combat roles appears to have risen in recent years. They mainly serve as snipers in special army detachments. The Defense Ministry’s “Hay Zinvor” newspaper interviewed several of them for an extensive article published earlier this year.
Armenian women also participated in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. Eighteen of them died in action in Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The military reported late last year 115 women currently have the official status of war veterans.