A controversial Armenian provincial governor on Wednesday strongly denied allegations that he ordered an assault on a hairdresser who refused to serve him at very short notice earlier this month.
“168 Zham,” a newspaper critical of the Armenian government, reported on Monday that Garik Sargsian, who governs the southern Ararat province, rushed to a local beauty salon to have his hair cut after being informed about Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s impending visit to the area. It said the salon’s owner and hairdresser, Serob Barfian, told Sargsian to wait until he finishes styling other clients’ hair.
The paper claimed that shortly after Sargsian left the salon located in his native village of Nor Kyank the governor’s driver attacked Barfian and told him to shut down his small business and stay away from Nor Kyank.
Sargsian strongly denied the report. “It’s a lie, slander,” he insisted on Wednesday. “I didn’t go to the hairdresser’s salon on that day.”
“I don’t have a driver to begin with,” he claimed, speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Barfian, who lives in the nearby village of Taperakan, could not be reached for comment. But his father Razmik essentially confirmed the newspaper report.
“The governor wanted to have his hair cut a little,” Razmik Barfian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Serob had a female client at that point, he is that woman’s hairdresser, and he replied that ‘I have a client and can’t receive you now.’ I don’t know what else he said but after that some guys came over and manhandled Serob.”
“Because of that both he and I decided that he should not work in Nor Kyank anymore,” he said, adding that his son now works as a hairdresser in Taperakan.
Sargsian claimed that the attackers are the hairdresser’s relatives and are not connected with him. The governor added that he has asked police to investigate the reported incident.
Sargsian, 32, is a senior member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party who served as Nor Kyank mayor from 2016-2018. He was appointed as Ararat governor in June 2018 following the “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinian.
The governor has repeatedly found himself in hot water during his tenure. Critics have accused him of incompetence, nepotism and arbitrary dismissal of local government officials. He has dismissed such claims.
In December 2018, Sargsian’s driver reportedly beat up Ararat’s then Deputy Governor Tigran Pasilian in what some Armenian media outlets called an attack ordered by the governor. The latter fired the driver but denied his involvement in the reported incident.
Sargsian said on Wednesday these scandals have been fabricated by “some centers” interested in his resignation. He indicated that he has no intention to step down.
The Armenian government and Civil Contract have not yet commented on the latest scandal. The ruling party’s governing board, of which Sargsian is a member, held a meeting in Yerevan late on Tuesday.