Pashinian’s cabinet approved last week a three-month call-up of more than 1,440 army reservists which will start on August 1. It cited the need to reinforce the armed forces with skilled and combat-ready personnel.
Gegham Manukian, an opposition leader, said on Friday that he knows of several dozen opposition activists who have since received summonses from military commissariats dealing with mobilization.
“We are now putting together all data to see which military commissariats are especially active,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Manukian linked the development with an effective order which a senior pro-government lawmaker issued to the country’s security apparatus on May 5 five days after the Armenian opposition began daily antigovernment protests in Yerevan.
Andranik Kocharian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, suggested that many of the protesters detained by riot police evade compulsory military service or periodical call-ups of army reservists. Speaking at a committee meeting in Yerevan, he said law-enforcement agencies should “collect personal data of these citizens and pass them on to the Armenian Defense Ministry.”
High-ranking police and military officials attending the meeting backed the idea condemned by human rights activists as illegal and despicable.
Armen Avtandilian, the chief of the Defense Ministry’s mobilization service, claimed on Friday that Kocharian’s remarks did not affect the choice of military-age males who will perform the three-month service. “There is nothing political,” he said.
Manukian insisted, however, that Pashinian and his team are keen to punish active participants of the rallies and discourage other Armenians from joining more street protests planned by the country’s main opposition groups.
In his words, many of these reservists called up by the Defense Ministry are affiliated with his Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party. They include his son Taron, who was recently arrested along with several other opposition activists on assault charges strongly denied by them.
“Guys, are you really completely unaware of the situation?” Manukian said, appealing to military authorities. “My son is in prison. Go and see him in prison if you want to.”
Taron Ghazarian, the leader of Dashnaktsutyun’s student organization who participated in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, has also received his military call-up papers. He has pledged to show up at his local recruitment center next week.
“I definitely link this with Andranik Kocharian’s infamous statement,” Ghazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The young man, who has been repeatedly detained during the protests, said the authorities have also called up several of his friends in order to “keep us away from the opposition movement.”
“I believe that these people [in power] have turned the army, in addition to the law-enforcement system, into a political tool in their hands,” he charged.
The Armenian military has never been accused in the past of deliberately going after opposition supporters in its recruitment efforts.