YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia has fully met, and even exceeded, the target for enlistment to its conscription-based army this spring, according to the country’s defense minister.
“We have exceeded this target during each conscription period for already several years,” said Seyran Ohanian as he visited the country’s central military assembly point on Tuesday.
“Every citizen of the Republic of Armenia and every parent now treat conscription with greater responsibility and pride. Solemn farewell parties are even organized in many families, and we welcome this attitude,” said the minister.
Under Armenian law, all male citizens aged 18 must serve in the army for two years unless they suffer from serious illness or have two children. Those who are enrolled in a state-run university are drafted after they graduate. Deferment from military service is also granted to a limited number of male students who pursue postgraduate or doctoral studies.
Draft evasion was widespread in the early 1990s when Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of draft-age men fled the country at that time.
According to Armenia’s military officials, the number of draft dodgers has shrunk considerably in the past decade. However, army conscription has also encountered the problem of ‘deteriorating demography’ reflecting the decrease in the birth-rates in Armenia in the early 1990s. The government has sought to improve the situation lately through several initiatives, including the restriction of military service deferment eligibility and granting amnesty to draft dodgers provided they enlist for active military service or pay a hefty fine if they are past the draft age of 27.
The health condition of young men drafted to compulsory military service has been a separate concern of local specialists.
However, Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian, who also visited the assembly point on the outskirts of Yerevan on Tuesday, noted progress in the health conditions of the young draftees. “We have not heard doctors talking about serious problems today,” he said.
“Unfortunately, heart diseases are now more common at younger age, but we will look into this matter to identify the causes and to prevent such diseases in the future,” the minister added.
Chief of the central military registration and enlistment office Gagik Harutiunian described today’s conscript in the Armenian army as “a totally different one compared to what he used to be before.”
“Many problems have been solved in the army today, and this has instilled confidence in parents and conscripts,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL.