YEREVAN—Despite continuing protests by university students, Armenia’s Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill on military service that restricts draft deferments and mandates 18-year-old men to join the army.
The measure was supported by 86 members of the 105-seat parliament with six opposing the bill.
The bill stipulates that students who seek deferment from service at 18 would be required to sign a contract with Armenia’s Defense Ministry to serve in the armed forces for three years after completion of their studies, instead of the two-year service mandated for those who enlist at 18.
Soon after the passage of the bill by the parliament, three members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, among them the parliament deputy speaker, Edward Sharmazanov, met with the students who had been staging protests for week and escalated their campaign Tuesday when five of them declared a hunger strike.
After meeting with the Republican Party of Armenia delegation, whose members pledged to organize a roundtable discussion to address issues related to the enactment of the legislation, the students called off their strike and agreed to attend the meeting.
A five-person delegation from the protesting students met with Sharmazanov and his colleagues behind closed doors and emerged to announce the end to their strike and protests until the roundtable discussion, which is scheduled for November 22.
Davit Petrosyan, one of the five that attended the meeting, announced their decision to halt the protests.
“We are trying to be as constructive as possible and contribute to the formation of our civil, political culture. And our top goal is to have a positive impact. At this moment we consider this to be the best option among possible options and declare that all those people who would like to be present at the round table as our representatives can contact us. We are ready to sit down with everyone to discuss the format so that people who really have arguments can have an opportunity to present them,” said Petrosyan as reported by Azatutyun,am.
“As for the hunger strike, the hunger strike was, of course, a means to make our voice heard. At this moment, this means has worked and that’s why it is necessary to stop it and get ready for the round table,” added Petrosyan, who said that after the roundtable his group will decide on future plans and action.
Last week the protesters met with Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who was accompanied by Education Minister Levon Mkrtchyan and Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan. The three ministers told the students that their proposals would be taken into consideration during the implementation phase of the legislation.