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Contents:


  • Tell Me About Temporary Things

  • Ned: My Roommate

  • Rich, The Milk Guy

  • God's Image

  • Armenian Attacks Against Devotees

  • Onions and Garlic and Mushrooms (Oh My!)

  • Prasadam

  • How to Get Prasadam

  • Hare Krishna on the Homefront



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  • In April of 1995 devotees were attacked by
    Armenian Police. These are the reports that came out from
    around that time.


    
    Persecution of Hare Krishna Members in Armenia
    ==============================================
    
    Introduction
    
    The following is a report prepared by ISKCON Communications Europe on the
    persecution of Hare Krishna members in Armenia. This case has been taken
    up by Amnesty International and a report on the following events has been
    prepared by the US embassy in Yerevan, which was included in the US
    Department of State's 1995 Human Rights Report on Armenia. The Swedish
    Foreign Office also included this case in their 1995 report. The case
    has also been reported to the Office for International Human Rights of the
    CSCE. A letter writing campaign directed at the President of Armenia was
    begun in September of this year and demonstrations have taken place at
    various Armenian embassies around the world.
    
    History
    
    The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON or the Hare
    Krishna Movement) was introduced to Armenia in 1981. Within a few years a
    group of some thirty to forty followers formed an association for the
    practice of their religion in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan.
    
    During the Soviet regime in Armenia, members of ISKCON lived under the
    constant supervision of the KGB, in hiding, on the run and later in
    prison and mental institutions.
    
    In 1985 and in 1986 the KGB orchestrated two court cases against  members
    of the society. As a result of these two cases eleven  Hare Krishnas' were
    imprisoned in State prisons, labour camps and psychiatric hospitals. Among
    them were Karen Saakian, Armen Saakian, Suren Karapetian, Sarkis
    Ogandzhanian, Gagik Buniatian, Agvan Arytyunian, Armine Hrtian, Ara
    Akopian and Armen Sarkisian.
    
    One of those imprisoned that time, Sarkis Ogandzhanian (23 yrs. of age),
    died on December 27th. 1987, from tuberculosis and malnutrition in  labour
    camp YU-25/"B" situated in the Orenburg Territory of the  Russian
    Republic. He had entered the camp as a perfectly healthy young man and he
    was due to have been released in January 1988.
    
    Another member, Martik Zhamkochian (25 yrs. of age), died in a psychiatric
    hospital in the Sovetashen District of Yerevan in July 1986. In the
    psychiatric hospital he was force-fed with raw eggs, which were
    administered through a tube and he was simultaneously injected  with large
    doses of psycho-pharmacological drugs. After several days  of such
    "treatment" he died.
    
    In 1985, in Sweden the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas was formed.
    The Committee publicised the violations against civil, religious and human
    rights surrounding the persecution of the Soviet Hare Krishnas. Many human
    rights organisations, such as Amnesty  International, Helsinki Watch,
    International Helsinki Federation for  Human Rights and The Committee for
    Human Rights in Eastern Europe took part in the campaign to free the
    Soviet Hare Krishnas.  Due to the efforts of the Committee and world-wide
    support for the campaign most of the Hare Krishna members imprisoned were
    released between 1987-1988.
    
    In 1989-90 the proposed transition to a more democratic society promised
    hope for religious freedom. In 1990 ISKCON was, for the first time,
    officially registered as a religion in Armenia. There are now about 250
    ISKCON members resident in Armenia and ISKCON maintains congregations in
    the towns of Gyumri, Kirovakan,  Eghnadzor, Kapan and Ashtarak.
    
    Social contribution
    
    Even before the official registration, ISKCON had started various
    religious and humanitarian programmes which included Hare Krishna Food for
    Life, a food distribution programme for the needy. In December 1988, three
    days after a devastating earthquake in Leninakan (now Gyumri)  a group of
    thirty Hare Krishna members (both from Russia and Armenia)  went to
    Leninakan and started free food distribution. The money for the programme
    was collected internationally. For about five months 1000 free  meals were
    distributed daily to the victims of the earthquake.
    
    Unfortunately the promise of religious tolerance was short-lived. Despite
    attempts by ISKCON members to make a positive social contribution and to
    live in peaceful co-existence with other religious communities; our
    members in Armenia have noted an increase in animosity towards them  which
    seemed to parallel an increase of nationalism and a revival of traditional
    religion. ISKCON's charitable activities have recently been prohibited by
    a direct order from Mr. Khachik Stamboltsian, chairman of the Supreme
    Council Commission on Refugees and Emergencies.
    
    In spite of the restrictions on ISKCON's free food distribution programme,
    ISKCON members continue to distribute 1,000 free meals each day in
    Armenia, especially in hospitals and among refugees.
    
    
    
    -------------------------------------
    
    
    
    On the 18th. April, 1995 at 3pm (local time) twenty or twenty-five unknown
    men stormed into the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple in Yerevan.
    
    At the time of the attack seventeen people were present in the temple.
    (eleven males, four females and three children). The thugs were armed with
    automatic weapons, submachine guns, guns, metal rods and metal chains.
    They arrived at the temple in three cars with no registration plates.
    
    The intruders immediately started to severely beat all the people present,
    kicking them and hitting them with metal rods. After a short time the
    ladies and children were thrown out of the house but  the male members
    continued to be beaten. Amongst those singled out for a more vicious
    assault were one invalid and a Russian national.
    
    As these assaults were taking place other members of this group were
    destroying the temple. They desecrated and destroyed the altar, the
    paraphernalia for worship, scriptures, paintings etc. All the windows and
    household fixtures were also damaged.
    
    The raid lasted about forty-five minutes and before they left the
    intruders stole everything of value that they could find. Three thousand
    US dollars in cash was stolen as were telephones, the fax machine, a
    computer, printer, modem, a video-camera, two video recorders, foodstuff,
    a small marble table and even pots from the kitchen. They robbed
    individuals' passports, wristwatches and even whatever small change they
    found in the pockets of their victims. They also tried to steal a car
    outside the temple but failing to do so they siphoned the petrol from it
    instead.
    
    The police were alerted several times by various people but, although they
    said that they would come no one arrived. In an effort to appeal for help
    one Hare Krishna member, covered in blood, went to the police station, but
    his petitions were ignored, except for one policeman who commented that
    this happened because the Hare Krishna members were deviating from the
    national tradition.
    
    Shortly after this incident  a well-dressed man walked into the temple and
    announced that this attack happened because the Hare Krishna followers did
    not adhere to the national Church. He then left in a Russian made Volga
    car without registration plates.
    
    Most of the people beaten were severely injured and had to receive
    hospital treatment. All of the male members sustained head injuries.
    
    
    
    
    ---------------------------------
    
    
    
    
    Recent problems in Armenia
    
    Below we chronologically document the more recent development of
    systematic harassment of Hare Krishna members, by priests of the majority
    Armenian Apostolic church, police and local government officials.
    
    July 10th., 1992 the Hare Krishna temple in Yerevan was attacked by
    arsonists. Temple members managed to extinguish the fire which damaged the
    temple building and two cars owned by ISKCON. ISKCON appealed to the
    Commission for Human Rights of the Supreme Council of Armenia and local
    police, but the complaint was ignored.
    
    In June 1993 a few members of the Society went to the Republic of Ngorno
    Karabakh to open a free food distribution centre for local people. On June
    12th. ISKCON members and Mr. L. Gulian, the Head of  the Department of
    Refugees and Humanitarian Aid reached an agreement  to co-operate together
    in order to help the region's under-privileged. Mr. Gulian promised to
    provide ISKCON with premises for their free food distribution in
    Stepanakert city and other settlements in the R.N.K.  In Stepanakert
    ISKCON was granted facility to distribute free food on the premises of a
    former restaurant. Within a month of the programme starting, a group of
    armed men broke into the premises and demanded, on behalf of the
    government, that our members leave  the country within 24 hours. ISKCON's
    members appealed to the State Minister Zirair Pogosian, who refused to
    help and actually declared support for the demands  of the intruders.
    
    On September 23 1993, Mikhael Unjugulian, a Krishna devotee was severely
    beaten before the inhabitants in his village of origin, Oshakan. His
    assailant was a priest from the local Armenian Orthodox Church, a Father
    Gevork.  A vain appeal for justice was made by the victim to the police in
    the Ashtrak region. His complaint was ignored. The incident was witnessed
    and can be verified by many inhabitants of  the village.
    
    In April 1994, thirty tons of religious books were dispatched from ISKCON
    in Moscow for the temple in Yerevan. The books were seized by  the customs
    at Masis station before they reached Yerevan.. Initially the Council for
    Religious Affairs instructed the customs station not to release the books
    but later claim to have written to ask them to release them. It should be
    noted that religious books do not require customs clearance in order to be
    imported into Armenia.
    
    After various attempts to secure possession of the confiscated books
    ISKCON members heard from reliable political sources that the literature's
    had been burned. Further information suggested that the order to burn the
    books came from the head of the Armenian KGB, David Shahnazarian.  They
    were reportedly burnt in the ovens of the thermal power plant in Yerevan,
    mixed with liquid fuel. Informants claim that this was done in reply to
    the international reaction to the reported persecution of Hare Krishna
    members in Armenia.
    
    On the 16th. March, 1995 a committee was formed comprising of the
    president of ISKCON in Armenia, a representative of the US Embassy in
    Armenia, the head of Customs, the head of the local station police and the
    head of the railway station in Masis. This committee proceeded to unlock
    the container of books. The container was opened and it was found to be
    empty.
    
    ISKCON in Armenia has lodged an official complaint regarding this but has
    been advised that it may not be wise to pursue the case seriously.
    
    On April 18, 1994 Hare Krishna member Artur Khachatrian was attacked  by a
    group of fifteen members of the Armenian Army in an Officer's Club in
    Yerevan. He was severely beaten and had to be hospitalised. The religious
    books he carried with him were burned. The case was reported to the police
    station in the Spandarian district of Yerevan. The appointed  police
    investigator was a Captain Asatrian who decided not to question  or arrest
    the offenders, although their names are known to the police.
    
    On July 4, 1994 two female members of the Hare Krishna Society in Yerevan,
    Anaite Arzumanian and Mariana Dorunz, travelled to the neighbouring town
    of Sisyan, to distribute religious literature and minister to local
    sympathisers. They were intercepted on route by two  priests of the
    Armenian Apostolic Church, Father Narek from Sisyan  and an American
    priest of the Avat Mission (a branch of the Armenian Apostolic church),
    Father Zenob. Supported by soldiers of the Armenian army, the priests
    confiscated more than 150 books and proceeded to light a  bonfire with
    them, an act which attracted much local attention. The priests and their
    supporters then forcibly ripped the clothing off the women, twisted their
    arms, tore their religious beads off their necks and threw these articles
    into the bonfire. This scene was witnessed by many of the local people.
    This  incident was reported to Mr. Robert Patterson of the American
    embassy in Armenia, and to the special correspondent of Espress-chronika
    in Armenia, Michail Dabasian.
    
    Krishna devotees appealed for justice in these cases to the Armenian
    Prosecutor and the Committee for Human Rights at the Armenian Supreme
    Soviet. The only response came from an investigator, Mr Kroian, which
    consisted only of a threatening commitment to investigate all Hare
    Krishna activities in Armenia.
    
    On July 26, 1994 another ISKCON member Karo Mkrtchian was seriously beaten
    and threatened with murder by six members of the Dashnaktzusyun  Party (a
    nationalist political party). Again any religious books or paraphernalia
    he carried were confiscated. He was also told that if he was seen again in
    the city after twenty four hours, he would be killed on the spot.
    
    On July 31, 1994 in the town of Goris a live phone-in interview  with the
    Patriarch of the South Armenian region, Bishop Abraham was  broadcast on
    the local state cable television. During the interview a question was
    raised about the status of ISKCON. The bishop replied that it was all the
    work of Satan and that the books sold by ISKCON represent a real social
    danger, diverting people from the path of God. He claimed to have formed a
    committee, in the local Cultural House for Youth with the aim of
    collecting all the ISKCON books from the population in exchange for free
    Bibles (this facility was also announced on local radio). He promised to
    burn publicly the collected literature.
    
    On August 28th. ten armed thugs stormed the Hare Krishna Temple in
    Yerevan. They completely vandalised the place of worship, desecrated the
    altar, and severely assaulted the temple President, Ivan Dallakian. The
    attack lasted more than twenty minutes. During the attack ISKCON members
    tried to report the attack to the police who only sent a police patrol to
    the scene after four attempts at trying to contact them. The police car
    only stayed long enough for the police officer to declare, "We are not
    going to protect people like you." After the incident, Ivan Dallakian
    himself called the  police and asked for protection. He gave the police
    the names and  addresses of the people who attacked the temple; but again,
    there was no sign of response from the police.
    
    On the morning of August 31st, the same people phoned and warned that they
    would come again at 19.00 hours. Temple members called the police at 17.00
    hours and requested protection. A police patrol arrived after a short time
    and stayed only fifteen minutes, explaining that they had no time to wait.
    At the appointed time four people  arrived at the temple. They started to
    abuse the temple residents and  threatened violence.  Before long a
    scuffle ensued and suddenly, after just a few moments, a fleet of fourteen
    police cars appeared on the  scene. The policemen surrounded the temple
    and arrested all the residents. Seventeen Hare Krishna members were taken
    into custody. In the police station the prisoners were abused and beaten.
    
    Subsequently sixteen of those arrested have been freed from the state
    prison.  They were, nonetheless, forced to stay under  house arrest for an
    unspecified investigation period. After a period of two months the charges
    were dropped.
    
    As a result of the attack on the temple one Hare Krishna member, Boris
    Agagabian, was hospitalised with head injuries and a severely damaged
    nose.  Another member, Mkrtchian Karo  has suffered severe head injuries,
    inflicted by a metal bar. Others also had to receive hospital treatment.
    
    On the 3rd. September a member called Grigorian Kamo was arrested by the
    local police and taken into custody. During the night he was badly beaten
    in his cell by the same policemen who had beaten the others on the 31st.
    On the 6th. September Grigorian Kamo was transferred to a psychiatric
    prison hospital. He has since been released.
    
    Media incitement 
    
    A mass media campaign was orchestrated against ISKCON in the last six
    months of 1994. The reportage was sensationalistic and sectarian. When Ara
    Akopian (an ISKCON member)  recently asked Voskan Maminonian, a
    correspondent from the Erkir newspaper,  why he published blatant lies
    about ISKCON, the correspondent replied,  "When a war is being fought
    against a political enemy, then all means  are to be used, both honest and
    dishonest."
    
    
    
    
    ------------------------------
    
    
    
    Update: March 1995
    
    After various attempts to secure possession of the confiscated books 
    ISKCON members heard from reliable political sources that the 
    literatures had been burned. Further information suggested that 
    the order to burn the books came from the head of the Armenian 
    KGB, David Shahnazarian. They were reportedly burnt in the ovens 
    of the Thermal power plant in Yerevan, mixed with liquid fuel. 
    Informants claim that this was done in reply to the international 
    reaction to the reported persecution of Hare Krishna members in 
    Armenia.
    
    On the 16th. March 1995 a committee was formed comprising of the 
    president of ISKCON in Armenia, a representative of the US Embassy 
    in Armenia, the head of Customs, the head of the local station 
    police and the head of the railway station where the books were 
    held. This committee proceeded to unlock the container of books. 
    The container was opened and it was found to be empty. ISKCON in 
    Armenia has lodged an official complaint regarding this but has 
    been advised that it may not be wise to pursue the case seriously.
    
    
    
    
    -----------------------
    
    
    Here are some other pages that deal with this situation:

    ISKCON World Review Article

    Will Chaotic Armenian Disaster Zone Lose Hare Krishna Food for Life?
    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL EXTERNAL ARCHIVE

    Religious Persecution in Armenia

    Armenia: Comments on the Initial Report Submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee