The Ministry of Agriculture’s Technical Plant Experimental Station wants to evict two families who have been living in one of its buildings. Family members used to work at the Station.
The large families have stayed put since they have nowhere else to go. In response the Station cut off electricity a week ago and the gas was shut earlier this month.
The building in question where the Naltakyan family (14 members) and the Shahnazaryan's (33 members) now reside is near the town of Abovyan.
“How can we be persecuted so? Do you cut the electricity from a family with so many little kids? We can’t even boil water for tea,” says an irritated Zhora Naltakyan.
Zhora Naltakyan worked for the Tobacco Experimental Station as a mechanic from 1984-2002. He was allocated a 20 square meter room but it proved too small for the 7 member family at the time.
He requested larger accommodations and the Station decided that the family could temporarily reside in the warehouse until a permanent resolution was found. The family still lives in the warehouse.
Samvel Yeghiazaryan came on board as the new Station director in 2000 and, according to Naltakyan, gave an additional two rooms to the family which had grown over the years. The boys had grown up, married, and now had families of their own.
Yeghiazaryan now denies that he gave those additional rooms and claims in his eviction suit that the Naltakyan's moved in illegally.
The other family facing eviction is the Shahnazaryan’s. Emma Shahnazaryan shows us her “Hero Mother” award for raising 12 kids. Ten have served in the Armenian army.
The Shahnazaryan’s moved here from Shamshadin in 1988 to work in the Tobacco Experimental Station. They were moved to the building and have lived here ever since.
Other families also lived in the same building but the company later relocated them to other housing. The Shahnazaryan family was too large to relocate.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Tobacco Experimental Station was re-launched as the Technical Plant Experimental Station. It owns 47 hectares of land of which only 3 are used to grow various sorts of tobacco, flax and soy.
Station Director Yeghiazaryan states that the organization no longer has the resources to implement grant projects that would bring large revenues to Armenia. He says the Station’s foreign partners have proposed that our specialists come up with tobacco sorts for cigar making, but that this also demands certain infrastructure.
Yeghiazaryan has told the court that the two families are illegally occupying the Station’s laboratory and even after several warnings, have refused to vacate the premises. He adds that the families have also taken over the adjacent land and have turned it into an auto repair shop.
Yeghiazaryan also claims that the Shahnazaryan’s also destroyed all the Station’s files back in 2005 and cut the support columns to the attic.
The director says the Station needs the building to house scientific samples and claims that the Station pays the annual property tax for the families.
But he is adamant that the time has come for them to go. Yeghiazaryan says it’s the decision of the government because the Station is officially registered as an SNOC (state non-commercial organization).
The Station’s eviction suit also demands that the court obligates the Shahnazaryan family to pay 70,000 AMD in compensation for destroying the files. The Station is also seeking 70,000 AMD in compensation from the Naltakyan’s for damaging a structural wall and destroying a unique stove.
Emma Shahnazaryan says he’s lying and argues that no one burned the archive and that it was transferred to the new administrative building.
Takoush, Zhora Naltakyan’s wife, substantiates Emma’s claim and says that when they arrived on 1996 there was no archive no speak of.
In the end, the court partially found in favour of the Station and issued an eviction notice.
When Hetq asked Director Yeghiazaryan why the Station allowed the families to live on its premises for so long, he said he didn’t know.
He also couldn’t explain why the two families were officially registered as residents of the buildings that belong to the Ministry of Agriculture
The director also didn’t seem too concerned as to where the families would go to live.
“Let them sell a few of their cars and buy a place,” Yeghiazaryan said about the Shahnazaryan’s.
In fact the family only owns one car and they are still paying off the loan.
Hetq then spoke with Gourgen Avagyan, who’s the temporary chief of the legal department at the Ministry of Agriculture. We asked him the same questions.
Avagyan also couldn’t explain the legal basis as to why the families had been living for years at the Station.
“All I can say is that the organization has now filed to utilize its administrative space and that the families must vacate,” Avagyan said.
The Naltakyan's and the Shahnazaryan's say they are ready to buy the place, bit by bit, if the Station decides to sell
Avagyan responded that the Station would never have gone to court in the first place if it regarded the building as worthless.
“If they don’t agree with the court’s verdict, they can always appeal,” said Avagyan.
The families say they don’t have much confidence that appealing will change anything and that, in any case, they can’t afford to hire a lawyer.
Instead, they petitioned the Abovyan Municipality but were told that the site isn’t town property.
The Naltakyan’s have even gone to the Ministry of Agriculture to complain and have met with Minister Sergo Karapetyan. Yesterday, they went as well but weren’t allowed in to see the minister, so they waited outside to catch him as he left the building.
Karapetyan briefly stopped and said he hadn’t given the order to shut off the electricity or the gas. The minister then rushed into a waiting car.
“All I ask is that the prime minister or the president resolves this for us. Otherwise, there’ll be a lot of people turned out into the street,” Zhora Naltakyan said.