An interview with Jirair Sefilyan's wife, Nanor Barseghyan
Did the authorities really see Jirair as a threat?
Of course they did. Jirair's group was going to grow, gain strength and get involved in political developments - it was going to end up as quite a potent force. The authorities were afraid of that. There are direct and indirect reasons behind everything – this was the direct reason for his arrest. There were many indirect factors, for example the Javakhk issue, or mutual compromise in the Karabakh conflict. If the authorities decide to compromise on such issues, they will face more opposition than they expect, and it won't be just talk.
How long do you think they will hold Jirair?
I think that it could be until the elections, maximum.
What are the conditions like at the National Security Service detention facility?
Jirair says that it's good, but I didn't see anything good there. But they treat him well; I was surprised that they were very polite. At times, someone else brings a parcel to him that I've authorized and they accept it. There are certain food items that the others can't have, but because I've told them that Jiro is on a specific diet, they've allowed it. There was only one incident involving a letter – they wanted to open a letter to Jiro which the lawyer had with him, but the lawyer tore it up and didn't let them see it.
What is the cited reason behind the refusal to grant Jirair's request for citizenship?
The authorities don't cite any reasons. We've only received a statement from the President's Office that our request has been refused. According to the law, we can reapply in a year. I requested a passport at the registration office two years ago, but was refused. They said that I know as well as they do why the application was rejected. They also said that they have personal files on us in the National Security Service. Even my child has not been given a residency permit. The Foreign Ministry has given me a residency permit only because I work at the Lebanese Embassy. There was a time when they would grant Jirair and our whole family a three-year visa and deliver it to our doorstep for free.
Is it possible that Jirair will be exiled from Armenia?
I think exile is out of the question. Hrayr Maroukhyan was exiled during Levon Ter Petrossyan's time. At that point, the Diaspora Armenians lost their faith inArmenia, saying that only the name had changed, but Soviet-style rule continued. It took a long time after that for the authorities to regain the trust of the Diaspora. If they want to ruin their relations with the Diaspora once and for all, let them exile Jirair. But I think that is out of the question.
How has the Diaspora reacted to all this?
The authorities have kept things quiet, but in reality the Foreign Ministry receives letters of protest every day – if not more than once a day – fromLebanon,Syria,France,Germany, North and South America as well asAustralia. Letters are coming in from everywhere to protest, protest, protest.
Has the Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutyun reacted in any way?
What was the reason for Jirair's expulsion from the ARF?
Jiro was expelled when he was platoon commander in Mataghis. His membership had been frozen before he was expelled, because by law the party membership of anyone is frozen when he is in military action. He was expelled before he left the army. They say that the reason was that he did not follow the rules of the Dashnaktsutyun.
What are the developments on Jirair's alleged possession of an illegal weapon?
That weapon is not illegal. He received that as a gift from the leadership of the Karabakh army. It has a registration number and a permit. It's just that the permit term expired three years ago and Serzh wouldn't renew it. Jirair has had a gun since he was 12; he even fought to defend the Armenian districts during the civil war inBeirut. Both he and I had guns – as did everyone - inLebanon. Guns are like a part of his body, but he never used a weapon in a restaurant, at a wedding or any other party. Let them know Jirair well. They are here today, gone tomorrow.
But there will always be Jirairs in this nation. That's how history is – and it's the Jirairs who make history. I'm not saying this because Jirair is my husband, but because I've seen his suffering and torture during his best years, when he was supposed to work and build his future. Even if Jirair does not have any financial base today, he has lots of moral support. That is true wealth, but you have to understand that. Naturally, people who drive Hummers cannot understand that, and we don't even want to try and explain it to them. There is no need. In 1995, a Russian journalist asked Shamil Basayev, “Where have you faced defeat?” He replied, “In 1994, I saw defeat in Martakert, and then suffered an even bigger loss in Fizuli at the hands of the Dashnaks .” Jiro was the platoon commander of the Dashnaks at that time. Basayev said, “If I'd had twenty boys like the Dashnaks, I would've conquered the whole ofRussia.” Jirair's platoon had captured a mujahideen in Martakert. Shamil Basayev left the war and said,
“These people are fighting with belief in their territories, while those on my side do not believe that this land belongs to them. The land is running out from under them.” All this has been recorded and archived. I'm now searching to see which newspaper that was in, which year and on what date. I'm going to take it out, print it, and put it up on walls everywhere so that people get to know who Jirair is if they don't know him yet. If we feel safe today, it is thanks to them. The president owes his position to men like them.
What were Jirair's relationships like with Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan in the past?
When Kocharyan was going to be elected for the first time, Jirair was a guest at his home. He said that we should elect Kocharyan. He was convinced that Kocharyan would not go for compromise in the Karabakh conflict and would saveArmeniaand Karabakh. He convinced his circle that Kocharyan would be good forArmeniaand Karabakh. But right after theKey Westsummit and other meetings, everything became clear. It was at that time that a reporter asked Jirair, “In which military positions have you seen Kocharyan?” and he said, “I have not seen him in any military position.” This hurt Kocharyan. He hadn't expected this from Jirair. His relationship with Serzh also suffered then, or perhaps a little later. Serzh has said that he has nothing to do with Jirair's arrest. If neither Serzh nor Kocharyan is involved, I wonder who is. Everyone is trying to blame someone else. Why?