Draft dodgers unearthed

December 19, 1997

Armenia's ministry of defence is clamping down on young men who have enrolled as postgraduate students in order to avoid military service.

The tiny land-locked country in the turbulent Caucasus is anxious about its defence capacity, and expects all its young men to do military service. However, graduates under 26 who are proceeding to approved courses of postgraduate study are allowed to defer their draft. The list of those requesting deferment to study for masters or doctors degrees is drawn up by the ministry of education each year and submitted to the defence ministry. Under this procedure, 235 graduates have been granted deferment.

Some young men have bypassed this procedure and commenced postgraduate courses without defence ministry consent. Whether the institutions concerned were aware of their irregular status is unclear.

Most of them enrolled in the postgraduate department of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, which suggests that it is known on the draft dodgers' grapevine to be a safe haven.

The military authorities, however, tracked the defaulters down, and ordered them to report to recruiting offices.

The parents of the reluctant conscripts have turned to the media, claiming that their sons had been improperly drafted. The army is adamant: only the lucky 235 on the approved list were entitled to deferment - the rest must report for duty at the double.

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