Retreat is Beginning of New Life

By Syuzanna Ghukasyan

"My husband was not in Armenia. He was in Russia when my father-in-law broke into my room when I was half-naked and tried to abuse me.  Facing my resistance and fearing that I would tell everyone, he invents a story that he saw his daughter-in-law with another man." 

 These are the words of 37-year-old N. Vardumyan. She lives in Achajur village in Tavush province. She remembers the pain during every single day she spent at her husband's house. Two years have passed since she separated from her husband. She says she is happy to be alive and free, but often recalls the past.

She and her two daughters now live with her parents, and she works at a pharmacy. Her biggest concern is her son, who still lives with her ex-husband’s family and he is not allowed to see his mother and sisters.

 According to Vardumyan, after the first incident with her father-in-law, she was continually abused physically and psychologically. Her father-in-law spread the false story of infidelity among relatives, friends and neighbors. He also beat her with an iron rod in front of her mother-in-law, who didn’t protest. After this incident, they kicked her out of the house. They also telephoned their son in Russia and told him his wife was unfaithful. She said her husband trusted his parents and took their side against her.

Her mother Lena Safaryan says her daughter often found her husband's brother drunk and asleep in her room, but this unusual behavior was always excused by the man's mother.    “The whole family is uneducated, disorderly, and impudent, and I am happy that my child left them,” Safaryan said.

Her parents say their daughter's life was endangered by her husband. “He could have killed our daughter. He often called and threatened her," said Lena Safaryan.

Vardumyan said she married her husband in 2002 at the age of 19. They didn’t know each other well, although they came from the same village and their families liked each other from a distance. “My family thought that he was an attractive and fascinating person, and it would be good for me to marry him,” Vardumyan said.

She blames her parents for her early marriage. “Now I say: 'I was the only girl, I was just a child, just a 19-year-old naive girl. Why did you tell me to get married?'" But she doesn't think her age was the only problem in her marriage. 

She says in the beginning the relationship with her husband was good but deteriorated because of her mother-in-law’s interference.  Day-by-day her life became a nightmare. Her husband would come home drunk and beat her. Her mother-in-law supported him. "Who needs a weak man?" she would say.  The abuse was happening during the night and in front of the children. “My kids were crying, kissing my hands and begging me to calm down,” Vardumyan says.

 They got married one year after their first child Arman was born. It took several years for her to realize their abusive relationship didn’t have a future and was harming her children. Speaking from experience, she now advices her two daughters to enjoy life now and get married only when they are ready and know the person well.

Vardumyan’s daughters only remember crying, fear, and tension when living at their father's home.

"Our happy days are here. The little joyful moments we remember from there are related only to our mother," says Liana, now 15. Nara, 12, says she is happy living with her grandmother and her uncle's family. Both sisters want to become programmers.   They worry about their brother, who they say dropped out of school because his father's family forced him. The girls think their brother wants to come and live with them but is afraid of their father.

Lena Safaryan is glad her son’s family accepted her daughter and her children. “Now I have my five grandchildren around and we are happy together," she said. "My daughter's son is not with us yet but hope he will join us.” 

Her father, 66-year-old G. Vardumyan, says "I bite my lip and squeeze my fists. Otherwise I would go and kill those degenerate family members who did such a terrible thing with my daughter."

According to Varduhi Melikbekyan, a neighbor to the ehusband's family, said Vardumyan is an amazing woman with whom the neighbors always had a great relationship. “We are very glad she was saved from that silly family and went away," Melikbekyan said.

Vardumyan applied to the court for divorce, but she did not file a complaint against her husband's family for being slandered and beaten. She fears her husband will mislead their son and keep him ever further from her.

She has contacted ''Young Tavush'', a youth NGO that protects human rights. Manush Maralchyan is working on the case but said it has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maralchyan said her organization give free consultations to victims of violence and scrutinize the victim's situation in detail in order to provide appropriate free legal, psychological, and other assistance.

Psychologist Inga Manukyan cooperates with the NGO. She will come from Yerevan to Tavush region to meet Vardumyan and her son as soon as the COVID-19 quarantine is over.