The June 29 death of an army doctor after a brutal beating by guards at a Yerevan restaurant has sparked an emotional outcry in Armenia against the use of private bodyguards.
But to most Armenians, these are no Kevin Costners. TV series and stereotypes alike depict private bodyguards as unthinking muscle machines, heavily adorned with gold jewelry, who automatically obey their “masters’” commands to inflict violence. Their existence, dating back to Soviet times, is seen by critics as a natural by-product of the corruption that plagues Armenian business and politics.
“They’re kind of morons, monster-like characters who would kill you if you dare approach them,” charged pollster Aharon Adibekian.
Thirty-three-year-old Vahe Avetian never regained consciousness after his June 17 beating by guards at Harsnakar, a Yerevan restaurant owned by Ruben Hayrapetian, the chairman of Armenia’s Football Federation and a parliamentarian for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia. Avetian, an army doctor, had gone to the restaurant for a party with friends and, reportedly, became embroiled in a verbal dispute with a waiter over the establishment’s dress code.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter in Yerevan and the editor of MediaLab.am.