Many old houses located in the historical center of Yerevan started to be totally destroyed after the construction boom that took place in Armenia in the mid-2000s. Their inhabitants are progressively evicted by the real estate promotors, with the complicity of local authorities.
By Arsaluis Mghdesyan
Street Yeznik Kogbatsi, the house of the family Manukian is one of the last reminiscence of the old town of Yerevan. The tiny two-storey house, made of wood, is now surrounded by two recently built, luxurious and high buildings. The laundry dries in the sun, near by construction work.
The family Manukyan arrived in Yerevan in 1915 from Western Armenia -now considered to be part of Turkey-, partly to to flea the genocide. They bought this house located in he historical center of Yerevan, and lived there since more than three generations.
« In 2000, the Government of Armenia declared the area of ‘preponderant public interest’ », recalls Armenuhi Manukian, a fifty-something lady owning the property, with anger in her voice. In Armenia, if a piece of land in considered as « priority of public interest », it means that the demolition process is on.
The Island Of Old Yerevan
The story of the family Manukian is not the only one in the country. Over the last decade, lots of old houses were destroyed because of economical ambitions of private investor and corruption of the state. Armenuhi saw all her neighbours progressively forced to leave the area, without getting any appropriate compensation.
« My house with the land of nearly 1002m worths 13 million drams -about $ 35,000-. And the state sells pieces of land, stolen from people like me, for 3000 dollars », she said.
« Judicial courts, mayor’s office and other state institutions repeatedly violated my rights in my fight to save the Island Of Old Yerevan », affirms Armenuhi. She explains that her and her family were regularly threatened to death, if not leaving the house. But Armenuhi will « never surrender. »
Manukian’s family in the fight for their rights has gone through all the courts of Armenia.
Without any success. « I have no any option except to appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, » she thinks. She asks for a financial compensation of 200 000 dollars. In front of the European instance, Armenuhi wants to defend her case, arguing she is victim of « ethnic discrimination », since her mother is Kazakh and Muslim.
« I want to tackle this issue of discrimination. I have often spoken to the employers of construction company and they told me ‘Why you do not go back to your Kazakhstan, why did you came here ?’ » Her last hope : « European justice », she says.