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A new law has been drafted in Armenia, proposing that male students should serve four months per year in the military while studying at university. Specifically, this would involve two non-consecutive two-month periods of service. The law would apply to students enrolled at Armenian universities pursuing both bachelors and masters degrees.
This law was presented to the Armenian government last week, as Armenian defense and education officials agree that the proposal would be an effective addition to Armenia’s new military draft system. The law has been approved by the Armenian National Assembly, and will officially become entrenched in Armenian law after a signature from President Serzh Sarkisian.
The law seeks to counter an increasing amount of student deferments and ensure every young man experiences equal treatment. Previously, male students that had a student deferment had to sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense, and would be required to serve in the military for three years upon completion of university studies. Those that did not defer were drafted for two years of military service upon turning 18.
There have been non-violent protests by students and others that disagree with this new law. Opponents claim the law will discourage many from seeking careers in science and other technical subjects, and over the long term will harm scientific development and progression in Armenia. The European Students’ Union calls the new law “unacceptable and deplorable.” The union worries that combining military participation with university study may lead to low grades and the possibility of mental health problems. The concern is that in the future, there will not be enough educated Armenians to fill technical scientific jobs, which could be detrimental to the economy and lead to an increase in emigration.
Government officials and lawmakers have suggested they are open to finding solutions to the concerns raised by the protestors. Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov said that a productive discussion is possible because both sides “hear each other” and want the best for the future of the country. He suggested that the protestors should work with the government by documenting their concerns and recommendations, so their interests can be reflected in future government decisions surrounding the new law.
The fact that the government is open to feedback from its citizens is commendable, as this embodies democracy in the truest sense, and will help create a solution that is potentially agreed upon by all parties involved. The ability of people to disagree with government policies and speak freely ensures freedom of speech and a free society. Given the new law will affect many young people, it is imperative that the solution to this controversial law will help to avoid the possibility of violent conflict and will consequently promote peace.