In the aftermath of a controversial interview on literature and religion conducted by Hetq online with the exiled Armenian author Armen Melikian, the Chief of the Publications Bureau at the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, Mr. Gagik Khachatryan, issued the following threat against the author: “Should you one day come across me in my holy fatherland, I’ll make sure that you eternally vanish from my nation’s sight as a disfigured and forgotten member of my race.” The threat was posted on the official’s personal Facebook page on June 20 around 7:00 p.m. Yerevan time.
Melikian has received several hundred death threats from Armenian citizens over the last six months, mainly from Orthodox Armenian adherents believed to be incited to anger by religious leaders and officials, as well as members of fundamentalist Christian sects which have made inroads into Armenia following its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, embarking on a rampant proselytization campaign.
A charismatic clergyman, Father Komitas Hovnanian, widely known as a spokesman for Catholicos Garegin II, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, recently went on official public television and referred to Melikian as “the Anti-Christ,” as well as “cobra poison,” “a foreign government mole,” “a Luther,” “a Lenin,” and “a Trotsky.” The clergyman dubbed Melikian “an enemy of the Armenian nation” and incited his listeners to “unlike” Melikian’s Facebook page and join in a national campaign to ostracize him. The threat from the Ministry of Culture, however, is the first of its kind by an actual government official issued publicly against the author’s personal safety.
Melikian moved to Armenia from the United States in 2002, but was forced into exile since 2005 after the National Security Agency of Armenia located an old and incomplete manuscript of his book Journey to Virginland: Catena and interrogated his wife at its headquarters in Yerevan. The book is scheduled for release this November in the United States.
Melikian has been the recipient of over 10 literary awards in the United States for his writing alone.
Melikian places the ultimate responsibility for the official’s conduct with Armenia’s president, the prime minister, the minister of justice, and the minister of culture, all of who, says the author, should resign if the official in question is not immediately dismissed from his post, arrested and prosecuted. Melikian also blames the human rights organizations in the country and all major political or cultural Armenian organizations in Armenia and the Diaspora, both supporting its governing oligarchy and so called “pro-democracy,” for what he refers to as a “conspiracy of silence” on the issue of exiled Armenian writers, calling them “hypocrites and murderers of Armenian intellectual life and literature.” Armenia has several writers who are currently in exile in France, the United States, and Sweden.
Armen Melikian is the prize winning author of Journey to Virginland