24 January 2003
Sights of Armenia
Human rights training seminars are being held throughout the more remote regions of Armenia. (OSCE)
More attention for human rights
Presenting documentary movies and televised talk-shows to people that otherwise would never be able to see them, is at the core of the OSCE's public awareness campaign on human rights in Armenia. "People watch these films much more attentively at public meetings than at home in front of a television set", says Ashot Mkhitaryan, the project co-ordinator. "This also gives them an opportunity to ask questions after the public screening. I am persuaded that this is the right way to educate and to explain human rights in Armenia".
"We began with the project in Yerevan, but since 2002 we are targeting Armenia's more remote regions", explains Natalie Avetyants, the project's public awareness officer. "The situation there is not like it is in the capital, where the citizens have a better idea about their rights. It is in the regions where the need for information on human rights is the greatest".
A successful project meeting a need
The project, which has existed since 1999 and is the continuation of an initiative by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights aimed at producing a total of 22 films and talk shows on various aspects of human rights for screening on national TV, has been a great success in Armenia. The topics of the documentaries vary; they include rights of detainees, soldiers, women, children, prisoners, national minorities, as well as trafficking in human beings. The participants at the public screenings can choose beforehand what film they wish to view, and an expert is always on hand to explain the background and answer questions after the viewing.
"We found out that many people had not seen these films on national TV at all", says Ashot. "Every time we showed them, the participants had so many questions, and 95 per cent of them have said that they would even participate every month in these meetings. Many also want to maintain contacts with us and consult us later."
Human trafficking increasingly a problem in Armenia
Ashot emphasizes that one of the main points of these meetings is to convey information that is exact and concrete. "We want to inform people about the legal situation and where to obtain more information; who to call", he says. "Many questions we receive after the screenings are very typical for post-Soviet societies. People ask very often why the State or the police is not doing this or that. And they also want to know how to protect their own rights - where to apply for certain things, where to receive help with a human rights problem. So we try to link them up with non-governmental organizations or the legal aid associations, which provides human rights consultations free of charge."
"The films most in demand at the public awareness meetings are usually those on detainees rights - because we have a number of human rights violations in Armenia related to the law enforcement bodies - and soldiers rights.
Another topic which is becoming more relevant is that of trafficking in human beings, which seems to be a developing problem. Armenia does not have an anti-human trafficking law, and people are completely uninformed about this issue. For many this was shocking news, that human trafficking can affect people in their own neighbourhood."
Both Ashot and Natalie agree on the importance of this initiative for Armenia. "It has grown into my personal project, and I understand that so many people still need to learn more about this", says Ashot. Natalie concurs: "This is very close to the people, and that's why it is needed".