This Gentle Baker Fought to End Corruption and Voter Intimidation

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Featured, Survivor Stories

Meet Kachig, Survivor from Armenia

Kachig is known around the office at PTV, not only for his gentle kindness, but also because every Monday, he brings in a new delicious dessert for everyone to try. Back in his home country of Armenia, he was not only a successful and creative baker, but he was also an activist who courageously stood up to political corruption. He fought for the freedom of assembly and the right to vote for whomever you choose, a pinnacle of American democracy, of which he deeply desired to have instilled in his own country.

Violence and coercion at polling stations have marred numerous elections in Armenia, and remain a current obstacle to the country’s progress in human rights and democracy. Human rights groups have widely documented mass assaults on voters, election observers, and journalists at polling stations, on top of ballot stuffing and election fraud.

Kachig was a member of a political opposition party in Armenia, advocating to restore respect of human rights and eliminate government corruption. During the presidential election of 2008, Mr. Kachig noticed supporters of the regime intimidating and assaulting voters at the polling station. When he stepped in to ask them to leave, he was cornered and beaten by the men, and then arrested by police. Instead of investigating the assailants and looking into the claims of polling intimidation, the police brutally beat Kachig and threatened him before releasing him the next day.

Three years after the election, instead of seeing an improvement, oppression worsened and the political climate continued to deteriorate. An increasing increasing number of opposition members and journalists were being arbitrarily detained, causing peaceful protesters to take to the streets again, Kachig being one of them.  After this, he began receiving anonymous phone calls, threatening him that they would “break his feet” if he dared go to the polls.

Election day came, and Kachig was hopeful for change. As an authorized party representative, he was helping take down the polling station at the end of the day when three young men came in, with envelopes stuffed full of ballots. Kachig attempted to stop the men, but was again instead brutally beaten, and had to be rushed to the hospital. The day after his release, he went to the police to file a complaint. As he was called back to the police station the next day, instead of being told his assailants had been found, the police chief attempted to coerce him into dropping his complaint. Kachig’s reply, that he was a citizen of Armenia, and that it was their job to investigate his assailants regardless of his political affiliation, garnered only more brutality. He was detained for two days, where he was tortured and continuously threatened.

Upon arriving home, he learned that the police had been there as well, and threatened his wife and three children, saying that they would never see him alive if he didn’t retract his complaint and leave the opposition. Fearing for their safety, he moved them to a relative’s house and came to the United States. He is applying for asylum, and hopes to bring the rest of his family over as soon as possible. As the political climate in Armenia remains unstable, and the wait time for asylum in America increases, he is troubled by thoughts of his family’s safety. However, with the help of PTV’s Clinical Director, Carol Gomez, he is able to find strength and hope that he will be reunited with them soon. In the mean-time, he shows his immense kindness and talent at every turn–whether it be by bringing in desserts or fixing a squeaky PTV door–and we are all lucky (although probably a bit less healthy) to know Kachig here at PTV.