3. Language issues: Where does one observe language to be a problem in the country?
The Law on Language provides linguistic minorities with the right to publish and study in their native language. There are token publications in minority languages, but the Government has devoted minimal resources to maintaining minority language schools. The large network of Russian-language schools has been reduced greatly in recent years. In practice virtually all students, including members of the Yezidi and Greek communities, now attend Armenian-language schools with very limited classes in their mother tongue. In the Yezidi community, a high percentage of pupils do not attend school, partly for family economic reasons and partly because of discrimination from ethnic Armenian schoolmates and teachers.
Updated (September 2004)
MINORITIES IN ARMENIA ARE SCEPTICAL ABOUT A NEW DRAFT LAW
According to a brief report from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR, www.iwpr.net), Armenian ethnic communities have shown no interest in a proposed new Law on Minorities intended to protect their rights. Some groups are even strongly against the proposal.
The Armenian government tried to pass a similar law before; however, the communities concerned rejected it as well. In January 2004, the government established a new Department for National Minorities and Religion, which started drafting another bill. As soon as the text is completed it will be sent for a review to the Council of Europe and then submitted to the Parliament. If eventually passed, it will be Armenia’s only legislation regulating minority rights, since the Constitution does not contain any reference to these and the Laws on Education and Language also barely mention them.
The objective of the future law is to regulate the rights of national minorities in the field of language, education and religious practice and it intends to be in line with the Council of Europe’s Resolution on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Armenia (although this resolution is not binding and has just the status of a recommendation).
Although in the last Soviet Census of 1989 minorities in Armenia constituted 6.7 percent of the total population, currently, mainly due to emigration, they represent only 2.2 percent. There are more than twenty ethnic groups living in Armenia, among which mainly Assyrians, Kurds, Yezidis (Kurdish-speaking but non-Muslim), Greeks, Jews and Russians are very sceptical about the advantages of the bill. They prefer not to be positively discriminated, as they believe this will lead to persecution and prejudices.
Source: Mercator News, August 2004, http://www.ciemen.org/mercator/index-gb.htm