In a 'Dog Shelter'

Author: Hermine Virabian

The address of 120 Grigor Zohrab is famously known as 'The Dog Shelter.'  7 out of 8 families living here are refugees from Azerbaijan. They still do not have an apartments of their own. Last September they were informed that the construction of the shelter will resume. To live next to the trained dogs is arguably difficult. They say, "In every family there are children, and families are growing. There will be no place for children to play in the daytime and no sleep for us at night."


                                              The buildings are owned by the state

The area in which families have been living for the last 20 years was initially considered for the building of a dog training centre during Soviet times. In September 2015, the families were informed that the construction of the dog training centre will now be continued. Around 40 dogs are intended be trained for law enforcement in the facility. The idea of living in such a neighborhood troubles the locals. They say, ‘They brought us to the dog shelter and keep us like dogs.’


In order to be able to leave the country or to be employed, the refugees have gained passports with the registration of the place of residence. So they are not considered refugees any more. The family of the Gharamyans, consisting of 5 members, moved from Baku. They left their house there, which couldn't be sold, along with their jobs, and the hope for a better life. ‘I came to Armenia, and the torture began,’ says the eldest of the family, 62-year old Vladimir Gharamyan.

‘First, when the vice-chief of police, Anubagh Hambaryan, came to our house, he presented an ownership certificate, according to which, the area and the building we live in has belonged to the police since 2008. So we had to leave this place. And so that they wouldn’t have to provide us with shelter, after a few days they came with a new ownership certificate, already citing that only the area [without the buildings] was the property of the police. So they got their land, and our shelter issue remained unsolved,’ says Vladimir Ghambaryan.


In 1991-1996, the speaker of parliament, Galust Sahakyan, was the vice head of the regional executive committee, and later the first deputy head. According to Vladimir, they found their apartment with the help of an assistant of Galust Sahakyan, called Mayis. The same individual was the ensuing reason for the loss of their 1st apartment. ‘He said, give me 800 dollars and I will give the apartment to you. I said that I didn’t  have the money, but instead I could bring a truckload of firewood. He agreed. In the evening, when I came home with the firewood, I saw other people sitting in our house. I asked where our belongings were, he replied that the house didn't belong to us.

There were members of the executive committee there, who said, that they would take us to our belonging, and they brought us here. Our stuff was piled up here, and we stayed in this place.’

The family has been paying the utilities of this house for more than 20 years. If you ask the worker of the water distribution company, where our water comes from, he won’t know. But when it’s time to collect the bills, they are here!’  says Vladimir’s 35-year-old son, Vigen.

"We were cheated so many times, with promises of a house in the next 3 days, or 5 days, and etc. So we spent our lives waiting."

We were considered for shelter by the committee for refugees in 1988. Yet in 2008 we found out that our files were lost. So we registered again, and we were listed around the 800th number. Now, they simply refuse to provide shelter to us, without any explanation.’

Vigen’s wife, Armine, says, that in the beginning, one project was presented to them, while later a another one was. When the construction began they were protesting, and stopping the construction, however they could do nothing but to retreat.

‘They showed an ownership certificate, and we didn’t have any documents. If we lived here legally we could say something.’


The locals assure that before they came, the area was forsaken, and that the buildings were reconstructed by themselves. ‘In those bad years nothing remained here. Everyone had robbed whatever possible. .. doors, roofs. and etc. Formerly there were no dogs here, nor a sewage system or electricity.’

According to Vladimir Gharamyan, they have wasted the money, and now refuse to do something.

The works of the breeding center’s construction began on the 10th of September, 2015. Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, says, that the construction will continue ‘as soon as there is money.’


Arleta Arustamyan, a 64-year-old, is from Baku as well.

For 7 years she has been living in an 'emergency condition building' in the 16th district of Yerevan.

Arletta, like her neighbours, is registered in Armenia, which creates difficulties. ‘With the red passports we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t get employed or leave the country. We were handed those and received passports with place of residence'.

In 2002, we were tricked, and they took the refugee documents. We were given papers, which simply said that once we were refugees. So now we are not refugees any more.

29 -year-old Arina Harutyunyan is Arletta’s daughter. She has taken a loan with her husband, to reconstruct the house where her parents live. Now the investment is under uncertainty due to the construction of the dog pound.

‘You know what, it’s offensive when they call us ‘the residents of the dog pound', says one of inhabitants.

Recently the term was forgotten, and people would use the address instead. Now, however, as the construction has begun, they again remembered it.




Chai-khana Survay