Armenian Prosecutor’s Office Investigates Discriminatory Treatment of the Indian Delivery Worker

Tigranuhi Martirosyan

Journalist, SMM specialist

A video went viral on the Armenian-language internet last week, showing an Armenian tiktoker yelling at an Indian delivery worker and forcing him to remove his military-patterned jacket.

The incident occurred in Yerevan. In the video the author claims that military uniforms are not meant for delivery work; he insults Indians by referring to them as “these” and forcefully removes the jacket from the delivery worker.

Military-patterned jackets are commonly sold in stores throughout Armenia. However, not all who wear them are members of the military. Unfortunately, some individuals expressed disrespect towards the Indian delivery worker who wore one in the video, claiming it was disrespectful to military paraphernalia.

Insults, hate speech, and racial discrimination accompanied discussions of this video on social media. Many expressed negative sentiments towards Indians and other nationalities in the background of this incident.

During discussions on social media platforms, users brought up the issue of potential discrimination based on nationality. One user, Vigen Sargsyan, shared his opinion on Facebook that the problem was not with the military uniform but instead with racism. He stated that the issue was not the bushlat (a military jacket), as workers, shepherds, or farmers in Armenia commonly wear it. The issue, according to him, was the fact that an Indian boy was wearing it and that people were discriminating against him based on the color of his skin. He questioned whether we should still be so narrow-minded with a population of three million people in Armenia and three times as many people worldwide.

According to Hakob Karapetyan, an expert from Yerevan Press Club, the video comments can be divided into two groups. The first group consists of supporters of the video’s author who actively commented insulting the delivery worker. The second group, on the other hand, consists of those who are against hate and racism, and they were also actively commenting.

“The main issue noticed from the comments is the lack of recognition of different identities. In our country, it has become customary to label all immigrants from South Asia as Indians, regardless of their actual origin. Even if a person comes from India, they may not necessarily identify as Indian, as there are more than a hundred different ethnic groups residing there. Grouping them all under one nationality is a clear manifestation of racism. It is similar to the situation in the Soviet Union, where Armenians and other ethnic groups were often referred to as Russians despite being citizens of the Union,” explained Hakob Karapetyan.

He said that the incident highlighted stereotypes about foreigners in Armenia.

Karapetyan pointed out that there is no culture of leaving comments in Armenia. Even those who disagreed with the content of the video expressed their sympathy by insulting the Indians. “Some people wrote things like ‘wow, poor him’ or ‘let them live their lives’. This behavior is certainly humiliating,” he said.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) defines hate speech as any form of expression that spreads, incites, promotes, or justifies racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, or any other forms of intolerance based on aggressive nationalism, ethnocentrism, discrimination, or hostility towards minorities, immigrants, or people of immigrant origin.

Hate speech on social media has become quite common, with comments being the most common tool to spread such content.

It is not acceptable to either express or spread hate speech. Contributing to its spread is also considered a criminal offense.

Discussions containing hate speech predominantly occur on news sites, social media platforms, and Telegram channels. However, not all of these platforms have clear moderation rules, and not all are moderated. Racist views and insults are often left unremoved, and sometimes, they are even intentionally left there to encourage other users to engage in such discussions.

The discussions about the topic were complex and included some discriminatory comments. For instance, Gagik Makaryan, president of the Employers’ Union, stated on Azatutyun TV that the Armenian labor market requires workers: “Indians are more robust, spend less time smoking and eating, and can work longer hours.”

It has been five days since the incident, but no case has been initiated yet. On the day the video was published, the human rights defender responded to the incident and emphasized that a thorough investigation should be conducted to examine all the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The General Prosecutor’s Office has informed the media.am that they are currently studying the video that shows the discriminatory attitude towards the Indian worker.

Hakob Karapetyan believes that the perpetrator of this unjustified act should be punished. In this case, it is unacceptable to take someone’s property, such as the jacket.

The expert further notes that law enforcement should have responded to the incident promptly, but several days have passed, and no proper evaluation has been made.

Fortunately, the Indian guy was gifted a new jacket and expressed gratitude. He continues doing his job of delivering food despite the incident.

Tigranuhi Martirosyan  

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