In 2013-2014, Eurasia Partnership Foundation with the support of the Youth Department of Council of Europe and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Armenia and Georgia conducted two researches: desk research and field study on the rights of the children of religious minority groups.
The goal of this desk research was to conduct a review of existing studies in relation to problems and specific issues affecting children and youth belonging to minority groups (ethnic and religious), including intolerance and discrimination directed towards them, and its possible impact on their well-being and daily life. This desk research indicates that both issues are very relevant for Armenia. Voices of children and youth, especially belonging to minority groups, have barely been heard. There are almost no answers from youngsters themselves to the majority of questions addressed in this study. Many of the problems identified within the scope of the study, such as early marriages and school drop-outs, are tightly linked to the issues of traditions and child rights limitations within the minority communities.
The field study within the scope of this project was a first attempt to look into cases of discrimination which children from ethnic and religious minority groups face in Armenia in the sphere of social, family, church and community life, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The purpose of the study was to obtain a holistic view on the protection of the rights of children from religious and ethnic minority groups in Armenia, and related breaches. The particular purpose of the study was to learn what children and young people themselves think about discrimination and intolerance, since almost all other studies conducted so far have been based on experts’ surveys, and rarely reflect children’s opinions. Based on hands-on evidence, case studies and findings of previously conducted desk research, the report presents recommendations on the protection of the rights of children from ethnic and religious minority groups, and conclusions which would contribute to the reduction in cases of discrimination and intolerance in Armenia.
The study reveals certain differences in characteristics inherent to ethnic and religious minority groups. Thus, ethnic minorities who are mainly living in compact communities situated in remote regions of Armenia rarely become deliberate subjects of intolerance in the media, or targets of discrimination in schools or other public institutions. At the same time, because of their remoteness from large centers, they have less access to education, public services and goods. As for religious minorities, especially so-called non-traditional religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is a clear tendency of faith-based discrimination, which is particularly noticeable in public schools and significantly intensified by mass media. On the other hand, in comparison with ethnic minorities, religious groups, particularly those from urban areas, demonstrate more eagerness in acquiring an education, participating in public life and building up a prosperous career in various spheres. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the full range of issues minority groups face in Armenia, it is noticeable that children are significantly more positive and optimistic about their social experiences and their future than is presented by experts and community leaders.