Notes From Hairenik
Last night while on my way back from Vanadzor I was pulled over just as I entered Bangladesh after crossing the line from Cheramushka (aka Achepenak). I and several other cars went through the traffic light, but the traffic cop who didn’t see me cross the intersection as I was traveling in the left lane and a minibus was on my right insisted that the light was red, even though my brother-in-law turned public advocate agreed that it was green. I was not happy and told the cop that, after he accused me of breaking the law, he was trying to screw me instead. I gave him my papers, license, etc. and he walked away to consult with one of the other traffic cops. He came back and told me that he was going to write a ticket, then confiscate my car and keep my license, since it was not valid. I lost it then and there and tried to offer him a 5000 dram bribe but he tried to play the hero, play games or whatever and he refused to take it. My brother-in-law got out of the car to reason with the guy, and I got out of the car demanding that he give me his badge information, then threatening to get him fired (which probably would never have happened anyway). He told my brother-in-law that he had the right to impound my car for 15 days, whereby I would have to pay $100 or more to retrieve it. In the end the cop naturally took the 5000 drams and let me go.

Fifteen minutes later on my way from Bangladesh driving towards the city’s center along the Yerevan-Ejmiadzin highway I was flagged down again by some traffic cops but I ignored them. I kept driving for a kilometer, then was actually pursued by another car parked further up the road driving a Zhiguli model 2106. Eventually after trying to shake them off I pulled over. In a frantic as to what to do next, I as well as Ariga exclusively spoke English with the two cops that approached, and I threw in a couple of mispronounced Armenian words to make it more believable. They even checked my breath to see if I was drinking. After a few minutes of scratching their heads they let me go, still trying to figure out why I didn’t pull over in the first place. The funny thing is that the paperwork I handed them save for my license was entirely written in Armenian, along with my signature on the transfer title, so why they didn’t catch my bluff is beyond me.

I may be wrong here but I really think these cops are pulling most motorists over for no apparent valid reason. They basically make up excuses to extort money, including the first young cop, who looks like he just got out of the police academy because he had no pot belly. The problem I have is when men driving expensive German cars with tinted windows speed upwards of 100 km/hour or more through the city center streets, they are ignored. When I pass a green light, I am pulled over for going through a red one. For the most part now, every week (I usually drive only on weekends) I am pulled over, despite the supposed vanity registration plates that came with my car. In fact, they are actually getting me stopped more rather than the opposite purpose. If I had regular plates I probably wouldn’t have had many problems. I would like to believe that the case where a young cop pulled me over and refused to take a bribe is showing that there are a few examples emerging of honest cops. But knowing argumentative-by-nature Armenians well, I have a hard time trying to be persuaded.

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Blogger Hasmik said...
Hello Gabris:

I have been reading your blogs quite some time now (well, approximately 3 week). You write very eloquently!

I know how aggravating it can be to experience corruption.

Much strength and patience to you to deal with them! I try to understand their situation by questioning, "do cops get properly paid?" but find myself often not being able to justify their situation. Ah... how disappointing!

Blogger Ara said...
You paid a bribe and you want the law to work?

I've had my car impounded and got it out the next day.

If you had never offered the bribe in the first place, they would have never taken your car in. It's too much of a pain for them.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Well, good point Ara. I usually do everything I can to protest paying a bribe, but this cop was trying to make a point that I just didn't comprehend, so I offered him the bribe for him to go away. Lately I have had to resort to that a couple of times. But after your comment now I know better to keep protesting.