From surviving an axe attack to forging a new life: “No matter how painful it is, you should fight, never give way to fear or humiliation and go all the way.” / Taguhi Mansuryan

Her eyes are filled with tears, her voice quivers and her hands search for a hand to hold, so that not to give in to despair. A few months ago, Taguhi realized that she had to survive and overcome alone the tragic events that had befallen her.  

“I was all alone when I came back home from hospital. My neighbours stood there watching as I walked into our building and made my way to our door. It was terribly difficult… I figured out that I had to move on alone in my life, just like I walked alone to our door, that I had to disregard my inner struggle and emotions and try to achieve my goals for the sake of my son. I had no one to lean on. My mother was dead, my father was an elderly man who had gone through the same tragic events, my brother lived far away and my son was only two years old… I could not yield to weakness and become a burden on their shoulders,” says Taguhi Mansuryan, 37, who was nearly hacked to death by her ex-husband a few months ago, right at the door of her house.

Although they have since then replaced the front door and repaired the walls, Taguhi still relives the incident every day.

“Every time I open the door, I struggle to recall those events. I want to remember how he took the life of my mother, but nothing comes to my mind… ”

She struggles to cope with her emotions while recalling her birthday…

“I spent the 8th of July with my son and then I went to a client’s house to work. I’m a makeup artist and nail designer and that day I went to prepare my client for her wedding that was taking place the next day. When I came home, it was 1:30 in the morning. He was waiting for me in our backyard and already made a row. He switched on the camera on his phone and said this was a proof that I had left our child alone and came back home late. My mother went out when she heard the commotion and he started beating us. A few minutes later, he called the police and claimed that we had attacked him. The policemen came to our house and took us to the nearest department, while he fled the scene. He knew very well that the police would set us free within an hour, so he called them on purpose, to do his dirty deed by that time,” she recalls.

The tragic events of that night shook the country a few years ago. Taguhi Mansuryan’s former husband Vladik Martirosyan, 31, hacked his ex-wife and her mother at their door at 4 in the morning, when the two women came back from the police station.  

“I was trying to light up the door lock with my phone, when I felt a blow on my shoulder: I turned around and saw Vlad in a black shirt, with an axe in his hand, and I cried blue murder. My mother got in between the two of us, turned her back at me and faced Vlad. I don’t remember anything after that… I do know that I fell on the ground at that moment and then I had a blurry vision of my father’s face. Then I opened my eyes to see the lights on the first floor at hospital and my father sitting in a wheelchair with a blood-drenched face.”

Her mother, Karine Mansuryan, 65, died at the scene from injuries received as a result of multiple axe blows, while Taguhi and her father were taken to hospital with heavy wounds.

Taguhi had to undergo 2 head surgeries. She has scars from axe blows all over her body – on the back, shoulders, belly, on one ear, her head and shoulder blade. She had to spend almost one month at the hospital and did not know that her mother had died. 

“I understood everything when I saw the tears in my father’s eyes. I was speechless. Then I pulled myself up to move on,” she says, admitting that the tragic events of that night, although killed a part of her, also gave her strength to carry on and live for her son.

A painter and designer by occupation, Taguhi now works at a beauty salon as a make-up artist and nail designer. She says her work, as well as the elderly father and son waiting for her at home help her let go of her accumulated emotional pain.

Taguhi regrets not starting the struggle for better life earlier and says that it cost her mother’s life. She argues that the idea of saving her marriage kept her away from a decisive step. Besides, she did not want her child to grow up without father and still remembers how happy she was when she learned about her pregnancy. She had failed to have children in her first marriage, so she put hopes of starting a family and living a happy life on the second marriage.

“Even pregnancy did not stop him from beating me. Once, he pulled a knife on me, but I turned a blind eye on that, hoping that he would change. Even my son’s birth was unable to change anything. We lived on our own in that period, but one day parents visited us to discover me covered in bruises. I left him and went away with my parents. Then I reported him to the police, although they urged me to withdraw the complaint.”

The couple that got married on February 2014, filed for divorce a year later. Her husband started stalking her, trying to insult and beat her again.

“When the baby was five months old, I went back to work in the beauty salon and visited my clients at home. Whenever I came back from work, he was waiting for me at our yard, where he usually made a row claiming that I was a woman of loose morals because I came home late. He had filed a lawsuit against me in an attempt to get full custody over our son, but I raised a counterclaim, demanding a separation and alimony. The court upheld both claims. He was allowed to see the child only at the Compulsory Enforcement Service, but the court decision turned out to be useless. He has never paid a penny to support his child,” says Taguhi.

The second trial on Taguhi Mansuryan’s case has begun at the Court of First Instance of Shengavit administrative district.

For Taguhi, however, life has regained meaning thanks to her little son Narek.

“I’ve started everything from scratch. I don’t complain: I can support my family. One day I earn 1500 or 600 drams, the other day – 15,000. With the help of Women’s Resource Center, I started to work with new instruments, and I am very grateful for that.”

Taguhi now sees her future in her son’s eyes and works to build a better life for him.

“I know that one day he’ll start going to kindergarten and will ask about his father. I’ve decided to tell him that his father went abroad on business and never came back. When he grows up, I’ll tell him the truth. I want him to learn the whole truth from his own mother and not from others. I’ll give him the facts and let him decide what to do. He looks at my scars now and never touches them. If he decides to get to know his father in future, I won’t prevent him from anything. He will have the right to decide.”

She says women should not tolerate domestic violence anyway. 

“No matter how painful it is, you should fight, never give way to fear or humiliation and go all the way.”

“Women have to find strength inside. The police will try to convince them not to complain, urging them to think about their family and children, but they have to be more determined and go till the end. When they asked me if I hadn’t changed my mind about the complaint, I said I was not going to withdraw it anyway. And then I realized that after such persistent inquiries at the police, many women would agree to drop their complaints. I will fight till the end.”

The story of Taguhi Mansuryan
“I want my personal experience to inspire other women to stay strong.”

Photo essay and text: Nazik Armenakyan

The young woman’s body still bears scars of brutal violence she has survived. On July 7, 2016, Taguhi’s ex-husband attacked her family with an axe, hacking his former mother-in-law to death, while Taguhi and her father were taken to hospital with severe injuries.  

During Taguhi’s short-lived marriage to former husband Vladik Martirosyan, physical and psychological violence against her were commonplace. At first, in an attempt to salvage her marriage, Taguhi simply endured the abuse with tight lips, avoiding speaking about it, getting out or visiting her parents when covered with bruises.

After the divorce, her ex-husband started stalking her: he used to wait for her near the house to attack her on her way home from work. The scars remaining on her body remind her of the extreme violence she has survived, but Taguhi has found strength to carry on and take care of her elderly father and son.

“In Armenia, women live bearing marks of violence for years, irrespective of whether they are visible or not. But I want my personal experience to inspire other women to stay strong, to break the silence on violence used against them, to be more persistent while going to police or taking to court,” says Taguhi.  

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