Twenty Years of Suffering: “Ceasefire” Not a Guarantee Against Grief

“My husband was a fidayi (‘freedom fighter’), our three children and I would wait days and nights for him to return: My son would ask if dad would ever come back, and dad did come back, but he didn’t…, remembers Varditer Mirzoyan, the mother of 19-year old Eduard Mirzoyan shot by an Azerbaijani sniper on June 12, 2007. “My husband came back with shining eyes, hugged us and said that war was over, but it wasn’t… we hadn’t known yet that the most cruel war was still going to continue keeping our eyes wet and craving for peace.”

Eduard’s last photo is hanging in a dormitory in Abovyan, with his military utensils, photos, wooden things made by him around it.

“It was hard to bring him up, with my husband in the military. I could barely manage, and my kid didn’t even attend school properly. I used to send him to school and myself went to collect aluminum to exchange it for a loaf of bread. After leaving school we sent him to Russia, but he returned saying that dad had fought for this land, he had to turn to his duty as well. When we spoke during the last days, he used to say that ‘before you even notice, I’ll be home’,” says Varditer in grief arranging her son’s photos with care.

The small shrine summoned the 19 years of life.

Each year such shrines become more and more in various houses in Armenia which is a silent witness of regular violations of the written agreement of ceasefire signed in May, 1994 between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

RA Ministry of Defense spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan says that after signing the agreement of ceasefire regime the Armenian side yearly suffers dozens of casualties in violations of the deal.

Five soldiers died in the first three months of this year. Last year the Armenian army had 30 deaths –six of which were from ceasefire violations; in 2012 52 casualties, with 14 from breaking the ceasefire.

Civilians are casualties too, a condition that has worsened since 2008, when Azeri snipers were placed along the entire border.
Five-year-old Alvina Petrosyan knows her father only from photos; Levon Petrosyan, 21, was killed by a sniper bullet in 2008, while doing construction work. The little girl calls her grandfather “dad”. While caring Levon’s body away from the road another villager, Rafik Soghoyan, 50, also was killed. That same day a sniper wounded villager Samvel Mirzoyan, 56.

“I was six months-pregnant, that day I was very nervous, there were random gun-shots in the village always, but that day there was that shot… my eyes went dark, I ran outside looking for Levon, and when I learned the news, I don’t know, I don’t remember what happened to me, later all I was thinking was not to lose my baby as well,” says Levon’s widow, Sirush, petting her daughter’s head.

After her husband’s death Sirush moved to her father’s house, where she shares a two-bedroom flat with her parents and three brothers.

The State allocates a small pension for families of soldiers killed in conflict. Survivors of civilian casualties, however, get no such aid.

Sirush says she gets only 26,000 drams ($63) pension for the child’s care, which is barely enough for food. There are no jobs in her village, and even farming is dangerous because of the threat of sniper fire.

Although in Shahumyan village of Ararat province there are no gun-shots and the villagers can do agriculture, Aram Mezhloumyan’s parents say they are hopeless, after their 20-year-old son was killed there by Azeri fire in 2009.

“After three daughters I finally gave birth to my long-waited son, we brought him up and were proud that it’s already time for him to go to the army,” says Aram’s mother, Laura Barseghyan. “We had high expectations, plans, dreams about our son. He was supposed to come back home, build a house, have a job, family . . . After learning the news about my Aram I became half a human, I cannot do anything. It’s been five years, but every November 16, the day his military service was supposed to end, my eyes stare at the door, waiting for him to return. I wish no mother waits for her son like this.”

But Laura also mentioned that because of the unresolved conflict, over the years more and more mothers wait for their sons with wet eyes.

In 2012 the Civil Society Institute launched “Ceasefire: the Pain of Human Loss” project, which gave an opportunity to get in touch with more than 30 families of victims from ceasefire violations. The Institute prepared articles about them and organized discussions with mothers and widows of the deceased. These meetings were fateful for mothers who had lost their sons, and today they’ve united and say that it’s easier to fight the pain of loss together. The mothers decided to establish an organization named “Ceasefire: the Pain of Human Loss” this year, which aims at keeping new victims’ memory bright.

“Each child that died from an Azerbaijani bullet is a hero for me, and nowadays they are barely remembered,” says Aghavni Ghukasyan, whose son, Narek was killed by sniper in 2010. “We want our children, besides graves, to have a common place where we can go and bow to them, so that everyone can go, see, and honor our heroes. The future was in their hands, but they became silent heroes. The state must be able to do so that we don’t have these many victims, when there is a victim we speak about it, in a week nobody remembers neither the child nor the family . . .”

Mothers in black stare at the door and pray to God every sunset to bring them real peace. They say that only peace in the country will be real compensation for the blood their sons shed for their motherland.