The voice of war

Author: Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Edition: Homefront
Topic: Conflict

In one word, from the stories of Dr. Abbasaliev, it turns out that Ailis is one of the 1001 names of God. And, perhaps, his love for Ailis had nothing to do with either Armenians or Muslims. Rather, it was another unique and truly noble manifestation of this person's loyalty to the Truth ․
Akram Aylisli, from Stone Dreams, 2012.

War has an inner voice, which is not the sound of a cannon or exploding shells. It is the dumb cry that comes from inside a person, it’s about the loss of a human being. 

Mavrik Mirzoyan in his house after it was destroyed during an Azerbaijani attack, Martuni.
Shahen Balayan, a resident of Martuni, lost his wife during an Azerbaijani bombing attack. His daughter was taken to the hospital with injuries, and his 19-month-old grandson was also injured in the leg.
Several sons from a single family are part of the unit defending Martuni.

It is the second day of the war. I am in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). This is a large-scale war, although for outsiders, it seems to be just "fireworks.” At best, the world will meet it with interest, a mention in conversations over coffee or tea in the morning and neutral political calls, which will not change anything.

Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. The air is dusty. There is uncertainty in the dust. I say goodbye to Mika, my friend's 22-year-old son, whom I met by chance here. He is going to the front line. Before he leaves, we take a selfie and we wait for a long time, sometimes even laughing, until Mika's backpack disappears behind the doors of the bus. It will be for a long time before we have news from him.

On the horizon is the front line, where fighting is underway.
On the horizon is the front line, where fighting is underway.

This story is personal to me. It is the story of a war that has not died for 30 years. I say goodbye to people whose looks I will not see for a long time, or perhaps ever again, due to another "wedding" in the mountains. The borders are wet with the blood of 18-year-old boys, houses are being destroyed by bullets, people are dying.

Traces of debris on the gate.
Traces of debris on the wall of a residential house, Martuni.

Shelter. I am with my friend's family. Children play in their world. Air raid sirens often interrupt their game, moving them deep into the room, but they continue to play, as if the game will never end. We celebrate Narek's ninth birthday during the pauses between the sirens․ In war, every day of life becomes more important. 

Toys in a yard after the bombing, Martuni.
Toys in a yard after the bombing, Martuni.
Shards of glass in the house of Shahen Balayan, which was damaged during an Azerbaijani attack.
Shards of glass in the house of Shahen Balayan, which was damaged during an Azerbaijani attack.

Road. They are trenches, I hear the sound of shells exploding in the distance, I look at the half-destroyed buildings, which were damaged during the first (1991-1994) war. The front line is visible in the distance. The nearby bus stop was busy then. On the way there are gray ghosts of cars burned by the explosion, holes made by bombs, lost pets. Tired of the devastation, my gaze lingers on the ground, like another ditch.

Destruction after an Azerbaijani bombing; a well was created in the crater left by the bomb, Martakert.
An abandoned bus stop, decorated with military symbols, on the Stepanakert-Martakert highway.

Cemeteries. There are Azerbaijani tombstones next to me. They testify that the nations once lived in peace here.On the other side is a monument dedicated to the victory of World War II, destroyed over time. It is a testimony of a life together, where nations fought against fascism for the same victory, which now seems ridiculous. Today, the same people have come out in an uncompromising conflict, for one side it is for territory, and for the other it is for the right to live independently on their land.

Azerbaijani tombstones.
A monument dedicated to the victory of the Second World War.

War is a bloody sorrow, where does the sorrow go? The pain of the one who lost his son accumulates. Should it turn into a stone monument?

Return to Yerevan. The city holds its breath. The war has entered everyone's home. Where is my fear? I lost it on the road a long time ago, it does not help and does not hinder the inevitable when it comes. I have become a mine where explosives accumulate. Do not touch, it will explode.

It's morning․ Walking on his young barefeet, my son approaches me in the dim light. I hug him tighter than usual.

A yard after a bombing, Martuni.
A yard after a bombing, Martuni.

Check out how the war has affected our Azerbaijani colleague: Living the conflict frame by frame

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