“Private Hovhannes Smbat Hovhannisyan, born in 2000, a pharmacist by profession. He has been in the Armed Forces since January 2019, and has been a spy for the special forces since August 1. Since September 27 [the very first day of the war], he took part in the military operations in Karvachar, Jrakan, Hadrut and Sanasar. He died on October 20, 2020, during the Sanasar military operations,” when describing his nephew’s heroic combat path, Arman Hovhannisyan can speak for hours, on how Doc fought, as his friends called Hovhannes, how he pulled the wounded out of the fire, showed them first aid, how he boasted that he could run so fast that the bullets could not reach him.

Hovhannes Hovhannisyan was presented for a Combat Service Medal, but Arman and the other members of Hovhannes’s family refused to receive the state award.

They feel that his brother and his friends, the soldiers of the special forces of Sovetashen, were not appreciated worthily. From the very first day of the war, 22 people took part in all military operations, but none of them was awarded with a medal. Why? It is difficult to comprehend.

“A lot of boys were taken out of the blockade in Hadrut; they have been in Jrakan, they have fought in all ‘hot spots’, have taken out people from blockade, have freed positions, participated in battles in Saratak, Karvachar. We said we would not take that medal for a simple reason,” says Arman Hovhannisyan. “How can I look in the eyes of Hovik’s friends Azat Hekimyan or the brother or sister of Arman Antonyan? Well, those guys were in the same operation on the same day, they fought until the end, what about those guys? My brother was given a Combat Service Medal, a piece of iron; should I just take it and go?” Arman Hovhannisyan asks.

He believes that the mothers of all the victims deserve the merit of their children to be appreciated, and aims to erect a fraternal monument for all the victims.

“I have to fight for them to be appreciated as well. Those guys all had pride. Recently, one of his best friends, Arman Antonyan was buried. When my brother was injured, Arman stayed with him. When the order to retreat was given, he threw down his weapon and tried to carry Hovik, but he could not take him out from there, then there was an explosion, and they did not hear Arman’s voice any more, but they fought until the end. It was on October 20,” he says.

Arman Hovhannisyan himself is a participant in the war, an administrative worker. He decided not to ask for any money from the state in order to achieve his goal; he decided to erect the monument only with the help of his family, acquaintances and friends. The person who is to build the monument gave a 60% discount for the sake of the heroes.

“If others ask for 5-10 million drams [approximately $10,000-$20,000], he makes it for two million drams. “People appreciate heroism, they understand our situation,” Arman says. The names of all the people of Kapan killed in the 44-day war will be carved on the stone of the fraternal monument so that the young generation of Kapan can see and understand that heroism is appreciated. “It’s a little difficult, but we have to teach this society to appreciate,” says Arman.

He told Forrights.am how hard it was for them to believe that Hovhannes was no more. They saw Hovik’s lifeless body in a video posted on Azerbaijani websites on October 30. “The height, the muscles of the legs, the eyeglasses were the same, but the body was swollen. We said he looked like him, but it was not him; he was thin,” he says. Hovik’s body was untouched, recognizable, the Azeris did not touch even his eyeglasses and buried him, lightly covering him with soil so that the animals would not devour his body.

The area where the boys of the Sovetashen special forces were killed was first entered by the Artsakh Ministry of Emergency Situations; the bodies were removed and sent to Stepanakert, and from there to different cities – Martuni, Goris, Gyumri.

Hovik’s wristwatch, which one can see in the Azerbaijani video, his expensive knife, have disappeared on the way.

Hovhannes’ body was taken to Gyumri. On December 1, the family members have recognized and identified Hovik’s body, and only a month later the body was handed over to the family. But Arman is not dissatisfied.

“There are bodies that they have not even found, people are congratulating each other when the bodies reach the the families. I found my brother in a complete, recognizable condition, not defiled by the enemy. That is a great happiness.”

People in Kapan are in a bad state of mind today. They are angry seeing how the Azerbaijanis control the roads in fulfillment of the November 9 agreement. Some are emigrating from Syunik, but the Hovhannisyan family has no intention to leave.

“I am here with my whole family and I will not leave this place. I swore at my brother’s grave that I would grow wheat in the field where they shed their blood,” says Arman Hovhannisyan. His uncle, Hovik’s father, has found a way to be with his son all the time. He holds a binocular in his hand and constantly looks at the hill, the mass grave, where his son and his friends are resting in eternity.

Syuzan Simonyan

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