“There was no one in this country who would say, ‘These children died for the sake of the homeland:’ The victims of the Hin Tagher

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– Dad, let me go: this is not the war you are familiar with.

26-year-old Sargis Harutyunyan said these words to his father in October, before going to the Hin Tagher. “I went and saw that it really was not the war of 90s.”

Sargis

Sarkis was probably only 4 years old when his mother ordered military clothes for him. He also had a toy automatic gun. He was a very active, happy child, and we were spoiling him. The mother died early, and sometimes, when I got upset, my mother would say, ‘You can reprehend that child only after my death’.

He served in Vayk. He was a third-year student at the Pedagogical University, but dropped out of school.

The war

On September 29, they took him to Artsakh with the MOB boys. They remained there 15-16 days. When he came back, we talked a lot. He came with very heavy impressions. He said that everything was very disorganized, they took the boys away, left them, what positions should they keep, where should they stand– they did not know anything; there was no command…

I am a participant of the first Artsakh war, when 15 people from our village went as volunteers. When I was seeing him off, he would say ‘This is not the war you are familiar with.’

My ancestors are from Sassoun [a region in historic Armenia the people of which are famous for their bravery], we brought him up just like that, as a patriot, inspiring that our country is important, our homeland is important.

On November 26, they took him again to Artsakh with the MOB. He said, ‘We will go, replace the conscripts for 10 days so that they can rest for a while.’ They had to take him to Kapan or Meghri [in Armenia, border regions]. I did not say anything: I thought, well, it is peaceful now, if he wants to go, let him go, as he was going voluntarily.

I told him, ‘Do not retreat, do not be taken prisoner.’ Then someone approached me and said, ‘Harut, do not say such a thing: you may regret it later.’

Then he called and said that they were in Lachin, they were taking him to Hadrut [in Karabakh], I said, ‘What Hadrut? they have handed over Hadrut.’ Before his departure, I did not know where he would be taken, but I do not know what I would do if I knew. I would probably say go anyway.

There was not a day that we did not talk several times. The last time he called was on December 11 at 11:45, he said, ‘Tomorrow a replacement is coming, if I do not call, do not worry․ Be at home: I am coming back’.

Whoever we called, they talked in a way that I got the impression that no one was aware of anything, they were not even aware that we had a soldier there.

A few days later, the Prime Minister said in the Security Council, ‘We have 5-6 injured.’ But it turns out that the children were already killed. Then I called Hayk Khanumyan myself and he said that the boys had been taken down from the position. The corpses were disfigured by the Turks. I think that the boys fought really hard, the Turks had losses, that’s why they were so cruel to the boys.

When Aliev was saying that we destroyed the terrorists, I told Andranik Kocharyan that I would very much like my son to be a terrorist. There is no one in this country who would get up and say, ‘These children died for the sake of the homeland.’

You call them, they say, ‘We gave it to the Defense Army [of Karabakh], call there.’ You call there, they say, ‘Call the Russians.’ But I gave my son to the RA Army, it is you who must answer me. What do I have to do with the Russians?

“Rhetorical” questions

It was astonishing: if a document was signed that the Armenian army should not go there, why did you take our boys there? If you really gave those territories to the Turks [Azeris], why did you take them there? There are many things incomprehensible for me. If the situation was so tense, the Turks came and said that it had been handed over, they showed it on the map, why did you tell the boys to keep the position until replacement comes? Or, knowing that there is fighting in the “post”, why you did not go to help them?

They did not appreviate

This is a village; we all know each other well. Everyone in this village knows that I sent my son to die, as it turns out, and it hurts me that it is not appreciated. They did not appreciate these guys and did not appreciate many-many others.

I do not care who is guilty, will they be judged or not: it is the state’s business. I do not care at all, if some commander, leader, did something not right: it is another matter. But it hurts me so much not to be noticed because they do not know what their parents are living through. Our state did nothing. That silence, indifference drives me crazy.

Ani Torosyan