The house of the Kotoyans is located almost in the center of the village of Kaniashir, or as the Yezidis themselves call it, Sangyar of the Aragatsotn region. The shack house with a sod roof has no fence and is guarded by a giant shepherd dog. This Yazidi family, living in difficult social conditions, lost two sons in the 44-day war of 2020. The eldest son, Onik Kotoyan, has been missing for more than two years, and the youngest, Temur Kotoyan, was killed in Shushi in the last days of the warand is buried in the Kaniashir cemetery.

“He was in military service only two months when the war started. He was in Russia. One day, he called and said he wanted to go and pay his debt to the motherland. I tried to convince him not to come [to Armenia], but he did. We didn’t see them during the service: due to COVID-19, they didn’t let any visitations. He was sent to Martuni 2, then to Hadrut. When the war started, he was new recruit and we thought they would not be taken to the mouth of the fire. I said I wanted to go to see him, he said no, don’t come: there are no officers, no order. We the soldiers alone are keeping us alive,” his father, 47-year-old Artur Kotoyan, tells about Temur.

On November 7, Temur, considered “new recruit” in the service, was already in Shushi, according to his father, “without officers, without commanders, in a meat grinder.” After the war, a long nightmare begins for the family. The Kotoyans were looking for their sons in various hospitals in Armenia, first in the wards, then in the morgues. Temur was later found in the Yerevan morgue.

The boys’ mother, 43-year-old Fatima Taloyan, is a charming woman with sad eyes, her hair tied under a black headscarf. The husband’s stories about searching for his sons and their hard feelings make the woman in black cry. Next to the Armenian and Yezidi flags, Temur’s corner has been carefully designed, from photos of his son at different ages to posthumous awards after the war.

And Onik carefully keeps the military ID, where it is stated that his son joined the service in July 2019.

The Kotoyans went through unimaginable tortures to look for Onik. The father says that DNA analysis was done 4 times, but they still can’t find Onik. The last time they received a call from their eldest son was on October 11 and that’s it. They hope he is a prisoner of war in Azerbaijan.

“I go to Yerevan almost every day. The state doesn’t say anything, it can give a little blow and say: ‘Get out of here.’ I personally met with Nikol: he didn’t say anything. I sent two boys to the army. Where is my other [second] son? Find the other one and give him to me,” says Artur Kotoyan.

Onik’s military ID was found in the 2nd military unit of Martuni, Artsakh. “They called and said they found it. We went, we got there. We asked where did they find it, they said they didn’t know, a soldier found it. They said to throw away the military ID so that, when captured, they won’t do anything to him. Well, the Turks don’t like the Yezidis, right? That’s why they said to drop it so that his nationality wasn’t know.”

The young family lives in difficult social conditions. There is no work in the village, and to work in the capital, you will spend more on the road than your salary would be. After the death of their son, they receive monthly support from the Military Servicemen’s Insurance Fund, about 200 thousand drams [about $500].

“All state structures demand money from me: for electricity, gas, water, land. My 18-year-old child went, served for the state: now I’m alone, who takes care of me?”, the father, who has been in mourning for more than two years, raises questions.

P.S. Journalists for Human Rights NGO / reports on representatives of Armenia’s national minorities who participated in the war and heroically died for the motherland.

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