36-year-old Davit Alahverdyan, who was an adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and a lecturer at the Agrarian University of Artsakh, is now in prison in Baku. The Azerbaijani authorities accuse him of “terrorism, creation of an illegal armed group, acquiring and possessing illegal weapons and ammunition.” That is, almost the same charges have been brought against the former high-ranking officials of Artsakh who are in the Azerbaijani prison. He is one of the officially confirmed 23 prisoners kept in Azerbaijan.

Davit was from the village of Sznek, but he lived with his small family on a lease in Stepanakert. After the 44-Day War of 2020, when most of the country was occupied, each village created a militia group from its own residents, which once a month defended the nearby positions of the village for 7-10 days, and supported conscripts in their service. On September 19, the armed attack of the Azerbaijanis on the rural areas of Artsakh coincided with Davit’s duty.

“On September 19, at 11 o’clock in the morning, there was an alarm that the Turks have come very close, they are in the forests, in the valleys, so be careful. The attack happened 1-2 hours after that. Our boys were ordered to get down from their positions and immediately enter the village. The ditches of the village were right next to our house. All the boys guarding the positions came to the village without any problems, without any losses,” Davit’s father, 64-year-old Nelson Alahverdyan, told Forrights.am.

The father and mother last saw David in the ditch of the village. “’He said: take mom and get out.” I am a second-category disabled person, I have a problem with my legs, so he said, ‘Until you leave, we will follow you’,” Nelson Alahverdyan repeats his son’s words.

Thus begins the evacuation of Alahverdians: the elderly couple together with their neighbors somehow leave the village on foot. He says that the Azerbaijanis had surrounded the village, closed all the roads, and people were forced to move through forest areas. “The roads were closed, we were supposed to go to Stepanakert, but there was no road. We had heard that the Turks [means Azerbaijanis] had shot cars and massacred people in neighboring Sarushen village. Those people did not know that the roads were closed, they tried to move by car, the Turks stopped the car and killed them”, says Davit’s father.

Six people from Sznek remained in the Azerbaijani siege and, unable to get out, ended up in captivity. Among them, an adult woman and an elderly man with disabilities were released by Azerbaijani militants. An 80-year-old man from Sznek was found dead near the village of Khachmach, and two people went missing on the way to the forced evacuation: one of them is the father of Sznek village head.

The family looked for Davit and did not find him in the list of the dead and missing. And only on October 7, they received a call from an unknown number with a question pronounced in Russian: would you like to talk to Davit? After a positive answer, David’s voice was heard on the phone. “He said: ‘I’m fine, don’t think too much about me, everything is fine with me.’ He asked how the children were. We spoke a few words and that’s it,” remembers David’s wife, Taguhi Asryan.

But David’s father understands. “He says that his place is fine, but how will he be fine in prison?”

Hasmik Hambardzumyan

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