Beginning a Marriage with Goodbye
By ICC's Country Correspondent
03/08/2021 Armenia (International Christian Concern) – A military cemetery rests on a hilltop just outside of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Since 1988, Yerablur Pantheon has served as the burial place for ethnic Armenian soldiers who lost their lives defending Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). This small country located in the South Caucasus is predominately Armenian Christian, and has been for millennia. But decades of wars, religious genocides, and ethnic cleansing has threatened the existence of Karabakh’s Armenian Christians.
Yerablur is a reminder of this situation. When I asked Vahe Yeprikyan, a young lawyer and patriot of his country, the question “what kind of meaning does Yerablur have for you?”, his answer spoke volumes.
He replied, “Yerablur for me is not just a cemetery, and it’s not the voice of death I hear in the silence of the air of this height here. It is the sanctuary of those who fell in love with our homeland for eternity. Fallen heroes like Ishkhan are buried here, but did Ishkhan die? …Who says that life ends when the heart stops beating? It is a lie; the heroes live as long as they are remembered…”
Iskhan Petrosyan was one of the 5 thousand martyrs who died protecting Karabakh from Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression last year. “It’s very hard to speak about my friend Ishkhan thinking he is not with us anymore,” Vahe says emotionally. “He was a man full of optimism with a cheerful and gentle soul, seeing the positive side in evil, and always was smiling.”
“We met over dinner just days before the war began in September, had a couple of drinks or two, spoke about our country, statehood, and its future. After these long pleasant hours-long discussions, with a big smile on his face, Ishkhan said his daughter Taguhi (whose name means ‘Queen’ in Armenian) is getting married soon. He was always sentimental speaking about his daughters, and those sentiments became more visible in his eyes filled with a sad gleam: Ishkhan knew somewhere along the line his daughters will get married and move from their parental house,” he continued.
“To make a long story short, it was getting late, and next day was work for both of us, we said good bye promising to see each other over the weekend. Unfortunately, there was no next time. The next Sunday, the war broke out…”
Ishkhan, whose grandparents survived the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey), had served in the military decades ago during the first Karabakh war. With this new war, he would again throw himself into the frontline. He bravely went forward to protect his country and his daughters, their future, so that he would not inherit a war to his grandchildren. He wanted to leave for them a peaceful state.
He did not survive, and is buried at Yerablur Pantheon.
Just days ago, his daughter Taguhi was married to her beloved man, just as it was planned. She visited her dad’s grave at Yerablur Pantheon and asked his blessing before the marriage. The bride does not have a wedding bouquet in her hands, instead placing the flowers on her father’s grave under her feet. The smile on the bride’s face talking to her father certainly is not full: grief has fallen on her face and is frozen within her eyes.
“I am sure Ishkhan has the same big smile on his face, looking from above as he had at the night when I saw him the last time,” Vahe concludes.
Rest in peace dear Ishkhan. Your fallen blood will still flow in your grandchildren’s veins.
To learn more about how Turkey and Azerbaijan joined together to commit genocide against Armenian Christians in Karabakh, read the report Anatomy of Genocide: Karabakh’s Forty-Four Day War.