Defending Home Until the End | Persecution

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Defending Home Until the End

By ICC’s Field Correspondent

07/09/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)Haykaz was born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. After graduating high school, he became a student in Yerevan State University. Haykaz dreamed of becoming an IT professional.

Beginning in 2019, he has served in the military for two years on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his service in the army as an artilleryman he went through two periods of conflict: in July of 2020 when the Azeri army attacked Tavush, a province in northeast of Armenia, and again in the 44-day Artsakh war. Haykaz was awarded the “Combat Duty” medal for his heroic behavior after the first.

Remembering that war, he once said to his family, “When I turn around, I see the villages at the border of Azerbaijan. I understand that our people sleep and wake up calmly every day with confidence that Armenian soldiers like me and my comrades cover their backs. How could we not fight for them? What can be better feeling than to serve our statehood and country?”

According to Haykaz’s father, during the war in July of 2020 his son called him and said that this probably would be his last call. “He called to say goodbye. The situation was really serious; heavy battles were taking place on the border of Tavush province, and the day he called would be a turning point. The elite unite of Azerbaijani armed forces called ‘Yashma’ were fighting against the Armenian soldiers.”

When the Artsakh war started, Haykaz was conducting his military duties in Tavush. He texted his sister Arevik, asking rhetorically, “The heavy fight is currently going on in Artsakh, and I don’t understand why they keep soldiers like me in here?” His sister, knowing there was truth in her brother’s question, was scared to lose him and texted back saying, “You have already given your fight a few months back, and now it is the turn of the soldiers who serve in Artsakh.”

Haykaz’s response was shocking, “No, it is our land and our people, there is no turns for these things. We have to protect our country at any cost, including with our lives. One day I am sure you will understand what I am saying.” Arevik responded, “I understand, but I love you more than Artsakh.”

Haykaz responded, “No, my sister, unfortunately you don’t understand. If Artsakh doesn’t exist, neither will you, nor will our home. If Artsakh does not exist, whole Armenia one day won’t exist.” On October 14, 2020, artilleryman Haykaz with his comrades were transferred to territory of Artsakh.

On October 29, two days before his 20th birthday, he was seriously injured by a UAV drone close to the town of Shushi. After undergoing the first emergency surgery in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, Haykaz was placed in an artificial coma and taken to a military hospital in Yerevan by military helicopter.

On his birthday, unaware of the situation, the relatives of Haykaz were impatiently waiting for his call to congratulate him. But they did not receive a call; the congratulations did not arrive. Haykaz “met” his 20th birthday in an artificial coma in the resuscitation department of a military hospital. He fought for his life for 15 days on the battlefields of Artsakh, and for 11 days in the intensive care unit. On November 9, when most of Artsakh was surrendered to the enemy, an hour before the war ended, the young soldier said goodbye to his life for eternity.

Haykaz defended his homeland to the end! He fought and did not run away even when he realized that something was “wrong in this war.” In his seconds-long telephone conversation with parents and close friends during the heavy war days, he mentioned a few times, “We are constantly going back, the tactical retreat is kind of strange, I guess we have to surround the enemy, but we do not. I do not understand what is happening.”

During his last telephone conversation with his mom he said, “I do not want to lose Artsakh in front of my eyes, but looks like it’s happening. I am ashamed of myself. This is a disgrace.” Soldier Haykaz Mkrtchyan was only 20 years old. Haykaz’s sister misses him very much and believes that her brother’s soul is soaring above Tavush in the mountains, the place which he fell in love with from first sight.

Despite the November ceasefire agreement, conflict and violence along the Artsakh borders continue. Further third-party investigation and oversight is needed to bring the reality of what has and is happening in Artsakh to light within the international community. For more information about the humanitarian impact, see ICC’s report Nagorno-Karabakh: A Humanitarian Perspective.

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