Armenian Son Painfully Remembered, Tortured and Killed in Artsakh War

Photo collage by MassisPost: Together for Artsakh

The only child in the house was Gagik, who would have turned 20 on September 14, but the Artsakh War interrupted his biography. “Gagik grew up in Russia from the age of 6. At first, he stayed with his grandparents until I also managed to move,” Gagik’s mother Lusine says. “We raised him to be a patriot. He could not read or write Armenian, but he spoke well. He had many friends in Gyumri (Armenia’s second largest city). [He is] a very friendly child, helpful, caring. I got divorced when Gagik was three months old,” says Lusine Darbinyan.

19-year-old Gagik Mkrtchyan was supposed to be called up for compulsory military service in 2019. However, due to financial problems, he could not come to Armenia. The mother says that her son decided to go very quickly last year, Gagik immediately decided that he had to go pay his debt to the Motherland. The flight from Rostov took place on August 14. “Because of the pandemic, it was very difficult to find a ticket”.

The boy forbade his mother to come to Armenia with him. At first, the Gyumri military commissariat refused to call Gagik, saying that he was late, let him go and come to the next gathering. Gagik challenged the decision, said that he was already late and demanded to resolve the issue quickly. Gagik was drafted into the army on August 24. The place of service, according to the draw, was Jrakan.

“If he hadn’t gone, he wouldn’t have died,” the mother sighs, “in connection with the virus, those who came from outside had to pass a coronavirus test, he had to self-isolate for 14 days. Gagik quickly passed the test. Аt the military enlistment office, he stated that he had no health problems, did not allow the medical commission to conduct a thorough medical examination, and insisted that he be quickly sent to the army. Gagik had flat feet of the first or second category, in addition, he had a fight in Russia, his right arm was broken by the wrist. If he had allowed a normal medical examination, he definitely would not have been drafted into the army.”

After the draft, Gagik quarantined in Stepanakert for 14 days, and at the end of August he joined the service. In the military unit, the boy began to have abdominal pains, from where he was hospitalized, he was discharged on September 21, and was told that if it happened again, he would be sent to Yerevan. After 6 days, the war began.

“At that time I didn’t understand why he was in such a hurry, but a few months later I found out that before going to Armenia, on August 12th, his Russian friend wrote why Gagik was in such a hurry. Gagik told him that he had learned from friends who serve in the Artsakh Defense Army that there might be a war soon. He goes to be near his friends,” says Lusine.“His close friend, Samvel Hovakimyan, also died. Samvel was a few years older than him, but they were very close. And now I understand why he was so eager to join the army in August.”

Gagik was tall, 1.85 m, he was engaged in boxing, participated in ММА fights. The mother describes the boy as purposeful, fearless, decision-making, persistent and fighting for justice. Gagik spoke to his mother on September 28, saying that he was on the front line. Lusine asked what kind of weapon he was given, he jokingly said a machine gun.

Then he called on October 2 and said that he had been given a new weapon. “He said that he was given a black arrow, I asked what it was, he explained that it was a sniper rifle, and there is a sniper girl with him too. The next call I received was on October 7. Remember that rumors spread that some people went to Jabrayil and told the soldiers to leave, run, Nikol sold the land, you will be sent to the meat grinder. They were told this, but they did not run away, there were 19 of them. Those who said this gave the children an order to hand over their weapons, and then took them to the forest and left them there, it was the evening of October 5.”

According to Lusine, she found out about this already on October 7, when she talked to her son on the phone. “They were found through the military police, as Gagik called our friend in this structure, who called me, so I found out that my son and his friends had disappeared in the forests of Jabrayil. After that, they called the military police of Stepanakert, then Hadrut, so they found them, but took them away, beat them. Gagik called, said ‘I have a big bump on my head, but I’m not offended, the most important thing is that we are saved.'”

Lusine shows a group photo in which everyone is smiling happily – after that, the children were taken to Hadrut. “If you remember, a truce was declared on October 10, but the enemy immediately violated the ceasefire. At that time, Turkish mercenaries took the military base of Hadrut, I don’t know by what miracle they escaped, because the Turks blew up the military unit. Me and other parents found the commander and asked where our children were, he was banging his head on the walls, saying: “don’t demand children from me, they blew up in front of my eyes.”

The information that Gagik and his friends died in a military base was refuted by a call from Gagik. The boy told his mother that he and his friends were hidden in the basement of the church, they had weapons, but there were seriously wounded with them, and they did not know how to get out of the territory that was already under enemy control. It was the last call from Gagik.

“We tried to find anyone, but no one agreed to save them. That night we contacted some Armen, he said that he was the mayor of the City, but then we found out that he was just an employee of the Mayor’s office. He said give me the phone number of Gagik and he will try to find. We gave the number. As he said, he contacted them and directed them to some gorge. He told us that everything was fine.” Lusine sighs, trying to recall the events and chronology of the past months as accurately as possible.

“On October 21, we found one of the officers, named Armen, nicknamed the ‘Bat’. There was no news from my son for a long time, I called him and told him that I was Gagik’s mother, he said that Gagik was with them, he was just on combat duty now, in 6 hours the duty would end and Gagik would call her. So far, these six hours have not passed. Then the number of this Armen became unavailable.”

During the search, Lusine and her relatives tried to meet with wounded soldiers who knew Gagik. They claimed that Gagik was alive, not even wounded, but they did not know exactly where he was. “Gagik was a fan of tattoos, there were very interesting, unique tattoos on his body. He had a large tattoo on his chest in Armenian, ‘only God judges me’. There were knife wounds on the body, and especially the word “God” was mutilated the most.”

The search was fruitless, and Gagik Mkrtchyan’s name appears on the list of missing persons. On the night of December 19-20, Lusine saw a photo of the boy on the Internet. An unknown user who published it wrote that a new video of the captives appeared, but does not publish the video, since there are scenes of violence, and suggested that people who know the guy in the photo write to him, he will send the video. Lusine contacts the user and receives a video that proved that Gagik was captured. In addition to Gagik, there was another prisoner in civilian clothes in the video.

Lusine says he was caught not by the Azeris, but by Turkish mercenaries. The video showed that her son was being severely beaten, but he continued to say that “Karabakh is Armenia. Period.” The Turks kicked him in the face and asked, “It is because you don’t say what we want,” but Gagik continued to say in Armenian, “Ղարաբաղը Հայաստան է և վե’րջ (Karabakh is Armenia).”

“We appealed to international structures with the help of lawyers Artak Zeynalyan, Siranush Sahakyan, the Red Cross, all confirmed that the prisoner is 100% Gagik. According to information received from Baku, Gagik was captured on December 6th and the Hadrut village Tyak. On December 3, we saw in the news that shots were heard in one of the villages of Hadrut, there are survived soldiers who are fighting for their lives. It turned out that it was them, but no one saved them. It turns out that the children were taken prisoner due to lack of weapons and ownerlessness.”

From December 2020 to April 2021, Lusine was unable to obtain any evidence that the boy is alive. Six months after the boy’s disappearance, the mother receives his tortured body. “It was at the beginning of April, when the plane heading from Baku for the prisoners returned empty, that is, information spread that they had brought the dead prisoners, but officially declared that the plane was empty. We started sounding the alarm again, and on April 19th we found Gagik’s body in Mkhitar Heratsi. They called us and said there was a DNA match.”

The mother herself went to identify the body, according to her, the boy was brutally tortured, there were numerous knife wounds on his chest, two gunshot wounds on his leg, his ribs were completely broken, there were burn marks on his body. Gagik was beheaded. Lusine asked the pathologist if the boy’s internal organs were in place and received a negative answer.

“I do not know why, he said that it was because the body was burned, but the body was not so burned that there was not a single internal organ, the fire did not affect only the internal organs, if that was the case, they would have given me not a body, but a handful of ashes. We still don’t know exactly when Gagik was killed. The video was shot on the spot, he was tortured and killed or killed when he was already in Baku. I asked the doctor when death occurred, because the corpse was just beginning to lose its freshness. She said that since there is no head, we may not be able to tell, probably when he called last time. When I showed the video and said that my son was captured in December, she did not give a death certificate, they said that this was already a criminal case. Now a criminal case has been opened in all directions, why the serviceman was killed in captivity and where his head is located.” Lusine says that a month after finding Gagik’s body from the Hadrut district, the corpses of his colleagues with gunshot wounds and traces of an explosion were found.

In the case of the murder of 19-year-old serviceman Gagik Mkrtchyan, Armenian human rights activists appealed to the European Court. At the suggestion of the Ministry of Defense, Gagik’s body was buried in Yerablur. Gagik Mkrtchyan was posthumously awarded the medal “For Military Merit”.

This article has been published by Hetq: https://hetq.am/hy/article/136252. The translation of the article was carried out by Re:public telegram channel for the purpose of familiarization and further transmission to human rights organizations and requested for publishing to International Christian Concern’s website.

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