There is yet another heartbreaking story from the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenians and Azeris. A man and his father were captured by Azeri soldiers. The let the father go, after sadistically abusing him, but they murdered his son. The son, Arsen, was visiting his father, Sasha Gharakhanyan, from Moscow right before the conflict broke out. The son was to return to Russia, but his father did not want to leave his home, so his son decided to stay, not wanting to leave his father behind. Arsen was in the center of Hadrut, a town within Nagorno-Karabakh, when he saw an Azeri soldier. He ran back home to get his father and flee. But when he entered his home he saw fifteen Azeri soldiers inside. They grabbed Arsen and tied his hands behind his back.
He and his father were to be taken captive. His sister was trying to call them, but their phones were not functioning. His sister and mother were horrified and in dread. But in the next month, November, they saw a video that had circulating social media showing the father, Sasha, being forced by soldiers to kiss the flag of Azerbaijan and to repeat “Karabakh – Azerbaijan” in order to humiliate the Armenian by having him say that the Nagorno-Karabakh region belongs to Azerbaijan and not to Armenians. As humiliating as the video was, it gave some relief to his family knowing that he was still alive. Sasha was being held in a prison in Baku with five other civilians. On December 14th, Sasha was finally returned, as we read in Human Rights Watch:
On 14 December, Azerbaijan returned Sasha to Armenia as part of a group of 44 POWs and civilians. He spent the next ten days in hospital. Sasha’s wrists and ankles were deeply scarred from having been tightly bound with wire. There were also scars on the back of his head where a soldier hit him several times with a rifle butt, and scars on his back from being poked with a metal rod. X-rays showed that one of his ribs on the left had been fractured and that he had a broken nose. Sasha was weak and disoriented and kept asking for his son. But there was no news of Arsen.
On January 6th, a video was found on social media showing Arsen — exhausted and worn out — being forced by Azeri troops to say “Karabakh is Azerbaijan” and to call Nicol Pashinyan (Armenia’s prime minister) pejorative terms. Arsen’s body was discovered with bullets. As the same Human Rights Watch report details:
On 13 January, in response to an Armenian government request, the ECHR asked Azerbaijan to provide information about Arsen’s fate and whereabouts. Five days later, in the course of the search for dead bodies in Hadrut region, with the mediation of Russian peacekeepers and the ICRC, Arsen’s body was found near the village of Aygestan. From the photos we were shown, the grave appeared to be fresh, and the body showed no obvious signs of decomposition. There were clear marks of gunshots through the forehead and chin. The conclusion of the Armenian medical examiners was that Arsen had been shot dead on 15 January, two days after the European Court raised his case with the Azerbaijani government.
The scarring on one of his ankles is horrendous, as if the wire had cut through to the bone. His right hand is still swollen, and he has difficulty moving it. He speaks in monotone, grudgingly, without looking up. His wife, sitting next to him, on the edge of the bed, cannot stop crying: “Why did they kill our son? He wasn’t fighting in the war. He was unarmed. He just stayed to watch over his father. So, it’s a war, so they rounded him up – but the war ended, and they still didn’t let him go. They abused him, they filmed him, they posted those videos… and then killed him. Why?”