By Theodore Shoebat
While we have heard about the recent conflict between Armenians and Azeris over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, what we have rarely heard about are the horror stories coming out from that war. There was particular story that really reveals the reality of this horror. An Armenian family was leaving Nagorno-Karabakh for mainland Armenia because of the Azeri invasion, but the mother and father, Arega and Eduard,did not want to leave their home. They really did not think that the Azeri troops would enter their village. Their daughter, Gokhar, left with her husband. When her husband, Vladik, called his in-laws to urge them to leave, the person who picked up was not the father or mother, but an Azeri voice. “I’m Azerbaijani and this is Azerbaijan”. The Azeri soldiers took Arega and Eduard away. According to Human Rights Watch:
“Their soldiers just ran into the house with those big automatic rifles, pointing their weapons at us, shouting, threatening,” Arega said. “I started crying, pleading with them not to hurt us, but they twisted my husband’s arms behind his back and led him out of the house. Then they pounced on me, I screamed, I tried to resist, I was telling them I won’t go anywhere, but they were yelling and pushing me, so they forced me out. I begged them to at least let me take some warm clothing, but they did not.”
Azerbaijani soldiers took Arega and Eduard to a house higher up in the village, whose owner had fled, and kept them there for the night with two other local residents: Sedrak, a nearly blind neighbor in his seventies, and Baghdasar, another neighbor about ten years younger. In the morning, the soldiers took the four detainees to another abandoned house in the village and put them in a shed. At night, Baghdasar managed to dislodge one of the stones from the shed’s wall and escaped through the hole. The other three didn’t have the strength to attempt it.
“We spent all night in that shed, with no food, no water. It got cold and I was shivering in my thin gown. My husband and Sedrak dozed off at some point, but I couldn’t sleep. I was too scared. I just sat there shivering and crying.”
The next day, the soldiers took the detainees to a logging site in the mountains nearby. “More soldiers were there and one of them punched Eduard several times and kicked him with booted feet, yelling that he had surely taken part in the war 30 years earlier and this was his punishment for killing Azerbaijani people back then.” Another soldier, hearing Arega scream as she watched her husband being beaten, tried to reassure her: “Don’t be afraid, Granny, it’s going to be OK. You’re old. No one will kill you. Just bear up – and after a while, you’ll be released.”
But the husband was eventually found dead. An Azeri soldier called Gokhar’s husband, Vladik, and told him and his wife that the father was found dead. The Azeris claimed that the died from asthma, but an Armenian autopsy affirmed that he died from a blunt brain injury:
When the hostilities ended, on 10 November, the family thought they would be sent back soon. On 5 December, a man called Vladik, Gokhar’s husband from an Azerbaijani number and said, in Azeri-accented Russian, that he would put Arega on the line. Gokhar snatched the phone: “Mamma, are you already here? They brought you back?” But her mother was crying and mumbling incoherently.
“Mamma, please pass the phone to Daddy!” Arega started sobbing uncontrollably, then the line went dead. Three minutes later, the unknown man called again from the same number saying, “Your mother was trying to tell you that your father died. I’m sorry.”
That morning, before the phone call, the guards had opened the door of Arega’s cell and told her that Eduard had died in his sleep and they were there to take her to his cell, so that she could view the body. She was in a state of shock and does not remember much about those awful moments, except that her husband’s face was black and blue. Sedrak and another cellmate also told her that Eduard had gone to sleep and did not wake.
Eduard’s family pointed out that he had asthma for many years and had to take medication three times a day. In detention, he no longer had access to his medications. “Mamma had a stroke years ago and suffers from high blood pressure, so she had to take prescription medicine every day,” Gokhar says. “But in prison, they would not give it to her, and no doctor examined her, despite her requests. It must have been the same for Daddy, and the stress of the captivity also took its toll.”
On 9 December, the Azerbaijani authorities returned Arega and several other detainees to Armenia. Eduard’s body was also supposed to be returned on the same flight. However, the next day when the family saw the body that had been on the flight, they realized it was another man, younger, with a scar on his face. At first, the Azerbaijani authorities denied they had sent the wrong body. Finally, on 28 December, they shipped Eduard’s body to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, and the family buried him. On his death certificate, issued by the Armenian authorities following an autopsy, the cause of death is listed as blunt brain injury, brain swelling, and acute disorder of vital brain function.