18-year-old Ara received a military deferment – he weighed 43 kilograms – just shy of the 45 kilograms required to serve in the Artsakh Defense Army.
But Ara didn’t want to put it off, so he wrote to the Artsakh Minister of Defense, asking that he be conscripted.
His request was approved and now Ara, who hails from the Martakert village of Mokhratagh and once worked at the Martakert water utility, is now a private in the army.
“There’s nothing to be sad about. The army holds a special place for every Artsakh native. At times it seems that we are born in the army,” says Ara, who also attended the Grigor Narekatsi University in Stepanakert, taking military preparatory classes. He wants to remain in the army and become an officer.
“Our village is five kilometers from Martakert. I’d go to the city with my brother, another contract soldier. Work at the utility was good. It was better than doing nothing,” says Ara.
Soon after my conversation with Ara, the lottery to decide where he’d serve was begun.
We then travelled to the military base where officers were waiting to greet the new conscripts and show them around. They were issued clothes and a cot.
Ara confesses that he was a bit anxious after entering the gates of the army base and then gazing back. The butterflies in his stomach have passed, he says.
Leaving the base, I and the Hetq photographer see a few other new conscripts sitting in the corridor all in a line. They’re all holding booklets.
One guy is reading the bible, the other, the Artsakh national anthem. Others are brushing up on their duties as soldiers.
No one is talking.
The only sounds I hear are from a sergeant barking orders on the parade grounds outside.