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Larisa Paremuzyan

Baghanis, an Armenian Border Village in the Line of Fire: Two Azerbaijani Gun Positions Must Be Dealt With

Baghanis is a village in the Tavoush Province of Armenia, and is located just a kilometer or two away from the border with Azerbaijan.

Village Mayor Nareg Sahakyan says that Armenian villages along the Tavoush border, in contrast to villages in Artsakh, are much closer to Azerbaijani military positions.

“Our villages are located right underneath the hilltop positions of the Azerbaijani military. If we could capture the two of them our people would live in peace,” says Mayor Sahakyan.

The two Azerbaijani elevated positions are just under one kilometer away from Baghanis and Voskevan, a neighboring Armenian village. Ever since the 1994 ceasefire in the Artsakh War, the Azerbaijani military has a clear firing line on the village and the interstate road below.

On April 6, from 10 in the morning until midnight, Baghanis was again fired upon from these two positions.

Mayor Sahakyan says that Baghanis residents automatically go into defense mode when fired upon. “We have no real sage refuge in the village, so everyone kind of fends for themselves. At least there’s a safe room in the school built last year with funding from the Red Cross. But we can’t just think about hiding, we have to get on with life.”

According to the mayor, the village was peaceful both before and after the April 6 firing. But residents were still on edge. Sahakyan showed us some of the rounds fired by the Azerbaijani military on the evening of April 6. He says that luckily no one was hurt that day.

Sahakyan says that the Azerbaijanis stopped firing only after the Armenian side responded. When asked about the defensive situation in Baghanis, Mayor Sahakyan responded, “We have faith in our army.”

In February of this year, some 80 Baghanis residents were organized into a village defensive unit on the orders of Armenian Minister of defense Seyran Ohanyan. The village has a population of 955.

“We’ve laid irrigation pipes and the entire network has been enlarged. Residents work the land on a regular basis. We feel obligated to create the necessary conditionsfor residents to engage in agriculture and raising livestock,” says Mayor Sahakyan, adding that young people aren’t leaving the village.

The socio-economic situation in Baghanis is nevertheless quite depressed. Armen Haroutyunyan, a Baghanis resident raising a family of eight, left to work in Sochi eight days ago.

“My son has two daughters studying in Yerevan. They have to pay tuition. He went to Russia and came back, saying there’s no work to be had,” says Armen’s mother Victoria Haroutyunyan.

Armen has bricked in the windows of the house. When the shooting starts, the family seeks shelter in the basement. Armen’s son Argam, in the first grade, is terrified by the shooting.

Victoria Haroutyunyan says the family makes due with state assistance for Argam and his twin brother Van, and with her monthly 50,000-dram pension.

Men gathered outside the village store say they lead hidden lives and can’t cultivate the land. Azerbaijani gun placements make farming a risky business.

Shop owner Lena Haroutyunyan says everyone has a tab and that she’s owned 2.5 million drams in toto.

“I believe that the problem of those two Azerbaijani hill positions must be resolved. It’s the only way to ensure the safety of Baghanis. All that firing is nerve-wracking for us. They want to make life so unbearable so that we leave,” Mayor Sahakyan said.