A shell exploded on a road entering Talish on the night of April 3rd killing several volunteer fighters standing next to the shelled car.
For 22 years the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a 3700 square-mile independent, mostly Armenian area nestled inside Azerbaijan, has remained relatively peaceful. A brutal war there from 1988-1994 during the dissolution of the former Soviet Union left somnolent scars in a place known as a “frozen conflict” zone in the diplomatic world. Tension between Turkey and Russia over the Syrian refugee crisis may have thawed that fragile peace as war erupted for five days in April. Families fled. The prime minister called contractual soldiers to Stepanakert for deployment instructions. Secretary of State John Kerry called for restraint.
Anush Babajanyan, a photojournalist from Armenia and a member of the 4Plus collective, traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh by minibus to cover the conflict. She found a soldier returning to war on the bus as well as families who were forced to leave, frustrated and scared. Official tallies claimed that 18 Armenians and 12 Azeris died before a shaky agreement was reached. “The people expected the military to hit military posts, not a village” says Babajanyan. “There is no question that these people will fight for their land.”
Vladimir Avetisyan, 23, travels from Gyumri to his military post in Aghdam on the front line between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. He was urgently called back from holidays in his hometown, as clashes between Karabakh and Azerbaijan escalated on the night of April 1, 2016. Veterans from the Nagorno Karabakh conflict from 1988-94 and younger soldiers arrive to Stepanakert to voluntarily fight. Nagorno Karabakh Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan discusses plans with his team ahead of a meeting with volunteer fighters who are arriving in Stepanakert from different locations in Karabakh and Armenia. Talish, a village on the front line of the war, suffered severely from the re-ignited conflict. Villagers were forced to leave their houses and to leave their animals unattended. Vagharshak Grigoryan,12, was killed in shelling that hit the neighborhood of his school in the Martuni region at 8:30 AM, April 2. The child was one of four civilians killed between April 1 and April 5. Lieutenant Vahe Avanesyan, 27, and soldier Harut Gasparyan, 19, hide in a trench on the front line during military operations on April 4. Soldiers repair the phone lines at Mataghis village military post. The lines were damaged during the fighting. Soldiers are often those serving their required two-year military service. The house of Hermine Sahakyan, 30, and her family was hit twice in Talish during the five-day war. Shelling destroyed her children’s bedroom on April 2 and another one ruined the living room on April 5. The family of Hermine Sahakyan, 30, (center) receives free accommodation and food at a hotel in Stepanakert. An area in Karabakh, which people call Whore’s Fishnet Stockings, is 30 meters apart from the Azerbaijani border. Bloody battles took place here in 1994, where shells left crossing marks, resembling fishnet stockings. The area is still a dangerous zone, and cars drive fast through it. Long-time driver of a military official, Davit Gasparyan, 36, was killed on the front line the evening of April 4. He left behind a wife and three children. Yuri Gasparyan, 63, the father of Davit Gasparyan who was killed during the recent conflict, had worked in Stepanakert during the previous conflict 20 years ago while the city was being shelled. Remains of a shell from the 1988-94 war sit on the wall of an old fortress at the entrance to Askeran.