Life and war

As usual I started my Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and news browsing. Facebook was getting flooded with #wewillwin posts. My heart started thumping instinctively: something was amiss. Yes, our Artsakh had been attacked again. 

Was it a coincidence that just the day before I had been recounting my memories of the first war to my seven-year-old daughter and nieces? My parents refused to speak or explain much to us when we were young growing up in wartime. Their silence was more telling than anything they could say. Probably neither of us realized the depth and the impact of their silence, and I perhaps never would have if it were not for my daughter’s apprehensive eyes, demanding answers for my secretive tears. I never would have recognized how difficult it was for my parents to explain the unfurling events to me if I did not have to do the same for my daughter and nieces 30 years later. 

In the moment of explanation you realize that while memories blur, pain does not. As much as we are aware of the value of forgetting and reinventing, pain gets stored in our DNA.

It seems that 21st century humans should not have much in common with primitive men. However, some stopped progressing at the point of even trying to be human. Setting and habitat did not help their mentality. Thus, such individuals with the genocidal minds of their savage forefathers and the intellectual levels of early man challenge the whole civilized world with one goal – to destroy and desecrate, slay and slaughter, seize and capture what is not theirs.  

The 21st century world is replete with organizations, alliances and initiatives to protect human rights, human life, peaceful coexistence and so on. One would think – a perfect order. I would say a perfect failure. Order without meaning and underlying value is anti-democratic tyranny. Order that ignores values is either arrogance or corrupt indifference. The human rights organizations look on or make maximum “neutral” calls from their offices when two dictators violate all the norms and principles of international law with barbaric acts the sights of which chill one’s blood. The “neutrality” with which they equate the offender and the defender, and the passivity with which they watch a humanitarian catastrophe unfold in Artsakh and calmly cite their mandate limitations prove one thing – they are useless, and the world can go on without them. The opposite of neutrality is a false certainty with which they feed the helpless and the vulnerable. Neutrality means the ability and will to discern and call a spade a spade rather than endeavoring to picture a spade as a sickle. Only two and half decades ago the UN peacekeepers, citing their mandate’s limitations, allowed the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi. We have heard about their limitations enough during these times of our battle for our Artsakh, our historical land, our identity and our existence against Turk-Azeri criminal ambitions. Frankly, their mandate is all about limitations. No, ladies and gentlemen, we are not blind. Be honest and refer to your interests rather than disguising them under limitations.  

(Photo: Government of Armenia, October 20, 2020)

War is the only instance where killing is not punished but rather justified. If you do not do it to them, they will do it to you. Hence, anyone who wants to kill you is your enemy. This war has already taken thousands of lives from both sides, including young men in their teens and early 20s who had just started to live and love. Just a few days earlier they were dreaming, just like their peers in the world: making plans for the future, dating their girlfriends, teasing their mothers… Soldiers who just became fathers, officers and volunteers with their children waiting for them… Now they are counted as casualties by the same organizations who do nothing to protect them as figures, inanimate figures. They were forced into a war that was not theirs, because the world failed to restrain two dictators and their rapacious appetites. 

Is there a limit of pain beyond which our DNA cannot bear it anymore? I have been trying to put myself in the shoes of those young lives in the face of flying missiles, striking drones, looming tanks, artillery and all kinds of modern weapons (made to kill people) whose names I do not know, but their pictures alone make my blood run cold, aside soldiers and their friends falling around them. Having reconciled with the odds of death, having said good-bye to their loved ones in their minds, having measured the depth and width of minutes and seconds, soldiers are preoccupied with one thing – the protection of their land and people. War, a practice of primitive man, has not been ditched by modern humanity. Human life does not matter in war. What matters is the objective, whether noble or despicable. Unfortunately the modern world, with all of its humanitarian advances, has not reached the point of valuing human life more than that of, say, a tree or a bee or other natural wonders. While a whole generation vanishes at the hands of two extremists, there is no one to hold them accountable. Alas, no antidote has been found yet to the corruptible nature of human beings. Signatories of international law and supporters of human rights are annoyingly clamorous in quiet times and shockingly quiet in times of unrest. 

The only thing certain about life is change. We will change this circle as well. This page will be turned. We will go on. Artsakh will go on, and it will flourish again. Kristin Hannah put it right: in love we find out who we want to be, whereas in war we find out who we are. We will build a future again where there is no violence, enmity or humiliation, but rather peace, stability and harmony. We will always call things by their names at the right time, even if the rest of the world fails to do so. 

Manya Israyelyan

Manya Israyelyan

Manya Israyelyan is a reporter, translator and content writer based in Yerevan, Armenia. She contributes to regional and international publications and covers social, cultural, political and human rights issues and from time to time writes existential stories.

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