Under the sheltering canopies and among the calm chaos of isolated Sarnaghbuyr village, known as Aghbulag by Azerbaijan, in the Askeran region of Nagorno-Karabakh, tragedy recently unfolded. Three children and two elderly denizens fell victim to an unforeseen bombing event, the details of which were conveyed to BBC correspondents through grieving first-hand witnesses. Despite Azerbaijan’s assertion that only legitimate military targets were in their sights, the survivors shared a different narrative, painting a picture of an indiscriminate attack.
The wave of horror washed over Zarine Ghazaryan, while she was in the neighbouring town of Askeran desperately searching for baby formula for her youngest child, Karen. For nine prolonged months, a de facto blockade had strained resources resulting in shortages of essential items like food, fuel, and heating. The terrifying echo of explosions drew her back towards her home, a journey she claims was deterred by layers of incoming artillery fire.
A painful piece of news pierced Ghazaryan’s heart – one of her sons, Seyran, was critically injured and had been transported to a hospital in Stepanakert, the territory’s primary city. Simultaneously, Ghazaryan’s remaining children found themselves under the protective wings of Russian peacekeepers to be evacuated. Unfortunately, upon her arrival at the hospital, Ghazaryan was dealt another heartrending blow – two of her sons, 10-year-old Nver and eight-year-old Mikayel, had been killed by the bombings.
In the hospital, Ghazaryan unveiled her wounds for us, relating how she saw the lifeless bodies of her young sons marred by fatal head injuries. She spoke of the gut-wrenching horror with a mother’s grief-laden voice, desperately pleading for the presence of their father.
We also conversed with Arman, a 15-year-old boy from the same village, as he was receiving treatment for the wounds he received on his back, shoulders, and hands during the attack. He detailed a ghastly memory of shells detonating nearby while he and the children were huddled together under trees, seeking sanctuary from the relentless onslaught.
According to local authorities, three other residents also fell victim on that fateful day and 15 were wounded. Many found themselves homeless and were forced to join the tide of displaced ethnic Armenians seeking refuge elsewhere, massing at a local airport in hopes of being airlifted to Armenia or making their way to Stepanakert under the guiding hand of Russian peacekeepers.
With an overpowering desire to lay her sons’ bodies to rest in Armenia, Ghazaryan, like many others, waits amidst complicated transport logistics. Continually reminded of the tragic events, they can only plead for impartial, independent investigations into the incident.
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