The central square and St. Astvatsatsin Church in Vardenis, November 2020 (Photo AndyHM, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95721587)

Vardenis Troubled due to External and Internal Tribulations

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VARDENIS, Armenia — In a number of villages of the Vardenis region, which in 2020 after the war, ended up on the border with Azerbaijan, human rights are being openly violated in the most crude way. This primarily concerns the villages of Kut, Azat, Norabak and Sotk. From these villages, the military strongholds of the Azerbaijanis who invade the sovereign territory of Armenia and the movement of their armed forces and military equipment are clearly visible. Some conversations of members of the Azerbaijani armed groups can be clearly heard in the villages, while the sounds of their shooting cause alarm among the people.

The distance from the Azerbaijani strongholds to the aforementioned villages is 500-2000 meters, which means that the schools and in general all the children of the village are targets.

“I do not believe in the humanitarian policy of the world. I think it is false, because you see what is happening here. Children are directly targeted. Schools are directly targeted. Azerbaijanis shoot at the walls and windows of people’s houses, but the world is silent – that is, we are alone with our problems,” said Hakob Avetyan, the former head of the enlarged Geghamasar community.

In his opinion, the only salvation is to arm, to have a strong army and to solve the existing problems with one’s own forces.

“We must expel the Azerbaijanis from here, expel them as we did in the 1990s,” he added.

Harutyun, a resident of the village, who was also forcibly displaced (from northern Artsakh in 1988), thinks that the authorities of the day are not capable of solving the matter.

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“They can do nothing. They only blame the former [Armenian regimes], but during the period of the former, I could not even see in a bad dream that the Azerbaijanis reach the outskirts of my village and shoot at my house.”

Community teacher Jemmara Vardanyan mentions that the Armenian authorities should work with international organizations, especially on the issue of children.

“After all, our children are targeted by the enemy’s forces. Why is the government not working? Our main goal is to protect the children, but this is not being done now.”

Post-Election Crisis

In addition to all this, Vardenis is currently in a post-election crisis. On February 2, the Administrative Court partially upheld the claim of the former mayor of Vardenis, Civil Contract party mayoral candidate Aram Melkonyan and members of the municipal council who also are Civil Contract members, to annul the first session of the municipal council, during which Aharon Khachatryan, the leader of the Aharon Khachatryan Bloc, was elected mayor of Vardenis.

The lawyer of the Aharon Khachatryan Bloc, Varazdat Harutyunyan, considers this decision illegal, seeing no basis for it. “Of course we will protest this illegal decision because there are no grounds for it. Now we are preparing the necessary documents,” he said.

It should also be noted that in the December 5 elections in Vardenis, the Civil Contract party won 13 seats, the Aharon Khachatryan Bloc 10, and United Vardenis 4 seats (see “Post-Election Vardenis Political Divisions Continue”). The last two opposition forces formed a coalition, together securing 14 seats, after which the number one of the United Vardenis list of candidates, former mayor of Vardenis Aram Harutyunyan, was charged in a criminal case and arrested.

At the moment, Vardenis remains in a tense and uncertain atmosphere emanating both from outside its borders and internally.

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