By Atom Egoyan
It’s said that one of the first casualties of war is the truth, but war is also a great killer of complexity. There is nothing else to think but to protect our land and to support our valiant soldiers. My normal process of thought tries to see things from as many angles as possible, but that serves no purpose in the blunt and brutal activity we are presently engaged in. As Prime Minister Pashinyan has said, there is only victory or defeat. And defeat is unthinkable.
Why is it unthinkable? It is unthinkable that we are once again going to lose land that our ancestors have lived in for so long, and this is what I find so remarkable about our nation. We were divided long ago into an Eastern and Western culture, but we identify as one people. What is unthinkable is that our country of Armenia would be flanked by the ghost of Western Armenia on the west, and the possibility of a ghost of Eastern Armenia on the east. This is a nightmare.
Our grandparents were exiled from their towns and villages and it is unthinkable that we will allow a present generation to suffer the same fate. Anyone who has been to Artsakh – as I have – will know the strong-spirit and unique personality of our brothers and sisters there. It pains me tremendously to imagine that a generation born far away from the grueling war of the early nineties will now understand that not only are they themselves the children of war, but now their children will also have this dark stain on their souls.
One of the oddest things about visiting Armenia is how everyone refers to the people of Azerbaijan as ‘Turks’ and I used to believe that this was stretching things. The Karabakh War was against a different people, and I used to think that we liberated this land from the jaws of our Azerbaijani enemy. But now I understand that this really is a war against the Turks.
‘Turks’ not as nation or state, but ‘Turks’ as a concept of people who hate us so inexplicably, and have been allowed to literally hate us to death. What a crazy thought! Here we are, 105 years after the catastrophic genocide of our nation and these people are still determined to banish us off the face of the earth. Seriously, what have we done to them? Did we make a big case about what happened to Nakhchivan after the fall of the Soviet Union? We were prepared to give them that land without a fight, even though we had ancestral roots there. Why isn’t there some modicum of generosity with this land we wish to keep? Is it really that important to them?
No, what has become important is their need to hate us, and this is not a complex emotion. It bears little examination and needs only one clear response. I think William Saroyan said it best. ‘Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.’ This the ugly and awful truth we have arrived at.
This piece is part of the Voices on Karabakh collection where a select group of scholars, intellectuals, and artists contribute observations on the war in and for Karabakh. It’s an attempt to make sense of this time and this region.