Conscription In Armenia and Artsakh

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The following blog entry was written by Unger Aram Tufenkjian, discussing his conflicting thoughts on conscription and it's impact on the youth of Armenia and Artsakh. 

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‘Why don’t presidents fight the war, why do they always send the poor?’.

One of the most symbolic lines in System of a Down’s song, BYOB. Something that got me thinking throughout my time in Armenia and Artsakh. Especially with the recent ‘Artsakh War’ in April and even more so visiting the region and seeing everything first hand.

Armenia is a country that implements conscription, but should this be accepted and even more so, should it be compulsory for every male 18 year old Armenian (barring a few minor circumstances) to go and give up the most precious years of their life with the possibility of death?

The kids that we were fortunate enough to meet for two weeks during our Youth Corps program already know that it’s coming. It is second nature, they don’t even try to think of getting around it. They know they will serve, they will serve at any cost and they will do it with extreme pride. It was touching but extremely sad to see one of our most educated and bright Jampar attendees say ‘When I return from the army, and you come back to Armenia, you will see me as a Khempabed (leader)’. It’s inevitable and there is also the chance, God forbid, that he never comes back to do what he really wants to do.

We saw 18/19 year olds at Gandzasar Monastery receiving their final blessings before they would head out to their posts or their training. We went to an Army Barracks just outside Stepanakert which was the home of hundreds of soldiers for 2 years. You could see the pride in their demeanour for serving their country and keeping the borders safe. But did they really have to be there?

As many times I hear it from the kids, I could never put myself in that situation. I could never think about being forced to serve because it is against what I believe. Forcing our future generations, our hope to the front lines as pawns in a battle of ‘Super Powers’ who could not care less about the population and only caring for self greed. These children didn’t start the war, they have no interest in war but they are the ones who are in the thick and thin of it – every single day. Why?

Because they need to.

Armenia as a nation needs conscription. It needs to send its favourite sons to the front lines to ensure border security; that just the position that we are in right now as a nation and for what looks like the foreseeable future. This is why we hold them in such high esteem. This is why we need to mourn every single loss.

It is cruel, it is wrong, it ruins individuals and families lives but for the security of our borders it’s what we need now. Unfortunately.