Armenia: Perils of Frontline Farmers
Gegham Vardanian writes in IWPR:
Arshaluis Arsenian is up and working at daybreak, opening the valve to send the water into the fields out beyond the front line. Armenian soldiers watch her from an observation post, although much of the water ends up nearer to the Azerbaijani troops whose front line is at the other end of the field.
“Ninety per cent of the village fields are situated beyond our posts. When the villagers go down to cultivate land, we send soldiers with them, because the enemy’s positions are so close that they could descend and capture a peasant working,” said the commander of the military detachment stationed in the village, Vachik Kroian.
Arsenian’s village of Khachik is situated on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border just a few kilometres from the Azerbaijani villages of Lower Yaychi and Upper Yaychi. The nearest Armenian villages are almost 30 km away.
Khachik residents have grown used to working with assault rifles aimed over their heads since the war over the province of Nagorny-Karabakh ended 13 years ago. After the fighting, the region was left in the hands of local ethnic Armenians, but no final resolution has been agreed.
Despite the two countries signing a truce in 1994, no peace deal has been forthcoming and sporadic shooting over the frontier is frequent. Tensions are permanently high, though there have been no casualties in this village since the end of the war.