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Sasun Mkhitaryan

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Home for Country: The price of patriotism for a sworn “Fidayein”

By Arthur Torosyan
ArmeniaNow Photoghrapher

Sasun Mkhitaryan is 67. He came of age in the Shamshadin Region (now in Tavush Marz) in a village on the border of Azerbaijan.

Early on, he became familiar with ethnic conflict, and when the Karabakh Movement began in 1988, he took an oath to be a Fidayein – a patriot, sworn to give his life to defending national values.

During the Movement he became a familiar face at Freedom Square and, later, a key figure in organizing patriot memorials for fallen soldiers.

One of his main contributions to the war effort was to acquire arms – which simply meant going to places such as Gyumri and find gun makers and those who knew where to get weapons.

“Me and my friend, in our rucksacks carried so many weapons. Those rucksacks should be in a museum,” Sasun says.

A graduate of the Brussov Pedagogic Institute department of languages, Sasun became a common face for foreign journalists who used his help in getting information about the war effort.

Officially, Sasun was not a member of the Armenian Army (and, therefore, does not qualify for a veteran’s pension). But, unofficially, anyone associated with the Movement knows he shouldered the burden of comrades in arms.

Part of his oath is that he would give up his family for his country. Now, however, after years of his rejecting them, the family (a wife and three children) has not received him back.

For the past five years, home has been is a shanty on the outskirts of Yerevan.

“I don’t need anything,” Sasun says.

But it is the Fidayein talking; not the elderly man who traded home for country . . .