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  • Aytac Bekməmmədova

Young girls facing war behind the frontline

Let me talk about the feelings I experience when I think about the war.

When I first grasped the meaning behind the concept of war I felt horror taking all over my soul. For me, it signifies people displaced from their homes, people who are killed, women who face violence. I was first exposed to “it” during my school years via school plays dedicated to the Khojali events of February 26th. A battle happening on the stage, tragedies of war occurring and its horrors rooting themselves in my heart, with its ghastly claws paving a way for itself in my mind. All these performances reeking of death was a new trauma for me every time.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the war was so horrifying to me was because of the stories that portraited psychical and sexual violence against women following their vulnerability and helplessness. Conceivably, because of our shared identity as women, witnessing staged stories of women, the suffering they endured, made an alarming and painful impression on me. In the performances staged at the time, the girls were always portrayed as oppressed, widows, helpless, and the boys were elevated as martyrs and heroes, all of it performed by young schoolchildren. Already at this period, certain roles were already assigned to them. I surrendered to these performances of my school years, accepting them as real historical events. In my mind, they would take place only on the stage and never in real life.

However, with the "small-scale" wars of each passing year, I started to come across the real sensation of fear. I have closely encountered this feeling for the first time during the April war. The fear, anxiety and stress my roommate experienced as a result of their relative’s involvement in the war were nothing new to me. During those days I felt as if I was just watching another school play. Meanwhile, during the 44-day war, I was experiencing a culmination of emotions while also trying to protect my mental health with those around me who were sharing the same experience. The increasing violence during and after the war took away our sense of security in a society that was already sufficiently toxic. Coming across unfamiliar images in the city was stressful for each of us, these includes armed soldiers, daily inspecting us in the streets.

The sound of the ambulance sirens, which had been already heard increasingly during the COVID-19 lockdown and the curfew, became the new normal for us throughout the 44-days-war. I was psychologically harassed by a group of war supporters, especially cishet men, for saying that I was against the war and did not want young people to be killed and buried to the ground. The feeling of despair in my true peacebuilder friends who unwillingly found themselves in the midst of war by being in the frontline regions supporting and aiding women therein was not unfamiliar to me either.

War has been imprinted on my memory as the game between the states aiming to destroy the lives of multitudes. If asked about my feelings left by the war, I would say that 44-day war was the biggest blow to my psychology. It is embedded in our memory only with horrible shots. I understand that war is a game beyond our will. I am compassionate about suffering people, whether willfully or not. As to me, women here, at the rear front anguish the most. Toxic relationships, increasing violence, oppressed feelings are the least of the strikes. Affected by these dynamics, I wanted to speak with people sharing similar emotions and communicate their stories to you. These storytellers are teenagers and young girls. I got acquainted with them in Barda region near the ex-frontline and hereby want to share short stories from these war-affected territories.

Chinara, 20 years old

Unexpectedly, losses occurred in my life. The only thing remaining in my mind was sorrow and shock. I still recall the same feelings when I hear anything about war. Not only soldiers, but women fought this war. War left a mark on everyone, women and children regardless of age and sex. The continuous anxiety deteriorated our psychology. The noises heard in Barda was enough to understand who survived and who didn't. After 10 days since the start of the war, our bride-in-law, 17 years old girl, was losing her mind. We relocated her to Baku for the sake of her well-being. But I chose to stay here. Because observing all the happenings from far away would affect me even more. The children were crying, being afraid of the bombs. The most common phrase I heard from them through their screams: “we are also gonna die”. In our neighbourhood yard, I was constantly hearing conversations of 9-12 years kids. They were sharing their fears that a rocket shell might strike their home at night. Towards the end of the war, we lost all hope, but in the beginning, we were very hopeful. We were thinking that soon enough all of this will end. But the news kept coming; the news that made us lose our hope. The situation was grim, the peril we found ourselves in was making us frail. There were so many wounded in hospitals in Barda that even ordinary people like me were engaged in helping them. I was able to help also because I had first aid training. The smell of blood no longer affected me. Twits of the President flared up hope in us, each twit decided the next moment of our lives. We also helped prepare and distribute aid boxes for war-affected women and children in Barda. In the 44-day war, while soldiers were fighting on the front lines, sacrificing their lives for our lands, women were fighting along with them in the rear. There were women whose husbands had been taken to the war, some ere drafted, some voluntarily. Husbands of some of these women have been martyred and some have become war veterans and are now suffering from it. There were people who were relocated to Barda from Tartar and Aghdam. And thanks to residents of Barda everyone helped each other. There were some who refused government assistance and slept in their cars on the road. This scene was unfolding before our eyes: Cars parked on the side of the road and people living in them … I visited Baku during that period and felt strange. There was such an atmosphere in Baku as if there wasn’t an ongoing war in the country. This disturbed me. Because of this I immediately returned back to Barda. Because my mind was with the soldiers fighting in the front. In Baku, I understood that those who are not amidst the noise and the chaos can never understand what war is really like.

Gulnaz, 19 years old

Before the war, things were alright. Yet when it began, everything changed. From the very beginning, I was devastated, because my fiancé was there on the battleground. I was profoundly concerned both for our relatives and for us. This war thoroughly strained my nerves. Now just the noise of the TV drives me crazy. Since then, my sleep has been disturbed, and I still can't sleep normally. Every time I put my head on the pillow, I think the rocket will strike again. It affected not only my psychological health but also my physical health. I got sick more often. Later, I thought that my periods had stopped because of the stress. I think the fear and anxiety I experienced during the war will remain with me for years to come. Even now, when I speak, my hands are shaking, my voice is trembling, and my heart is pounding. The feeling of fear never diminishes. Probably from living in fear of death every day. These were traumatic feelings.

Zarifa, 18 years old

On my birthday, a rocket landed right next to us. Cattle were injured on the farm. I started screaming and crying in fear. My father was at home and shouted at me not to cry. Yet there is another moment from that same day I will never forget: a martyr was brought to our neighbourhood. The guy's mother knocked on our door and said, "Mushu, something had happened to my son. Come here, Mushu, something happened to my son." My parents ran to her. After experiencing these fears, I also had some health problems, and my nose began to bleed frequently. Each time I heard a noise from that stress and anxiety, I pulled my hair and screamed in fear. When I hear the word war, I feel fear; my body trembles and shakes when speaking about it.

Ravana, 19 years old

I was preparing for that day. This will sound weird to you, but I was feeling ready for it. It's a 30-years war; we just saw the last 44 days of it with our own eyes. There is only one terrible event in this war that I specifically remember. The cries and groans I heard on the third day of the war destroyed me. The voice of the martyr's mother is still in my ears. I will probably never forget that. The martyr was raised by his grandmother and grandfather, and the woman lived apart from her son. That guy was my classmate. But his mother told us that her son would celebrate his 19th birthday at home when he return from military service. Now there is a fount named after him, and his 19th birthday was celebrated there without him. This pain will never be erased from my heart. Even at night, the woman's voice still rings in my ears. I never want to witness those events again.



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