Drawing peace in a time of war

Avetis Avetisyan


Children in the Armenian village of Aygepar live with the sounds of bullets. 

They were born on the frontlines of the 31-year conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The village is in a valley just 250 meters from the Azerbaijani border. Two Azerbaijani bases overlook Aygepar. The residents of the tiny community say shootings used to occur regularly, but they have become less frequent over the past two years.

The shooting is so close, in fact, the school and kindergarten were once prime targets. But thanks to a crowdfunding project, a wall now protects the school. The wall was meant as a guarantee of security – the safety to go to school without fear of a stray bullet.  But for the children, it has become a source of endless possibilities: a backdrop for Christmas lights, a canvas for drawings and a stage for countless games.

Photographer Avetis Avetisyan spent a day in Aygepar, documenting how the village raises its children under the constant threat of gunfire.

Aygepar is a village located near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. It is in a valley, and was often fired on by Azerbaijani troops. The children of the village kindly invited me to document their world.

This is Karina. She dreams of becoming a singer or a lawyer or a doctor.

Many buildings and homes in this tiny community bare the scars of the conflict.

A little over 200 families live in the village, which is just 250 meters from the border with Azerbaijan.

-Diana, are you afraid of gunfire? -No, I am not. -How that can be ? -Hm, I took karate when I was a child.

The northern side of the wall has been cracked and scarred by bullets. The southern side is full of children’s drawings.

Today the children draw pictures of flags and symbols of peace on the wall.

Through their pictures, the children turn fear into colorful expressions of their daily lives.

Mountain Ararat, a national symbol of Armenia, is a popular subject for the children.

The wall has become the backdrop for their games.

The children’s drawings and their games add an element of normalcy to their lives on the frontline.

The wall was financed by a crowdfunding effort, including contributions by the children and their families.

Thanks to the donations, the children can safely attend classes and play in their school yard.

Previously the village was constantly under Azerbaijani fire, although shootings have decreased to one or two incidents a day in recent years. The local government struggled to bring investors or create jobs.

For the nearly 700 people living in Aygepar, the village is home despite the danger and the conflict.

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