BAGARAN, Armenia – Sos Vardevanyan’s garden is flourishing. He likes to sit under the trees’ shadow, to have a rest and to follow the life in the Turkish village which is some 100 metres away from his own place. The Armenian village Bagaran and the Turkish village are separated by barbed wire.

“If I have a guest we come and sit in this garden. It is interesting for my guests to see a Turkish village so close, while for me it is already very common place”, said Sos Vardevanyan.

Border keepres are always next to the villagers

50-year-old Sos Vardevanyan was born and has lived in this village his whole life. The village next to the Armenian-Turkish border is in the Armavir region. Sos Vardevanyan’s house is the one which is the closest to the border.

“One day my daughter went a bit far from the garden. I started to get worried and called, “Hasmik, Hasmik don’t go far”. The next day a Turkish guy was standing next to the border and calling, “Hasmik, Hasmik”, said Paycar Sahakyan, Sos Vardevanyan’s wife.

The villagers can watch only the Public channel as the TVs can’t receive the programmes of other TV stations, while people can watch the Turkish channels without a satellite. “My daughter watched cartoons on Turkish TV stations and in this way learned Turkish”, said Paycar Sahakyan.

There is no connection with the Turkish people and more over, Sos Vardevanyan is against opening the Armenian-Turkish border. “We haven’t forgotten the Genocide. If the border opens, the village will lose its peace”, he said.

There is a new minaret on the other side of the border. The sound of the minaret bells during the praying time is heard in the Armenian village.

You can see the road and the cars from Sos Vardevanyan’s garden. “There is a green building on the hill. They built it recently. Maybe it is a tea house. The cars stop in front of that building very often. Turkish villagers keep bees and work in the field,” said Sos Vardevanyan.

The border is kept by Armenian and Russian soldiers. Each year a meeting is held between villagers and border keepers at the begining of the field work period. The question which is being discussed is always present and never solved. There are fields and gardens of 2000 hectares between the two countries. This area is called the neutral zone. In order to get there and work in their own fields and garden, the villagers need to get permission and to show it to border keepers each time when they enter or go out from their lands. There are exact times for entering and going out. You can’t enter there before sunrise or stay there after sunset. It happens often that the villagers have to stand in queue in order to get into their lands. “It is complicated for the villagers to enter their lands. The border keepers check the permission and only after that do they let them go there. The villagers ask that the process be made easy”, said Gevorg Margaryan, the head of the village.

The border keepers have only one answer for the villagers. It is necessary for security to keep this kind of control. The problem has been unsolved for years and the villagers always have to keep their passports and permissions on them.

74-year-old Volodya Piloyan shows the passport and permission. The documents are always in his pocket, even if he doesn’t go to the field. The villagers work in the field under the control of border keeper, and it is an ordinary situation for them.

The villagers complain that young people don’t want to stay in the village. “There are no jobs; the income from the field is not enough to live on. There is only one bus a day to Armavir, the main city of the region. What are young people to do?” said 52-year-old Kostya Petrosyan.

The villagers can go on endlessly about the problems of the village. The price of the irrigation water was raised and there is only one spring in the whole village for the water to drink.

There is no church in the village; young people need to go to the regional centre or Yerevan to get married in a church. There are 8-9 weddings and 8-10 births a year. There are 10 students in the first grade of the school and 90 students in the whole school.

By Arevik Badalyan