When Barkes left for Armenia this summer due to the financial crisis in Lebanon, he never imagined that he would volunteer to fight in Nago Renault-Karabakh.
However, the young Lebanese-Armenian did not think twice, shortly after his move, when a conflict broke out between the Azerbaijani and Armenians.
“I wanted to go that night,” said Barques over the phone, asking him not to be identified by his last name. Although ruled by the Armenian people, he was not called to support the armies of the region, which is recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
“I feel like I have to do something for my country.”
Armenian Defense Ministry officials said that many people from diaspora applied for volunteer work without providing the exact number. Hundreds of people from remote places, such as Argentina and the United States, have returned to Armenia for combat training, local instructors said.
The most lethal in the mountainous region for over 25 years, the battle sparked massive mobilization across Armenia and witnessed vast global diaspora coming into action.
In Lebanon, a community of nearly 140,000 people from Armenia, the world’s largest, raised funds and sent aid despite a severe currency crash. Many have their roots in Lebanon after their ancestors massacred Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a century ago.
Yerevan combat instructor Karapet Aghajanyan, who trains local and overseas volunteers, told Reuters about 10 Lebanese-Armenians
trained in his camp.
He said he arrived from Beirut after a battle broke out to get to the front line in late September.
Dozens of Armenian Lebanese have already left Beirut a few months before the start of the battle, leaving for Yerevan. Lebanon’s economic collapse and a massive Beirut port explosion that killed nearly 200 people in August fueled migration.
Lebanon Hagop Pakradounian, who heads the Armenian Revolutionary Federation political party, said there were no organizations in Lebanon to register or dispatch volunteers.
He said fewer than 20 people acted alone to join in Beirut. It was not clear if anyone was called to battle.
“We can’t stop them after all. We try to persuade them, but they have this impulse,” he said. “Some youths are going because it is an existential war for the Armenian people.”
This violence has sparked fears that a wider conflict will take place in Russia, which has a defense treaty with Turkey and Armenia that support Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan rejects a solution for Armenians to take over the territory. Armenians refuse to withdraw from the territory they consider to be part of their historic homeland.
On a major highway outside Beirut, a white placard on a bridge reads, “Stop the azeri invasion.”
In Anjar, most of Lebanon’s Armenian village, Varkes Khoshian, head of the municipality, said that families worried about paying the bills also donated.
“People gave more than they had,” he said. “We all follow the news every minute.”
This month he commemorated the opera singer Kevork Hazian, who was born in a Lebanese village in Armenia, one of his murdered in the Battle of Anjar.
Many residents viewed him as a hero.
The singer’s 74-year-old mother, Sosse Hadjian, told the murdered warriors that she spent days crying and watching TV. But she didn’t know that her son was in the lead until her brother announced the death.
“I’m a mother who lost her son in the end. It’s really hard.” “But I’m also proud to have joined him for the Armenians for his homeland.”