Winner of the 2019 Canon Female Photojournalist Grant
For decades there has been conflict in the South Caucasus, in Azerbaijan, in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, with fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. In 1994, after six years of war, a ceasefire was concluded, but violence has continued along the contact line between the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh*, and Azerbaijan.
The ethnic Armenian population in the region receives support from local authorities offering incentives for encouraging large families; for example, a house is given to a family after the birth of the fifth or sixth child.
But as the families grow larger, it becomes more difficult for the parents to care for their children. This story follows the experiences of a number of families who, in different circumstances, are all struggling to support their children. In the current economic situation, they endure hardship, affecting living conditions and the development of their children. For many, such hardship has become the norm, but there is always the joy and playfulness of the children. Military presence is clearly felt in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the ambition of protecting the land is related to the goal of population growth. Sons are greatly valued, as can be seen with celebrations at maternity wards when a male child is born. Yet, many of the families I photographed have no fathers. In the village of Charectar, Alisa, the eldest daughter of Epraqsya, a single mother of eight, explained that she wanted to serve in the armed forces, but when I told her of the military academy and female cadets in the capital Stepanakert, Alisa said she would rather stay and work in the village.
Children, like adults in Nagorno-Karabakh, know what a struggle is, they know what it feels like, even if they may not be able to put a name to it.
- The republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized by any of the Member States of the United Nations Organization.