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Armenia-Azerbaijan: More Conflict Voices

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

As mentioned in previous posts on Global Voices, new and social media is increasingly playing a role in facilitating communication between Armenians and Azerbaijanis online. Locked into a bitter conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, there are few other possibilities for connecting since the 1994 ceasefire other than meeting in third countries as The Story of a Brilliant Idea explains in terms of coverage by Global Voices’ Caucasus regional editor in this area after attending last week's Young Media Makers Preach and Practice Peaceful Journalism in Kobuleti, Georgia.

Through the use of social media […] young Armenians and Azerbaijani discuss, make friendship and occasionally also fall in love.

To meet up however, they have to come to Georgia.

 

 

 

Even so, problems still remain and not least in the form of resistance to the idea of open communication and cooperation in both Armenian and Azerbaijani. Writing a guest entry [AM/AZ/EN] on The Caucasian Knot, the blog of Global Voices’ Caucasus regional editor, Reader from Baku, an Azerbaijani, says that there shouldn't be any.

For as long as I remember, people around me always uttered these words. The words my ears hated to hear. The words my mind refused to accept. Words that fortunately did not affect me.

The words about Them. Armenians.

But with all this negativity there was going to be something wonderful.

My personal journey with some of Them started online, through Facebook. Surprisingly, we never touched upon issues such as politics and conflict. There simply wasn’t a reason to. There were too many other common things connecting rather than dividing us. Such a short time to spend on matters imposed on others by politicians.

[…]

I often wonder now how many tickets people from Armenia and Azerbaijan buy each day to get to Georgia. How many liters of wine are drunk over the table with toasts to peace. How many friendships are made, and how many relationships are formed.

And now as I reflect on all of this and realize what I see now around me – people from both countries in friendship with each other, meeting with each other, and sharing with each other — I just feel inspired to say…

You do not have to wait for the heads of countries to reach a compromise. You do not need a Peace Treaty to ratify the friendships you want or already have with Them. It is people like us who make and bring peace. Do not wait “until the next time”. Do it today.

Now.

Writing another guest entry on the same blog and detailing his own personal experience serving in the Armenian military as well as later in cross-border projects, Sasun Khachatryan agrees.

The first time I came into direct contact with citizens of Azerbaijan was in September last year. Three journalists each from Armenia and Azerbaijan made up a small group on the way to Abkhazia with a Dutch coordinator. Before then I could never have imagined that I’d be sitting next to Azerbaijanis in the same mini-bus on our way to Sukhumi to report on the situation there more than a year after the August 2008 war.

It even made us sometimes forget our own conflict over Nagorno Karabakh when we instead engaged in heated discussions over the Russian-Georgian one as well as its consequences.

[…]

It is always possible to right past wrongs and dialogue on an individual level, as well as by civil society, should be brought to life – and the sooner the better. And after contact with Azerbaijanis my conclusion is that nothing is impossible, even if it might seem unrealistic to others on first sight.

An Azerbaijani and Armenian youth activist sit next to the monument dedicated to Sayat Nova, the 18th Century Armenian troubadour who wrote much of his songs in Azerbaijani, Tbilisi, Georgia Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2010

Others feel the same about forging relationships on the human level away from the political, as shown by a video interview with an Armenian and Azerbaijani youth activist following their own participation in a workshop in Georgia. The two activists also visited each others’ religious centers and cultural monuments.

 

Of course, such voices are not the majority in both societies and especially in terms of online activity, but new tools do at least offer them the possibility to make their views be known. Considering the current level of discussion and debate on the conflict, or even lack of it, such a development is therefore unprecedented as Global Voices’ Caucasus Editor notes on the newly launched Ararat magazine site, a US-Armenian publication based on a blogging back-end, referring to existing cross-border projects.

True, they represent a minority in their respective countries, but it is nonetheless a significant step forward in terms of conflict transformation and not least because many believe that actual resolution will only be possible when negative perceptions and stereotypes, perpetuated by nationalists and often amplified by the local media, change.

“Communication is possible, living together is possible, and breaking down existing barriers is possible,” Geybullayeva recently wrote on her blog. “This is a message I would give to all non- believers in peace and reconciliation.”

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

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