Originally published on The Neutral Zone.
“Those boys didn’t kill your sons […] They were just boys, look at them”.
Generally, I abstain from quoting lines from movies, TV series, or songs. But sometimes, there are some lines that are worth quoting; sometimes they are even worth writing down somewhere, and reading them every day to remind ourselves of who we are, what we have become, what we want to be, or where we are headed. When I heard these words, I wrote them down to remind myself and hopefully others of what we have become or will become if we do not stop seeking vengeance.
Some of you might be familiar with the “Game of Thrones” an epic fantasy television drama series. The series are based on a fantasy novel series written by George R. R. Martin. In season three, there is an episode when two captive, innocent boys are murdered by soldiers out of vengeance – their uncle’s soldiers killed the two sons of another fighter. The perpetrators are punished for committing this crime even though the captives are from the enemy line. The leader (the King of North) refuses to accept this act as crime committed out of justice. He says these boys were just boys and were not there when the two sons of the man who killed them were murdered.
Yes, it is a movie. Yes, it is a novel. But doesn’t this accusation hold true today, in many conflicts around the world? The act of revenge, vengeance, retaliation – there are so many ways to say it – but most of the time just one way to get it – ending someone’s life forever. Even if it means to kill an innocent child…
Often, this is what I think of nationalism that has taken over the minds and souls of many Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Isn’t this their “argument” – claiming lives of more innocents just because they are the enemies who once fought us and killed our brothers and sisters, uncles, fathers, mothers, and sometimes did much more than just killing?
But aren’t we forgetting something? Aren’t “those boys just boys”?! Why do we find it so easy to demand, to take the life of the other?! Did we give that life to them? No! Did we take part in the upbringing of that person? No! Then how can we so easily just say that someone deserves to die simply because that person comes from a certain country, nationality, blood, or race?
True, those who are responsible for the acts of violence should be held responsible but in no way can we hold a young Azerbaijani or an Armenian responsible for something that was done 20 years ago, perhaps when these innocent people were only infants. And instilling hatred and anger from a young age, influencing the decision and thinking of younger people based on history of violence isn’t the right way either. No one says let’s forget it all together and give up. History is an important part of our life, shaping our countries just as it shapes our lives. But it should not be used as an excuse or a weapon. Respecting history and paying homage to it is one thing; killing and seeking vengeance based on it is something else…