Wednesday, January 6

Building dialogue in the Caucasus- a road to remember in years to come

Couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a trip to Georgia for a workshop called Model Caucasus Parliament (MCP). I also wrote about a visit to an ethnic Azerbaijani village just 15 minutes drive from Telavi where the workshop was held.

Well, this was just the beginning of what I hoped for many more visits to come. And another trip did actually happen. This time, it wasn't me, instead, Onnik Krikorian- a talented and creative journalist based in Yerevan (also Global Voices Online's Caucasus editor)- together with two blogging journalism students from Azerbaijan, Vusala Alibayli and Khanim Javadova and Georgian blogger and Global Voices Online author Dodi Kharkheli (also known as Dodka) joined the initiative to continue where we left just couple of months ago.

This time, the stop was Tsopi- small village where both Azerbaijanis and Armenians live together.

Here you may find a little bit more about the visit and the initiative itself:;

This could be a real push in building dialog between the two countries and their people not to mention perhaps a beginning of strong ties. These trips show that coexistence is possible and its only a matter of effort and will to make such collaboration and coexistence happen. Maybe it is time stop using NK conflict as a bargaining chip and stall growing enmity between the two people, replacing it with more initiatives as such. For now however, I would like to thank everyone who took part in this initiative- well done!


Onnik Krikorian said...

Arzu, thanks for the post and just to say that without you, and especially that first visit to Karajala which was as much fun as work, none of this would have been possible.

You've been an important catalyst in all of this, in fact, and we all wish you could have accompanied us on this second trip. Anyway, I hope to be in Tsopi and other villages in April.

A day or so the Social Media for Social Change conference in Tbilisi, in fact. Hope you can make it then. There are also many other such examples in and around Marneuli. :)

Onnik Krikorian said...

There's also some interesting comments along the same lines in an article in the Azeri media. Some important points are made although it deals more with attacking the Armenian perspective without touching all that's also wrong with the approach in Azerbaijan. However, it does note they exist and the underlying message is correct and one that now needs to be the main focus of attention.

Remove or not remove? Today many people ask this question referring to the "enemy image", rooted in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Some argue that by getting rid of phobias, the parties will easily build confidence that will create a primary condition for peace in the region. Others argue that conflict resolution is impossible without any psychological change. Some intellectuals attribute the shuttle visits that they make from time to time to a need to communicate while more radical people cultivate phobia, insisting on impossibility of living together.

Of course, both sides have certain phobias and complexes. It does not matter where the horse will stand – before or behind the cart. The main thing is that this cart moves steadily in the right direction, even if it does not pull, but pushes the horse. The issue of speed becomes awkward after nearly 16 years of unsuccessful negotiations.

As a former presenter of the "Crossroads" TV program, I dealt with this same "enemy image" for 9 years. I failed to remove it. I do not believe it to be possible untill at least one square meter of the occupied territories is liberated. I have quite peculiar experience, and would like to share some thoughts.

Outside experts are right in their arguments that the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is full of various myths. Each side is convinced of its absolute rightness and lie of the enemy. It often reaches full absurd and marasmus. Participants of back discussions believe that allegedly some elements give them even more rights. [...]


The list of myths and phobias can become infinite. I am very far from argueing that all ideas voiced in Azerbaijan are absolute. But there is a great truth - the longer the negotiation process will last, the more "falsehood" will appear. It is high time to put an end to the conflict, because I do not think that living together is impossible. The more hatred is cultivated, the more we will be ashamed to look into each other's eyes in the future.


Anyway, the point is to perhaps stop dehumanization of the "enemy" and also realize that both sides suffered, with peace being the main goal for the politicians. If that happens, perhaps everything else will fall into place.

It won't be quick, but it definitely won't occur any sooner otherwise. In the deconstruction of myths and positions, however, I think they need to be taken as a whole. And if they aren't, only moving closer to the other will make that possible.