Wednesday, April 21

Nationalist propaganda

“Perhaps you are not aware of it, but you probably have Armenian blood in you!”

“You are under pressure and you don’t even know it!”

“Stupid girl”

“You ruined all my hard work I have been doing for weeks in just that one and a half hour”

“You are pro- Armenian and you should be ashamed of yourself”

“If I were you I would leave this room immediately, apologizing to each and everyone of us and start crying”.

“I know who you are! You are from a well- off family, everything has been done for you, you have never struggled, never knew and will know hardships of life, because you are not a refugee and you have never lived in a tent!”

No, this is not from a movie, its actually from a conversation (if that could be called a conversation) between me and a group of young Azerbaijanis and their leader Kanan Jafarli that took place several days ago, at an event, where I was presenting on new social media and blogosphere in Azerbaijan. It was a chaos- they were constantly humiliating me, while I was trying to respond to their humiliation and intimidation.

The first quote, is how Kanan started off this conversation with me. Some of the other quotes belong to 16 year old high- school students.

It was a disaster and I was outraged. I have received e-mails before but this, this was something else.

Not only were they jumping from one argument to another, everything they said was unsubstantiated. First it started with blaming me for working with Armenians, then it went to teaching me what needs to be said, when and how when it comes to Azerbaijan. Then, I was told that this wasn’t the place to talk about Emin and Adnan especially since there were young Armenians in the audience who now are laughing at the state of our country. I was also told whom I could and couldn’t talk to on issues/ problems related to Azerbaijan- Georgians are ok, Armenians and Russians bad bad bad! Europe and US not a good idea either! All of this coming from a man, who is a FLEX alumni, who has done masters degree in Conflict Resolution at George Mason University and who has been working in a dialogue program between the two conflicting sides.

The best part about all of this was that he started off by telling me how tolerant Azerbaijan is and how great of a nation it is and that him together with his team were trying to show this to everyone over the last few days and then telling his team exactly the following “oh come on you guys, maybe we should stop, look at her, she is a girl, she is young, her eyes are full of tears, lets not pressure her anymore” which made his team laugh out loudly. I saw that for them this was a pleasure, they were enjoying whatever this was- questioning or psychological abuse.

Kanan was telling me how ethical he is but in the meantime he was yelling at the kids, telling them to shut up and be quiet and let him speak throughout the whole time.

I tried to be polite and respond to their accusations. I understood that they have been brainwashed but I also thought that because they are young, perhaps, they might change their way of thinking as they grow up.

There was one guy from that group who came up to me after this conversation, and apologized for the group's behavior. I was really surprised. Then I remembered that he never even took part in that conversation. So perhaps there is some hope?


They made me feel so weak, I now know what it is like to be under psychological group pressure. I am just glad, I managed to stand my ground and leave the room without beating anyone. As for Kanan and the kids, I wish them all the very best of luck in their endeavors. I hope that one day they understand the true notions of values like tolerance, democracy, liberty, justice and freedom.


Fudik said...

Weren't you afraid of being lynched?Seems you lynched mentally.I am afraid,Azerbaijani youth is far behind of 'the true notions of values like tolerance, democracy, liberty, justice and freedom'.

Anonymous said...

Something similar happened to someone I know in Azerbaijan as well. Meanwhile, in February a load of us were verbally abused by Armenian nationalists staying at the same hotel in Tbilisi. Still, at least they weren't involved in a project that should have brought Armenians and Azerbaijanis together...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I have seen that many youth in Azerbaijan have been so affected by the brainwashing of the government. They are even more affected than the older people. The people who have lived through Akhundov, Barigrov, and Heydar can understand that the government is just manipulating them. Pay attention to our enemy over there. Don't pay attention to how I am stealing from you.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Arzu, don't fret, you and the others at the SI Camp represented your country incredibly well. Indeed, Kanan seems to have done a disservice to Azerbaijan and a new generation of intelligent and tolerant Azerbaijanis.

I assume that the hour and the half he refers to was our co-presentation which also shows how illogical the guy is. During that time we both praised this new generation and I also referred to 10 dead after Armenia's 2008 election.

It's also ironic because I spoke about nationalists on both sides as well as how the media portrays the other side in both countries. Moreover, I happen to be half ethnic-Armenia, but half-English and a British citizen. The guy definitely has problems if he judges someone by name only.

Anyway, so disappointing that someone like Kanan gets such a responsibility. Hope he is fired immediately for destroying what could have been an excellent and much needed project. I also hope that others remember his name and make sure he is not involved in any cross-border project (or anything concerning democracy or tolerance) again.

BTW: Second comment was from me. Forgot to fill in my name.

Onnik Krikorian said...

And in the hopes it will cheer you up, my 8-year old son was just standing next to me with this blog post open on the monitor. I pointed to your photo and asked David who it was. He smiled and then said "Arzu..." :)

johnnie b. baker said...

if they were that angry it must mean you are doing something right. keep fighting the good fight.

Lara said...

Arzu, although I don't know you personally i truly admire everything you are doing. Nationalists are that way everywhere, regardless to which nation they belong. A couple years ago I initiated with my other colleague a peace dialogue between Arm and Azer. women and sometimes I get people talking to me like that. It hurts, it's true. But then I remember that at least what i am doing is creating a better world around me, a more tolerant and more safe one. So don't forget the essential things, people like that only try to belittle you because they don't have the courage to understand the important work you do. Keep the spirit high! you are not alone.

Anonymous said...

not sure what to say and to whom... i have been living in the region for over 7 years now and have been trying to understand how and when will the region become peaceful. I was hoping that the new generation would lead the way, which I believe that is what you are doing.
I am hoping and know that there are both kinds of people (pro-peace and nationalists) in Armenia as well. However, it feels like there is more hate propaganda in Azerbaijan than anywhere else in the entire region. That is really too bad, because it is a great place you are all living in. I wish it were also mine.
RED Canadian

Arzu Geybulla said...

@ all the comments- thank you all for moral support! I appreciate it all, truly!
@Onnik, i actually said "awwwww" when I read the comment about your son. Thank you, say hi to him :)

thanks again to all of you!

Phil said...

Arzu, I am sorry about this. And thank you for your really amazing and very necessary work. You, and a very few others, are a reason I still have hope

Not sure this is of any consolation, but I think I can related to how it made you feel. Over the last few years I have been insulted in private and public, attacked and even threatened a number of times for my work. Mostly by Armenians. That's why I even stopped commenting on some web-sites. yet I should say, the attackers so far were in the minority. I am actually still surprised how much support and appreciation the cross border work gets.

Hope you also have positive experiences along with these terrible ones

Best to you


Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, you would have definitely said "AWWWWWWW" (in capital letters! :) ) if you heard him say it. He said your name in such a softly spoken voice. Not quite a whisper, but in a way that words can't explain...

Anyways, you represented your country well. Magnificently, in fact, and as others have said, change begins with people like you. Only pissed off that you're not on the ground doing the same here, to be honest...

Unknown said...

That sounds awful and I'm sorry you had something like that happen during your presentation. It was cruel and reflects especially poorly on that so-called adult. You sound like you behaved admirably and it's easy to see how thoughtful, mature, and intelligent you are. Inshallah the others will eventually grow out of such petty-mindedness, although I hold little hope for someone like Kanan. Even though I don't know you personally I'd like you to know that I'm rooting for you.

Aysel said...

Arzu, as a friend who loves and respects you, I certainly felt for you having to go through this unpleasant experience. However I believe that this experience was very valuable and deserves much more than simple commiseration:) Reading your account of it made me wonder how you see your own position in these types of situations. Were you there as a scholar? If so, the reaction described in the above account falls short in terms of analysis. Branding 16 year olds as "brainwashed" and somebody else as "unethical" would explain little to you or to the people reading your account. Or maybe I am wrong and you went there to teach. Or maybe to share knowledge, exchange views , start a dialogue? Once again, it might be useful to think why you lost the opportunity to engage the audience. Were you using the wrong language, wording. Did you need more prior knowledge about your audience--all well worth thinking about.
Another thought(see, your experience was good. it got me thinking in all sorts of directions:) The whole idea of being impartial or unattached or not engaged emotionally is tricky. We all are emotionally invested into the subject of Garabagh. Anger is a legitimate feeling. Somehow it seems to me that your audience misinterpreted your attempt to be "neutral" with regard to the Garabagh conflict and that, under the circumstances, is something that people find hurtful. Again, I was not there and this observation might be completely irrelevant. if so, please, just ignore it. All in all, as I say to Jasur, who is now 6 and starting to play baseball, "mistakes are good; they help us learn and get even better.":)

Anoush Kabalyan said...

Arzu, I have heard about you! You are a courageous person who fights for right values in our societies. That's a hard job! Most people are closed minded and they refuse to see the reality. Stay strong and fight for what you thing is the right thing.

Shota Khinchagashvili said...

"ho has done masters degree in Conflict Resolution at George Mason University"

I've seen ones like this :)

Don't give up!

The Blogar said...

Thank you again for sharing this in such an honest way. I am constantly amazed by you.
Senin otag yoldashin ve refigeyin hemishe,

Jeremy said...

Arzu, hold your head high and keep fighting the good fight.

Men sene inaniram.


Unknown said...

Beautiful canim, you're a diamond, you're a tresor, you're an angel and they are just stupid inhuman puppets! I would have kicked these rude brainless guys! (sorry, I'm not as wise as you are...)
Anyway, if they acted in this horrible way with you, it means that you are a real reference in Azerbaijan and they are just frustrated and afraid... They're the next Aliyevs and you're simply the next nobel ;) Anyway I know you're strong and they can't really touch you! (Men de sene inaniram :) and sevirem !)

GuNka said...

Arzu, i know that you won't approve of this comment on your blog and that's why I am posting this on my blog to make sure it is seen:)
I want to tell that the trip with Kanan was very interesting and because of him, it was also very unforgettable. His actions and tone clearly matches his environment, making him a great leader.
Onnik, you owe us a presentation about real armenia with its economic, social and political problems.
Arzu, if you think that you did an outstanding work with your presentation for your country then please post it in your blog so that the citizens of your motherland which you love so much will be able to see what a patriot girl grows in our lovely country.
Another point is that if we hadn't been a democrating and tolerant country, you would have never been able to give such a presentation.
And We wanted you to tell the truth, not to criticize our country.

Arzu Geybulla said...


Thank you for your lovely comment Gunka. For your information i haven't censored any comments sent to me. And I wont be doing that with your comment either.

Please for all those who are interested, you can read Gunka's very colorful and interesting blog here:

Great job Gunka, I enjoyed reading your blog. And esp. liked the colors and the name of your blog- My zone. Well done!

As to things you have said- i don't see how Kanan yelling at you made your trip unforgettable, but thats not my problem and I wont be getting into that. If this comment is meant in any way to protect Kanan (or worse, even written by him), I think Kanan is old enough and smart enough to do this himself, not through a 16 year old high school student.

If you listened carefully to the presentation, you would have seen that Onnik also gave some clear points of the situation in Armenia but if you have something to say to Onnik please send him an e-mail rather than posting something here. It will be more effective for you to get your message across.

Regarding my presentation, absolutely, here is the link, feel free to share: (in fact, its good that you reminded me to do that, i have been putting it off for a while).

I didn't really understand this sentence: "if we hadn't been a democrating and tolerant country, you would have never been able to give such a presentation"- do you mean that i would probably have been in prison like Emin and Adnan and our other journalists? or something else? or perhaps I would have been killed or murdered like Elmar Huseynov? please be specific, and provide an example of what you mean exactly?

as to your last comment: "We wanted you to tell the truth, not to criticize our country"- i did exactly that. But unfortunately those who can't take truth, consider it as a criticism, usually its a sign of weakness. I said it during our conversation, and I am saying it now- You might see Azerbaijan in a very different way- democratic, tolerant, great, but I see Azerbaijan as undemocratic, and def. not tolerant. I hope one day, Azerbaijan I see now, becomes Azerbaijan you see. But I will NEVER accept the fact that Azerbaijan is currently a democratic, and tolerant country.

Thank you for your comment once again, I appreciate you reading this blog and paying such attention to this post especially.

Arzu Geybulla said...

This is a comment from M.A that I received earlier today.

@Gunka, I dont know ARZU personally, I am just following her blog and online projects or presentations, just keep this in mind for not having prejudice after reading my comment. And I dont know Kenan also. SO I am neutral in this case. But, from your post one would get that you are defending Kenan, not of what he does but according to his own personality: "I want to tell that the trip with Kanan was very interesting and because of him, it was also very unforgettable. His actions and tone clearly matches his environment, making him a great leader." It just makes visible that who or whatsoever this comment was written for, is just to show how great Kenan is and nothing more. I am not trying to doubt it, just it has nothing to do with what is described in this specific post. At least because, I dont think you would like the same attitude towards you because of your personal point of view. Sorry,but in this case I would point out the gender issue also!!!

About your comment to Onnik. I dont think he has to clarify anything,because it is not a secret that compared to Azerbaijan Armenia is doing really bad in terms of economics..and it is the matter of having natural resourses and not having natural resourses. It is not about success of any government and natural resources which are granted to us, are a tool to show how great the government is. When actually with a better natural resource management we could've lived better.
And if we were a democratic and tolerant country, you would never point out AG the otherwise. Her sey bir qiraga, niye kritikani qebul ede bilmirsiz axi? Arzunu tenqidi ili olke dagildi ya kimse oldu...onsuzda her sey oldugu kimidi. :) O boyda Amerika hokumeti ve dovletine qarshi da kritika var, baxmayaraq ki onlar "en demokratik" olke sayilirlar. Sen ise deyirsen ki, Azerbaycanda her sey yaxshidi, niye yalandan tenqid edirsiz. :) Neise...onsuzda bu yazdiqlarima oturub nese fikirleshib bir sey yazassan tenqid etmek ucun. :)

@AG, how you, me or others were at our 16? I personally was in the states...back then I didnt even know what is going on in the country. and didnt care what for i was enjoying my life ..:) Maybe it was my fault or maybe just internet wasnt advanced that much. The point is if now young generation is aware of such things and do say and talk about such is something. :) So, there is hope. :)

Regards, M.A

GuNka said...

Arzu, actually I'm 18, not 16. I'm mature enough to express my own thoughts with my own words. You think that you have a right to insult me to get your views across. It shows that you are neither thoughtful nor tolerant as you say. I have nothing else to tell you. Otherthan I just feel very sorry for you.

Arzu Geybulla said...


Dearest Gunka, I am glad you feel that you can express you own thoughts and feelings the way you want it. I must applause you for that! You are doing great work.

And I am sorry if you felt like I was insulting you, I wasn't- I was also expressing my feelings and thoughts.

As to me being tolerant or not- I guess everyone have their own way of perceiving, analyzing and understanding things.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

Onnik Krikorian said...

GuNka, I don't owe anyone anything.

In fact, my presentation was not on the rotten system in place in either Armenia or Azerbaijan, but how Armenians and Azerbaijanis can communicate as humans away from the misinformation and nationalist propaganda which many seem to buy into.

Interestingly, you say I owe you articles and presentations on the situation in Armenia (despite me having NOT presented on the situation in Azerbaijan in Tbilisi). Instead, I did mention the context -- authoritiarian undemocratic leaders in Am and Az, but more than that...

... well, what can I say, search on the Internet and you'll see that I've written and presented on that numerous times. In fact, and ironically enough, I have received the same negative responses to my work from Armenians as Arzu has in this case from Azerbaijanis.

I've even been called a supporter of Azerbaijan and Georgia, and an enemy of Armenia, for doing the same things that you and others criticize Arzu and myself for doing. Nationalists are still wasting their time calling for my deportation from Armenia, in fact.

Which only goes to show that people actually aren't thinking logically in this region.

They are too controlled by nationalist mindsets and circles which ultimately threaten the region's future. Moreover, the selectively read and interpret news and information to fit in with that imposed model of thought.

Like I said, read my articles. It's all there. In fact, it's ironic, as I've said. I'm currently being accused by Armenian nationalists of being pro-Azerbaijani or pro-Georgian, just as Arzu is being accused of being pro-Armenian.

That distorted sense of logic is obviously the main obstacle to any development or democratization in the region. Here's hoping it changes soon, but until then I don't think either Arzu or I are doing anything wrong.

Well, unless you consider speaking openly, honestly and critically about all those things that need to change in not only Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, but also any country you happen to live or have a link with.

Indeed, it is only through critical, logical, reasoned thought that things actually change. I'm trying that approach in Armenia, and Arzu is in Azerbaijan. Here's hoping others are also doing the same. Ultimately, that's the only way countries develop.

Resorting to nationalist responses on issues based on ethnicity helps noone, however, and only prevents such development. Indeed, it's the perfect way to avoid actually tackling the issues that really need resolving before it's too late.

Arzu and I have decided to do that in Azerbaijan and Armenia (respectively). Others have not. However, cornering and victimizing people because you disagree with them is really not the answer and actually, symptomatic of all that's wrong.