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Letter from Baku: Them

16 June 2010 3 Comments

Allergy

“I have an allergy towards Them. I have never talked to Them, and I never will!” once exclaimed a friend. Someone working as a human rights activist in a NGO.

Hypocrite

“I would gladly risk my own life trying to save a human life. But I will never bat an eyelid if I see Them in pain,” once proclaimed a doctor treating me. Someone who promised to serve humanity after taking the Hippocratic Oath.

Zombie

“We should remember what was done to us by Them. Otherwise, we would be zombies. The ones without history. We will be mankurts. A nation without memory is destined to die,” once yelled a history professor. Someone I always admired, before. After he retired, however, now gone from the list of my role models.

Label

“Your character is developing into something like Them. Work on yourself,” once claimed my course mate after I forgot to return his CD.

Risk factor

“Your close communication with Them may put us at risk and make us a target,” said one of my parents. And I left.

Bundle of nerves

“I do not know how I will control my anger if I am sitting around the same table with Them,” once typed a friend while chatting to me on Facebook. Someone who was going to participate in a regional youth meeting in Georgia. And someone who changed my opinion of him later.

While my friend had an allergy, my professor hunted zombies, my doctor saved lives, my course mate put labels on others, a parent assessed risks, and a Facebook friend learned to manage his stress, they were probably too immersed in their own thoughts to take the time to analyze and assess themselves.

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.

Then some of these “online statuses” turned into meetings in person in the beautiful country of Georgia. Something unbelievable.  And I felt I was not the only one in the crowd to meet with Them like this.

As I communicated with Them more, I discovered simple truths that:

Nationalism has nothing to do with the love for your country. It is more and only about hate for other nations.

and

There are many similarities between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. So many that you can often confuse who is who.

One of those similarities was particularly advantageous for me.  I was walking on the streets of Tbilisi with an Armenian friend I met at a conference when my eyes suddenly caught a Georgian souvenir – a horn for drinking wine. The seller of the souvenirs was Armenian and, thinking I was too, sold the horn at half the price.

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.

And never feel discouraged to take a step closer to Them. Do not let any “risk factors, labels and allergies” get in your way. Because there is nothing more enjoyable than breaking stereotypes and walls.

Ah, and I forgot to tell you what happened to the guy with the bundle of nerves chatting to me on Facebook.

A week later he posted photos from the regional meeting he attended. Every other photo of him was of hugs, kisses and hanging out with two young people with atypical names for Azerbaijanis – Tigran and Anush. Them. Armenians.

Do you know what I want most of all now?

I want a visa.
I want a direct flight.
I want a budget train route.
I want to send a greeting card by post.
I want to make a telephone call.
There. From here.
To Yerevan. From Baku.

Maybe, sometime in the near future? With people wanting Peace and doing something for it like you do everything is possible. But for now I am sending a letter. To Yerevan from Baku. By email until next time…

Reader in Baku

3 Comments »

  • admin said:

    This post was originally at:
    http://blog.oneworld.am/2010/06/16/letter-from-baku-them/

    Comments left were as follows:

    Onnik
    06.16.10 / 4pm

    This post by a reader in Azerbaijan follows ones from Marine Ejuryan and Zamira Abbasova which can be found at:

    http://blog.oneworld.am/2010/06/11/thoughts-on-the-ultimate-peace/

    http://blog.oneworld.am/2010/06/09/personal-reflections-on-conflict-and-displacement/

    All three are part of a personal project:

    http://www.oneworld.am/diversity/

    Marine
    06.16.10 / 4pm

    This is just awesome and so powerful! Lost in words! Just need to share this everywhere possible so more people can read and think over what you’ve written. THANK YOU!

    Ruslana
    06.16.10 / 7pm

    This is a fabuluous letter as a literature work and a short film. Especially the final part touched me.

    As someone who read articles from Azerbaijan I had a negative opinion about Armenans and I related myself to a first category Allergy. This article changed my thoughts and made me hate nationalism theory. I feel inspired that people can say truths in spite of risks. Fantastic soul. Thanks for stories.

    Arpine
    06.16.10 / 7pm

    This is incredibly powerful and touching! Thank you so much!

    I want a visa.
    I want a direct flight.
    I want a budget train route.
    I want to send a greeting card by post.
    I want to make a telephone call.
    There. From here.
    To Baku. From Yerevan.

    Can’t agree more!

    Onnik, thanks for promoting THIS message through your work!

    Micael Bogar
    06.16.10 / 7pm

    Thank you Reader.

    Rashadat
    06.17.10 / 8am

    Very fresh. Very original. Very creative. Very colorful. Very unordinary. Very informative. Very arty. Very Hemingway. I can see a raising writer behind you. This message left me speechless for a long while. I can’t get enough of it, read zillion of time.

    I never was a nationalist and after this letter it convinced me that I am on the right path.

    I also learned the meaning of the word “Mankurt” (very touching story of mankurt) and “Hyppocratic Oath”. Thanks ever so much!

    I have one complaint and question to you.
    1. why not any photo??
    2. do you write blogs/stories?

    Blogger
    06.29.10 / 10am

    What amazing piece! What a creative mind! Absolutely speechless.

    Cheers from Azerbaijan

    Beautiful post « Sunshine
    06.29.10 / 10am

    […] this amazing post by Reader in Azerbaijan. It really made me think about people in India and what’s a common […]

    reader
    06.29.10 / 7pm

    Rashadat, thank u for ur words. thank u for being the way u r. yes, being nazionalist is no good thing.

    as for ur complaint and question:

    1. i promise to attach a photo to my next post until next time.
    2. i dont have a blog now, but might have some time until next time.

    stay cool.

  • Caucasus Conflict Voices » Blog Archive » Diversity in motion and peace in action said:

    […] Tbilisi is the only capital  in the region where you can experience diversity in motion and peace in action. It is the only place where you can meet, talk and sit with Them over a common table. Free from fear and hate, you can let yourself enjoy the company of people who are very much like you in looks and habits, sharing a similar culture and mentality, with only closed borders blocking and separating you from Them. […]

  • Edward Demian said:

    I have been doing a lot of research on the web about DNA studies. I am mainly interested in the pre history of the Caucasus. DNA research clears up many questions regarding human origins, which I find fascinating. Two fascinating revelations have been that the Assyrians and the Armenians have nearly identical DNA. The other is, that The Azeri’s are more like the Armenians than anyone else. What does this all mean? By common percetion, the Armenians consider themselves, Hurrian, Aryan; and the Assyrians speak a Semitic language and therefore are thought of as Semites, while the Azery’s, most recently known as the Tatars are speaking a Turkick language, and therefore classified as Mongols. Yet, the DNA results point to a totally different conclusion. So what are we going to think, if it turns out that we are all the same people who at one time or another diverged into different cultures. A thousand years from now, or maybe in just a few generations, the traditional religions will probably all be gone, replaced by who knows what space age revelation. What a waste for all this suffering.

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