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Expired hatred?

16 December 2010 One Comment

A strange title, perhaps, but the only thing that springs to mind when I ask myself what happened to the hatred that once filled me until now? Perhaps I should explain…

The first time I was told that I have an enemy was when I was just four years old. That was when I was forced to flee my home in Armenia because of the conflict with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Since then, the image of the enemy has been a changing one, but primarily based on my own creativity after seeing photos and videos in the newspapers and on National TV.

If you want to clearly understand how that enemy looked for many years then close your eyes and imagine a scenic village surrounded by high trees and bushes. Nothing else is visible or audible, apart from the occasional sound of cheerful voices. Then, one day, someone runs out of the surrounding forest screaming, yelling, and crying. Monster-like figures had appeared in their village and were killing, beating, and butchering people — women, children and old people alike. They were destroying everything in their path.

That’s cruel, right, and the image I had when I was a kid. And it was further developed when, every time I was naughty, my Uncle used to frighten me by saying that if I won’t sit still he will call the Armenians to come and kill me. What a nasty thing to do to a little kid, isn’t it? And also not hard to imagine what image I then formed of my monster-like enemies: Armenians.

Years have passed since then, and so too has the image of the enemy. I also became more curious to finally come face to face with them to see what they might actually do. So, when fate took me from Azerbaijan to the United States where I could meet many Armenians, I encountered a few during orientation meetings for my Edmund Muskie Fellowship. The bastards, I told myself. Look at them. All of them are monsters, and I’m sure they’re planning to do something terrible to us. We need to be careful of them, I thought, and even though I met one girl who was very nice. With all these negative thoughts, however, I preferred to consider it an act.

Come on! An Armenian can’t be good!!!

Later, a guy approaches me to raise the issue of Armenian monuments destroyed in Nakhichevan. Bingo! I told you that Armenians can’t be any good! I am angry, and am once again convinced that there is not a single good Armenian to be found. If not for the others around me, I was about to beat this guy, but then also remembered I was meant to be there for a course on conflict transformation and resolution. And so I calmed down, but on campus I met yet another Armenian. Can you imagine? On my very campus? His name was Phil, a very nice guy who was an IT specialist. At first, I didn’t know what his surname was, and so was unaware of his origin, but when I heard it for the first time I had chills.

My eyes were probably enlarged from the surprise and my hands shaking for the same reason or from frustration. But… but… but.. he was very nice. I even felt sorry for him being Armenian. I mean, what a sad fate, and I wondered what it must be like to be one. Funny, but sad, and then days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. I saw him everywhere: in classes, at the cafeteria, and in many other places. And it turned out he was a normal, kind, silent man with a gentle smile and excellent speaking manners. Can you imagine the frustration for an Azerbaijani girl to meet such an enemy?!?!

Then I received an e-mail from my professor informing me that an Armenian-Azerbaijan symposium was to be held in Boston, and naturally I wanted to be there. I had to meet more Armenians and learn about them, not because it was interesting, but because I wanted to overcome my frustration. I wanted to finally meet one bad Armenian matching the image I had of them for so many years. At the symposium, when I entered the room, I again had chills. I saw an Armenian girl who I recognized from Facebook. What a great smile, and she even looked Azerbaijani. I decided to approach her, introducing myself in English, and again, I was surprised.

What a great girl! But, of course, she had to be an exception. Just like the others.

And then, in an Intercultural Communication class, I was reviewing blog posts about Azerbaijan on Global Voices and noticed that the author’s surname sounded Armenian — Krikorian. Immediately I became angry, and wondered why on earth was this Armenian guy writing about Azerbaijan? Is he crazy or up to something? So, I found the email address of the Managing Editor and wrote a complaint detailing my concerns. Later she responded with his email address, suggesting that I raise the issue direct with him. After settling myself, I wrote him an e-mail that wasn’t aggressive, but it was sarcastic and ironic.

When he responded, it turned out this guy was very smart, very much informed, and also believed in building bridges. After exchanging some e-mails, as well as adding each other on Facebook, it was clear. I confirmed again that Onnik was another exception. Great person!

Now, after meeting many more Armenians, including socially in cafes, restaurants and bars, again frustration. Nice personalities, great minds, all exceptions (ironically), and so close to me that it hurts like being mad at a friend. My anger, hatred, and whatever else I had, started to fade away, leaving just emptiness and the need to meet more and more of my “enemies.” It is then that I understood my hatred had expired. People, my hatred had expired!!! And that, perhaps, is my message. The ingredients of the hatred to be found among both Armenians and Azerbaijanis have an expiry date, even if many of us initially “buy” into it.

Zamira Abbasova

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