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I Would Like to See the Peoples of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey Working Together

There are various challenges in creating change in Armenia, but what is at the forefront, in my opinion, is the relationship that not only governments, but also individual people have with the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan and Turkey and its people. The issue with Turkey is over a century old and continues to this day since the government does not recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by the Ottoman Empire. As with all histories, the issue is more complex and layered than that; however, this is one notable reason why relationships between these two countries have soured.

Another reason is connected, in fact, with Armenia’s relationship with Azerbaijan. Though Armenian and Azerbaijani people have co-existed and lived in each other’s countries for centuries, as a result of territorial claims — most notably over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-populated, mostly unrecognized de facto independent state currently within Azerbaijan’s borders — the borders have been closed and residents uprooted from their homes. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994 (the roots of which began much earlier, in 1918–1920 when the two republics were independent before falling under Soviet rule), Armenians in Azerbaijan were “exchanged” with Azerbaijanis in Armenia, which resulted in more mono-ethnic societies in both countries.

Solutions to overcoming these challenges include opening the borders and cooperating in regional projects together. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in one project, Social Innovation Camp Caucasus, which brought together (mainly) youth from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with ideas to demonstrate how new online tools can empower individuals and strengthen the existing activities of social media. The idea was to create “web-based innovations in just 48 hours.” We did this by dividing into teams based on interest; what happened was that all teams were mixed with participants from all three countries. We didn’t divide ourselves based on ethnicity; we divided ourselves based on our interests and what social issue we felt needed to be tackled both in our own countries and in the region. Issues such as lack of sexual health education or lack of interest in environmental issues brought participants together. It was a great experience and more such projects, I believe, will help in at least overcoming challenges and breaking stereotypes about each other.

This solution, I believe, is connected to a larger solution of education and awareness. Lack of information about neighboring countries and peoples (or even worse, negative portrayals in the news and through state bodies) does not help in resolving the conflict or in building peace. When what we hear and read and see is just one-sided, we cannot get the full picture and so we cannot be informed about making decisions. By working together, and learning more about each other, we can overcome our differences and work towards solving the problems at hand.

Pulsewire is already a community and we are part of that community. I believe that by sharing our stories and reaching out, already we are overcoming the challenges before us.

Comments

Mei Li's picture

Adrineh, It never surprises

Adrineh,

It never surprises me that people are dealing with the same issues so far away. My community too has been deceived by ill-portrayed media - the news depicting Mexicans as criminals or identifying them in relation to the new immigration law as "illegal," which just develops negative connotations. Seldom mentioned are reasons why Mexican citizens come to the US, legally or not, and what they are escaping.

I like how you worked with the web-based innovations in 48 hours. I was writing today about the strength of my community being that like-minded people collaborate. I am interested in the environment, preserving what is left, protecting what is in danger of being destroyed - but I am limited in this area and so I support the organizations I know of who are making dramatic changes by donating time or money. When it comes to issues I am more knowledgable about, my activism abilities are more mobile. I know what my strengths are - how to inspire a group of people to mobilize toward a cause, getting the community involved in different ways, etc.

It was refreshing to read about how you divided and how ethnicity was not a concern, and instead you focused on interest :)

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

adrineh's picture

Thank you, Mei Li, for your

Thank you, Mei Li, for your comment. I know what you mean by communities being portrayed in a negative light by the media — unfortunately, that's all too common. In fact, I work in news media and I'm always careful about how something is phrased or what we're trying to say with each article that we publish. Ethics in journalism, I feel, needs to be revisited over and over again, so we don't forget the media's responsibility and we don't continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes (or positive stereotypes, for that matter). It's not always easy and I've raised a few issues with my editors in the past. One day at a time...

Social Innovation Camp Caucasus was a great experience and does not have to be limited to my part of the world. In fact, SI Camp (for short) has taken place in other countries too and can be a lot of fun, not to mention stimulating and empowering.

I really enjoyed reading your post. You have eloquently presented the complex historical and cultural context for the existing tensions and the crucial role of the media in either challenging or perpetuating these conflicts within the region. Your inspiring experience with SI Camp represents a creative and compelling solution to potentially combat these barriers that exist in your community. I believe your piece underscores the vital need for an online forum like Pulse Wire, to foster peace through education and empowerment.

Great work!

Catherine

adrineh's picture

Hi Catherine

Thanks for your comment! Yes, I was trying to show how an online forum such as Pulse Wire can contribute to the work that I want to do. Already there is a wonderful community of supportive people here and that is the first step in creating dialogue and initiating peace and empowerment for the women in the region ;)

pheebsabroad's picture

Very True!

This is very very very true! I think that understanding, acceptance and ultimately forgiveness are cornerstones of growth and sustainable peace. Working to overcome the challenges presented by history is a long term struggle however you have certainly started the ball rolling!

Pheobe

adrineh's picture

Thanks, Pheobe!

That's probably the hardest part: overcoming challenges that are embedded in history, that set the stage long before I came into the picture, conflicts that are about 100 hundred years old (literally!)... also, tradition and cultural values. These are all factors that can contribute to the challenges that we as women face in this region (and I'm sure elsewhere too). One day at at time, though, one day at a time.... ;)

deltaqueen's picture

I agree

Adrineh
I can feel and see the division that you speak of everyday here in the states (Georgia) but as some would say, only in a minor way. Collaboration is the key? Understanding opens many doors? Awareness strengthens your cause. I applaud you for your collaboration, understanding that this is an issue and your awareness to acknowledge that something needs to be done. Creating a web based innovation in only 2 day WOW!. What determination. Keep pressing. Don't be discouraged and stay strong!

Continue to have peace.
Shawanna

Deltaqueen

adrineh's picture

Hi Shawanna

And thanks for your comment! The web-based innovation of course wasn't completed in 2 days, but the foundation was laid and we had something to show at the group presentations we had to do at the end of the 2 days. Our group unfortunately didn't win (it was a bit of a competition; the winning group was awarded $3,000 to continue their project), but it was a great experience and gave me good practice in working with an ad-hoc team and accomplishing so much in just 48 hours! Not just that, of course, but working with other youth from the South Caucasus countries: people we would never have the chance to work with because of closed borders and conflict. And now I have made good friends from across the other side of these closed borders and I'm sure we'll collaborate together in the near future again ;)

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