Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Scary, the Peacemaker.

Very excited! Onnik Krikorian, the Caucasus editor for Global Voices Online asked me to contribute to the online project on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The posting was up late last night; and almost immediately I got a message from EurasiaNet.org asking if it was OK for them to cross-post it, i.e. republish it on their site. ' Is it OKAY???' I almost shouted back, 'Are you kidding me? I am ecstatic!'

Here it is. Right here. And here is the original publication.

So... yes. Who cares that Facebook shut Scary Azeri page down. Which, by the way, is simply outrageous.

I still have no clue why they did it. I had a message left on the wall by someone called Eminballah, which basically, was full of abuse ("Who is this f**** strupid bitch who opened this stupid  f***** page!!!???" blah-blah, and more F's and more bitch references... etc etc), so I reported him as abuse, and blocked him from the page. Perhaps Facebook decided to block me too, just in case. They are for equal opportunities and freedom of speech, in case you have not realized.


  1. All worked out pretty nicely, actually, and in case people are interested, Scary's post is for my long-term project on trying to change negative stereotypes in the region, first starting with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and opening up communication using new and social media tools at:


    Thanks, Scary Azeri... :)

  2. Congrats! That's great :) Not on the blocking. That's stupid.

  3. Wow, my friend! That's great. Congratulations!

  4. I would sign under every word in Scary’s post because it’s a good post that reflects the thoughts of many people from Baku. What makes me uncomfortable is the fact that there is a very real occupation that is still underway of some 20% of Azeri territory, not just the disputed Karabakh, but the surrounding provinces. And it’s not something that could be ignored or overlooked for the sake of a social networking bliss. There is an elephant in a room and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

  5. Good article - a reminder that people of both nations used to know how to live together.

    Having said that, I don't think people of Azerbaijan are ready to turn the page on Karabakh war just yet. For starters, Karabakh and surrounding regions are still under Armenian occupation.

  6. @ Nata and Riyad: Thanks, guys.

    I appreciate your point. But I was not talking about Karabakh. I deliberately just wanted to focus on normal people. Like you, me, some Armenian guys who did not make the decision to occupy anything...I don't like the fact that Karabakh is still occupied either, but that does not make me hate every Armenian person I meet. It is not how it works in my head, personally. That's what I wanted to share. We all got dragged into that dirty, pointless fight that damaged both sides for years. Maybe the younger generation would be able to make some effort and settle the dispute. I am hopeful. What I am against is the blind hate I see on both sides. That is just pointless.

  7. It is obvious normal people, I think you mean most of population from both sides,have not started that war and wanted it to be started, but complications lead us to the cul-de sack..Very long long time needs for this to be sorted and in this delicate Scary you are making some small steps to try just to talk..

  8. Great article, Scary (I just read it on blog.oneworld.am)! I especially identified with the part where you meet a new co-worker who's Armenian. As an Armenian, I've had the same experience meeting others from the region (mainly, Turks) with whom there was an initial awkwardness and then the commonalities shone through. At the same time, it's important to talk the issues in the region and to recognize the history (which, alas, is never objective). As one commentator noted, the elephant in the room can't be ignored. But if we can at least begin the dialogue, then already we're moving forward. And that's why I think you, Onnik, Arzu and a host of others are doing such amazing work!

  9. Regarding small steps, Scary's post is just one in a series featuring alternative voices from Armenian and Azerbaijani circles from my blog.


    Other posts, which contribute to the conversation and which are available in English, Armenian, Azerbaijan and Russian, are at:

    Personal reflections on conflict and displacement

    Thoughts on the ultimate peace

    Letter from Baku: Them

    Beyond the Boundaries of Impossibility

    Thoughts on the ‘other’

    All are part of my personal project started two years ago to connect and amplify alternative Armenian and Azerbaijan bloggers through Global Voices.

    Some of that, along with field work on Armenian-Azerbaijani coexistence in Georgia (again in multiple languages) is at:


    Thanks to all those involved so far.

  10. Scary, you are, probably, the only person who is not being paid for all that "peace thing". By the way, the war is not over, unfortunately; and people ARE still dying. And the land IS still under occupation.

  11. I'm not qualified to comment on the article (except to say that it was well constructed and persuasive) but the Facebook nonsense is absurd. Scary, you have a huge group of REAL (not virtual) friends who outweigh the occasional purveyor of vitriol by thousands of degrees.

  12. sofisticos, there are others who are not being paid for that "peace thing," as you say, and no, the war is not over with both Armenians and Azerbaijanis dying on the front line in their dozens each year.

    Meanwhile, there is a peace plan under negotiation which would result in the return of territories formerly inhabited by what are now Azerbaijani IDPs.

    However, while it's debatable whether the Armenian or Azerbaijani presidents are serious about finding a resolution or not, the main obstacle is attitudes within both societies.

    And that is why human-level communication is necessary so the next time there are signs of a breakthrough, the argument of societies not being ready for peace is not an excuse.

    Meanwhile, with both sides living with their subjective views of history and the conflict, and with the media in both spewing misinformation and negative propaganda, this is where potentially such a dialogue can occur.

    After all, even the presidents and senior ministers are meeting and talking, right? Isn't it absurd when they or nationalists react so badly to the idea of actual civilians doing so?

    And that's even forgetting what Scary Azeri writes. That is, even those from Armenia and Azerbaijan meet up as friends in third countries such as Georgia while both ethnic groups co-inhabit villages and towns there too.

    Basically, this conflict has gone on for too long and has resulted in the lack of sustainable and democratic growth in both countries. Meanwhile, there are peace talks going on, but societies are not involved.

    Yet they have to be, and more than that, their need to be involved in an informed and mature discussion far removed from the imposed subjective positions they're told to take by those actually opposed to peace.

    And I might add, by those opposed to reconciliation, the restoration of neighborly relations, and the return of IDPs and refugees to their homes.

  13. @sofisticos: You are right, the war is not over. What are you trying to say? :) I never suggested that we should forget it all. That was not the point of what I was trying to say. I liked the way you put the peace in "". Are you against the idea? :)

    @Bill: Thanks. Yes, the FB thing is frustrating.

  14. Well done Scary a well written article. It is refreshing to read that there are people out there who do not regard other races/nations as the 'Enemy' because of wars or conflicts that were started by our leaders. There is always pain and suffering on both sides and unfortunately hate and distrust, but it is only when the small people get together and talk that trust and friendship can return

  15. Dear sofisticos, once more you formulate my ideas much earlier than me and in a much apter way! However, I have something to add. I do doubt Scary's sincere disinterestedness.

  16. @Onnik, @Scary:
    I agree, there is a big attitude problem with both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, but IMHO, you are approaching it from the wrong end.

    Two nations are like schoolboys who got into a fight, and one got beaten up before teachers pulled them away. We teach our children to say "I am sorry" in situations like this, not "Remember how we were best buddies in 2nd grade?".

    People from both side should acknowledge all illegal and criminal actions that took place between 1988 and 1994. Only then the relationship can start to heal. It would be great if national leaders do it, but I'm not holding my breath.

  17. I like Riad's arguments.I am not against peace at all. I did and do have an Armenian friend with whom I never lost contact. But I think that it is easy for Armenians to call for peace, they started and won the war. Azerbaijanis lost five times more people than Armenians, because Azerbaijanis had never expected it, it was not them who had plans for it. As for readiness for peace just watch this documentary, that was shot by an Armenian crew and judge for yourself who is more ready for peace: Azerbaijanis or Armenians.

  18. Great blog and a noble desire….BUT…why it doesn’t make me happy at all and the answer is I know why, because I refused to live in the world of peaceful dreams, but harsh reality..
    I know what Sofisticos is talking about… Azeries have such a short memory and so naïve and so peace loving people, would be just great to be and stay so? Unfortunately, no! Today, we can’t afford to be and stay so…I belong to the same generation as you are Scary Azeri, but I wonder if we lived in a different city of Baku (capital of Azerbaijan)..if war or THEIR hate towards us didn’t touch you at all?!

  19. I lived in the area prominently inhabited by THEM..and let me tell you I was just naïve and unaware as you were. My family was very international minded, as the most azeri population is. But, my first wake-up call of SELF-AZERI-AWARENESS was when I just 10 years old visited my Armenian classmate's home for her birthday party. I have to mention, it was still soviet era. Her parents asked me if I know History of Great Armenia and I told them that I know nothing….With a great tremble they showed me a big book with a gold title on it: “History of Great Armenia” (published in France) telling me how unique ethnos and a great history they belong to. I remember that for the first time I REALISED being only one azeri at the party surrounded by THEM, where my little classmates interpreting each other tried to tell me more about so-called “great land called Armenia from sea to sea, ” At that moment I didn’t have any idea of that so-called “Great Armenia” paranoia..only with time I started facing disgusting discrimination of me AZERI on my native land… when teacher of history (Armenian nationality) on “Azerbaijan History” subject lesson, was telling us that Garabah belongs to THEM and the whole world with time will know all the truth about it! …when I was told by another Armenian teacher that I’m not allowed to speak my azeri native language among THEM, but they can, because they are in majority!....when Vice- Principle of our school told to class with cheeky smile that she regrets of “FEW” surnames spoiling a roll book, as 10% of surnames were not belong to THEM …when my classmates were telling me that Turks are their enemies, so I should not speak Azeri (azeri language belongs to Turkic group) near THEM!!!
    There was so much more coming after the soviet system’s collapse, when we learned more about THEIR real agenda and obsession with historical mission to turn “dream-land” (Great Armenia from sea to sea (Black Sea-Caspian Sea) into reality..For us Azeries and close neighbours of THEM is clear what I’m talking about, although for western reader may sounds crazy and absurd, but reality is that THEY all centuries along have been feeding in and poisoning their own nation with dream-land/unique ethnos obsession and hate..so much hate! And do you know what, after this all I want to thank THEM for helping me to be very AZERI…I rebelled strongly against THEM, but always keeping in mind that I promised my Father something..I want to tell you this story.

  20. One of our Armenian neighbours family was really close with my family..They lived under our apartment and we used to have family dinners together. The strong and long-lasting friendship was symbolised with a wine-grape plant grown from his garden up to our balcony and we used to enjoy harvest together. When the first troubles started on the border between 2 countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia), our neighbour suspected bigger troubles coming and decided to leave Baku. My Father organised fare-well party, where we all were very emotional, as a family members can feel losing loved one. Armenian neighbour hugged my Father strongly and said in pure Azeri language: “Brother I’m leaving you, but our friendship will never die, as the wine-grape has tied-up our homes for forever, our hearts are together as strong as this wine-grape bonding our hearts…” With tears in his eyes he gave my father keys of the house and asked him to water the wine-grape in a couple of days after he is gone, to let the plant to live long as their friendship will. When my Father was in his backyard as promised, he found wine-grape plant CUT OFF and knife was left nearby. Never forget the anger of mine and shock of my Father, but I never forget his words after:” CHILDREN, PROMISE ME THAT YOU NEVER BE LIKE THEM..PROMISE ME TO BE FREE FROM HATE….” So, I do! But I still refuse to live in the world of dreams, but reality….as I told before, we cannot afford to be relaxed again, until THEY are stuck in the absurd dreams of the past, are poisoning the present and are threatening the future….as long as THEY are so, I refuse to believe in the SINCERE peace…


  21. I think the point is that the concerns and opinions expressed by Azerbaijanis on this comment are also pretty much the same as those I've heard from Armenians.

    Because of that, I tend to agree with Riad when he says that "I agree, there is a big attitude problem with both Armenians and Azerbaijanis [...]


    People from both side should acknowledge all illegal and criminal actions that took place between 1988 and 1994. Only then the relationship can start to heal. It would be great if national leaders do it, but I'm not holding my breath."

    Where I differ is in the comparison with a schoolyard spat.

    Two nations are like schoolboys who got into a fight, and one got beaten up before teachers pulled them away. We teach our children to say "I am sorry" in situations like this, not "Remember how we were best buddies in 2nd grade?".

    Well, yes, point taken, BUT... each side thinks they were blameless in the fight and takes back history subjectively only to where it suits them.

    Therefore what is needed is an impartial mediator, but as we know that does not happen in the case of NK, especially when both sides continue to believe ONLY THEY were victims.

    But going back to that schoolyard spat, I think friends do makeup in such a situation. In fact, resolution is usually more likely in such a situation.

    So, as both societies can not come to terms with their own histories as it is the nationalists and politicians who define it, it is time for those who are tired of it to find another path to reconciliation.

    As Scary says, and I have seen, both ethnic Armenians and Azeris can get on fine outside of Armenia and Azerbaijan which leads me to suspect that it is the internal situation, where conflict is manipulated and exploited by political forces, which is the problem.

    Meanwhile, who are more ready for peace? It's interesting. Armenians say they are. The Azeri commentors say they are. In reality, I suspect that neither society is, and that's what we're trying to change in an atmosphere of extreme local media bias, misinformation and propaganda.

    It's why the comments I read on this page are pretty much mirror images of what I read from many Armenians. Instead of focusing on the longer period of when Armenians and Azeris coexisted, people focus on individual incidents in which both sides did unthinkable things to the other.

    Here's hoping that however it works out, peace comes soon. In my lifetime too, I hope.

  22. Incidentally, on the subject of history, I agree that this is one of the main problems associated with the conflict and it was nationalist historians on both sides who are responsible for this. So infuriating is the obsession with history in this region, I tend to ignore it now, as both sides selectively manipulate it for their own purposes. This is also another reason, along with the absence of a propagandist media, that Armenians and Azeris can coexist outside the conflict zone.

    Meanwhile, political forces and nationalist elements in both countries continue to exploit the conflict to come to or retain power and hold back the development of sustainable and democratic countries. Of course, this is just my opinion so perhaps let those who want to take one path take theirs, and others go a different route.

    Let's see which one leads to peace, and which one leads to war and a huge question mark hanging over the future of the entire region.

  23. Sorry, correction. I totally DISAGREE with the school spat analogy because it just occurred to me that whole nations have now been personified in two individuals who have come to blows.

    This is not correct anywhere in the world. Conflict occur because of governments so in this case the analogy might be best directed towards Serge Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev.

    Or perhaps, those nationalists that scream the loudest when it comes to talk of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation, the very process that is actually necessary.

    You know, we know the conflict is not a religious one and nationalists seek to portray it as an ethnic one instead.

    However, the more I see Armenians and Azeris interact with each other away from partisan propaganda, I disagree. It was not an ethnic conflict, but an ethno-nationalist one between groups in societies.

    Meanwhile, instead of stereotyping the other as the worst case individual, perhaps we can just choose to treat people as just that -- people. And, as societies evolve and democratize, I am sure we will see that happen.

    Then, perhaps, peace will finally come. Whether that is in Scary or my lifetime, however, remains to be seen...

  24. @Anonymous, who said...

    "I do doubt Scary's sincere disinterestedness."

    Disinterestedness in what?

  25. @ Onnik:

    > Sorry, correction. I totally DISAGREE
    > with the school spat analogy because
    > it just occurred to me that whole
    > nations have now been personified in
    > two individuals who have come to blows.

    All individuals are also collectives. Look: Your brain is comprised of two hemispheres capable of functioning even when severed. Each hemisphere is comprised of millions of individual neurons capable of taking information in and passing it along - But of course each neuron is also a collective of axons, dendrites, synapses, and each part serves its individual purpose. But then each part is made up of carbon and oxygen and nitrogen and other elements, which in turn may be broken into protons and neutrons and electrons, and on and on and on.

    Sometimes the analogy of an individual is better; other times the analogy of a group is better. Yes, the government of a nation is not that nation, but still, a government is a part of a single country - supported by, and growing out of, the collective which created it. What is a country without a government? Can it survive without one? I think history teaches that a country without a government isn't like a bowl of many cherries with the top cherries skimmed off, but more like an individual chicken with its head cut off.

  26. Mark, firstly, given the extent of electoral fraud, there is a problem with the idea of a government in Armenia and Azerbaijan "supported by, and growing out of, the collective which created it."

    Secondly, from my own experience of communicating with individual Armenians and Azerbaijanis, there are many people with views and opinions not represented by their governments and media.

    Of course, I do not pretend for a minute that these individuals form the majority in both societies, but they do represent the potential to change the situation over the long term.

    And what is that situation? Well, it's two former Soviet republics supposedly in transition away from an authoritarian past, but which still rule in much the same way as before.

    Internal dissent? Intimidate, harass, arrest or even kill critical voices. Elections? As Stalin apparently said, it depends on who counts the 'votes.' Economic growth? Frustrated by corruption.

    War? Perfect for retaining power and justifying the system in place especially when you can stereotype whole nations as an external threat while robbing the nation as attention is focused elsewhere.

  27. Anonymous, who said, "I do doubt Scary's sincere disinterestedness", answers to your questions, "Disinterestedness in what?"

    Scary, you are talented. You do not need to attract followers through so called "peacemaking".

    P.S. Talking about "friendship with Armenia" is the same as playing Farmville after Facebook shut your page and you have awarded it with "the magic wand".

  28. @Anonymous: Well, everything I write, from this blog to my short stories and any other contributions on any other sites are all part of me trying to do more writing, do it better, and get more into the whole thing, so to speak. I am not pretending that is not the case. I would LOVE to get paid for my writing, which might never happen.

    However! I would never, and I mean NEVER write something I dont believe is true, or dont feel strongly about. I put my name and my word out there for anyone to see. It affects my reputation, I have Azeri friends who are probably horrified by this article. You, as a reader, are free to trust that I am being honest, or think that I am full of sh**. Or never read me again.:)

    PS: Did not get the FB connection, sorry. :)

  29. I have chosen to never read you again.

  30. > Mark, firstly, given the extent of
    > electoral fraud, there is a problem
    > with the idea of a government in
    > Armenia and Azerbaijan "supported
    > by, and growing out of, the
    > collective which created it."

    Onnik, I appreciate your position. But fraud, corruption, and nepotism are all hallmarks of Eastern and Middle Eastern societies. Why? These are societies where shame, rather than guilt, is the primary means of social control. While the specific politicians who rise to power in Azerbaijan, Armenia, or Kazakhstan may not be the ones who would have been in power under fair conditions, these are not fair societies. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan share cultural assumptions with their own people about trust, freedom, power, and family - assumptions which are incompatible with honest democratic processes.

    Just read about Scary's experience having to bribe the hospital staff to be allowed to see her father after his heart attack - and then having to bribe a nurse to give him an extra blanket! Fraud, whether commercial, electoral, or bureaucratic, is simply the way of things where one's first duty is to one's own. This is why I think Riyad's analysis is appropriate. Do the leaders and the proletariat share the same history and ethnicity? Do they have the same friends and enemies? Do they speak the same language, wear the same style of clothing, and think the same way? If so, they are best treated as a single organism.

    But you really needn't take my word for it. Joseph Marie de Maistre said it much more simply: “Every country has the government it deserves."

  31. What peace are you all talking about? Are all of us stupid?. Or blind? Or deaf? The conflict began in 1988 and a Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed in 1994, leaving Karabakh and adjoining territories occupied by Armenian military forces. The UN General Assembly (10693) affirmed Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and expressed support for that country’s internationally recognized borders. The UN demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there. On the April 2, 2008, the Assembly also reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Azerbaijani population to return to their homes, and reaffirmed that no State should recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, or render assistance in maintaining that situation. Nevertheless, despite all international efforts, the unfavorable situation for Azerbaijan has not changed. UNFAVOURABLE FOR AZERBAIJAN. Those Azerbaijani peacemakers are affirming the situation.

  32. @ Mark and Onnik (and the others)

    I have to admit this discussion is very interesting to follow, but has gone way beyond my expertise for me to take a serious part in. I sort of agree with some parts of what you are trying to say, Mark. At the same time I have to agree with Onnik. I can see good logic in both explanations.

    I think that unfortunately, people in their majority get influenced and easily manipulated. By their religious leaders, by politicians, by the way their parents raised them. However, I don’t think that you can view any nation as one homogeneous mass. Mark, George W is a good example. Some of you chose him, and some of you did not. We cannot treat all Americans the same way just because we might have not liked your leader. A lot of Brits despised Tony Blair, but there were some who respected and liked him. How can you know what people really feel or think from their leaders, especially in corrupt countries? It is too complicated!

    Speaking of politics, etc...I personally am convinced that Russia played a HUGE role in the Karabakh conflict. But, there is no way to really know, is there.

    What we get told is not always true. My Russian friend had an argument with my husband once because she truly believed Stalin never made the pact with Hitler! Because, we were never taught that fact. So, to her, that was not a fact. On my favourite note, for some people God’s existence is a fact. For me it is a (dangerous) fairy tale. We are all different. And I am not going to try to persuade anyone who believes peace is not possible, or that the grapevine tale we got told here can’t really represent the whole nation. There were cases in our past when SOME Azeris did unthinkable things. Things none of the Azeris I know would want to be associated with. And I just hope that there are enough intelligent people in this world who understand that not all Azeris would approve of those animal acts.

    So... yes. I like to treat people as individuals. But as I said, we are all different.

  33. @ Scary:

    > I don’t think that you can view
    > any nation as one homogeneous mass.

    Of course. Countries really are giant organisms and collections of smaller organisms, both at the same time. Sometimes we may prefer one perspective over the other, but nations will never be either totally homogeneous or totally fragmented.

    Arguably this line of reasoning provides an important argument for ceasing international conflicts wherever possible - not only do innocent and pacifistic individuals suffer when their respective groups fight, but usually the groups in conflict are related to one another in such a way that they might be better viewed as just one large group. Armenians and Azeris are not so different:


    Michael E. Weale at al, (2001) "Armenian Y chromosome haplotypes reveal strong regional structure within a single ethno-national group"
    Hum Genet (2001) 109 :659–674 DOI 10.1007/s00439-001-0627-9

    "The Armenian modal hg2 haplotype is shared with neighbouring or Middle Eastern countries, and is also the modal hg2 haplotype in Turkey and Azerbaijan... Overall, Armenia is significantly closer to Azerbaijan and Turkey than it is to Georgia."

    Ignorant Westerner that I am, I have no idea whether it is offensive or satisfying to be compared to Turks, but genes don't lie!

    > George W is a good example. Some of
    > you chose him, and some of you did not.

    (Well... actually despite my personal opposition towards George W Bush, I think he perfectly captured the spirit of the times. His aggressive foreign policies were in line with national attitudes, and his arrogant assumptions that democratic values should be exported are echoed throughout the statements of both irreligious liberals and Christian thinkers. Indeed, America has been policing the world with its giant military for decades, and it hasn't stopped even after W left office. I don't like it, but over the years I've learned that the river will continue flowing downstream no matter what a single drop of water may desire.)