Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Why Georgia reminded me of Scarlett O'Hara

 This is a draft of my next piece for The Caspian Post that I want to share with you all here. 


My mother reckons I had been to Georgia before. When I was four years old. Of course, that just does not count, so I claim this visit now as my first ever experience of Georgia.

It is surprising, in hindsight, that when I lived so close to it, I had not visited the neighboring country. I remember expat friends of mine in Baku going there skiing in winter. I always heard it was beautiful. But still, for some reason, I never went. In the recent years though, I kept wondering about it, and wanting to visit. My mother had been there twice already and was absolutely in love with Georgia. 

So during this recent Eid, for which we, lucky government sector employees in Qatar, get a ten-day break, and with not many options of where to travel to (without quarantining for weeks), I decided I absolutely had to see my mom after all this time of lockdown. And, we decided to meet up in Tbilisi. Finally.  

My boss cheekily mentioned to me once that he had heard Georgia was nicer than Azerbaijan. More beautiful, he said. “According to whom, may I ask?!” I was quite outraged.

“Now you can judge yourself!”, he mocked me as I told him about my plan. “And let me know where you think is more beautiful.”

I cannot, of course, claim that Georgia is more beautiful. Is like a mother saying her child is not as good looking as the neighbors’ one. And, in many ways, the two countries are quite similar. As my taxi drove along empty leafy early morning streets of Tbilisi, I felt for a moment I was back home in Baku, with the old shabby buildings, and dodgy looking little shops. It had that unmistakable post-Soviet era look that, I suppose, all post-Soviet republics have, to a certain extent.

My very first impression of the five star hotel I chose ( I told my mother that, this first post-lockdown vacation was going to be special, and that I was not prepared to not travel in style this time!) reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara when she attempted to appear wealthy, making a gown out of the velvet drapes. Poor, yet proud.

The room I booked was in the old, historic part of the building; and as I looked out of the window, at first glance all I saw was poverty, garbage, tattered buildings, and fenced-up construction sites. Hmmm, I thought.

But, when I opened the curtains in the morning, I saw beauty. And it took my breath away. And once I saw it, it could not be unseen, and it was everywhere I looked, for the rest of my visit. Behind the old poor shacks and broken fencing, there was the old Tbilisi, charming and unique, with those gorgeous, intricately woven old wooden balconies, light and elegant. And the mountains. And the beautiful old churches. 

And even the tatty fencing had cute artwork on it.


Georgia is breathtakingly beautiful, there is no doubt about that. However, it isn’t simply its beaty that bewitched me. I am quite spoiled in that I had visited some truly beautiful spots in the world. But there is something else about Georgia that is difficult to describe but impossible not to feel when you are there. It is everywhere. Georgia has an immense amount of soul. That’s probably the only way to describe it. It is in their wine, and the way they drink it- making drinking wine a form of art. It is in the intensity of the emotions in the voice of the Sighnaghi street singer. It is in their stunning valleys; it is in their food and people. It is in those balconies, mountains, rivers and monasteries. It is the country that I would want to escape to as I grow old, to spend my last peaceful days, gazing at the valleys below, drinking wine and writing my memoirs, just like that old hobbit in The Lord of the Rings did.

If Georgia were in The Lord of the Rings, that’s where the elves would dwell. It is that magical.

Everything is so old. And because the country is poor, but still maintains its historic charm and pride, and because its people are so beautiful too, it gets right through to your heart, and makes you love it, immediately and forever. 

Georgians are funny, too. The first time you see their faces, they appear very stern. Especially men. “Excuse me?’, you say as you approach someone, and you get this majestic stare back. But don’t let that exterior fool you. Georgian people are charming, funny and welcoming. They are generous, even when you know their financial situation may not be at its best now. The two different tour guides I hired during our trip both did something that they didn’t have to do. Went that extra mile.

Dima, our first tour guide, when we stopped at a local pottery making stall in Mtskheta, suddenly asked my mum which fridge magnet she liked the most and bought it for her. Our second guide, Kostya, who took us around Kakheti region, stopped the car to buy us fresh local strawberries off the road- “you have got to try these!” And later, as we stood in the middle of endless Kindzmarauli grapevine fields, he surprised us with full glasses of wine which he, like a circus magician, pulled out from the back of his minivan. It was that kind of kindness and attentiveness that I found everywhere during our stay.


Kostya wouldn’t let us drink the wine at lunch without teaching us proper Georgian toasts. “Wait, wait!” he would exclaim every time I raised my glass. This toast must be for women! This one is “thank God for everything we have today. Because, look! -He waves at the valley stretching out endlessly below us as we sit on the top of the mountain, in a small guest house café- “look how blessed we are today?!”

“And now we must drink to peace. This is one of the favorite Georgian toasts.”

"To peace", we nod, ordering another jug of local white.


How can somewhere so beautiful not be the most successful tourist destination, I kept wondering. How come the locals are not filthy rich by now? I suspect I know the political reasons, and I am not going to go there now. But, with all my heart, I wish Georgia success and happiness. Because it deserves it.

  



 

 















Sunday, 21 March 2021

Mean girls or about emotional bullying



I was discussing, as thousands of others at the time, that Meghan Markle interview with guys at work when one of them smirked at me. “Come on”, he said. “It was the International Women’s day only a few days ago, and you are being mean about another woman?” 

That logic always fascinated me. It is like when people also say “do you not like children?” Well, to me children, just like women, are people. With their own individual personalities. And some of them can be nice, others are well, not necessarily so. I would think that much should be obvious to everyone, but clearly, it isnt. Meghan…well, this posting isn’t about her, but in short, my position is that just because she says certain things on a sensationalist TV program, doesn’t mean she is being genuine.

 

Neither does it of course, mean she is necessarily lyingeither. It may or may not have happened, and to be even more honest…I don’t really care. What I do care about is people losing their jobs for expressing an opinion that they did not believe her. That, and the whole easily outraged woke culture does piss me off.  


But that’s a separate topic, altogether. You may think Piers Morgan might be a tosser, or not…I don’t really know or care. Just like I don’t know or care about Meghan. But I think is amusing how people think is ok to abuse him and call him a bully, and a racist pig, when they don’t really know him as a person, but get shocked when he suggested Meghan wasn’t being genuine. Like they know her. Is that just because she is a woman? I am curious. Or is it because she is playing a victim so well? What valid reason do millions of people have to believe her? 


Anyway. What I wanted to talk about today, is bullying. And you think how is this all connected? Here she is, trashing poor lovely cutie pie Meghan, and then comes up with this bullying topic. Ironic, isn’t it. well, yes. It is connected. 


As I said, women, just like men, just like children…can be nasty and mean. And fake. 


I wanted to share my recent unpleasant experience, which to be honest, I never imagined I would, as a mother, get to experience. My little girl went through a heartbreaking bullying in our compound, when a group of nine-year old girls decided she wasn’t cool enough to be a part of their gang.


When it started happening, I didn’t even see the signs, didn’t even see it coming, the whole extent of it, to be honest. And only now, looking back at certain things they said or did to her, I realized, with heavy heart, that it was in fact, a proper emotional bullying that my child was subjected to. Which, as I am beginning to read up more about it, is the most common, most damaging form of bullying. 


And, as I was explaining to my mother this morning, I learned, in this painful for any mother way, that it doesn’t happen to the kids they usually show you in movies. That is why it came as such a shock. My daughter is not the usual type you would expect to be bullied.


Only recently I saw a Netflix series where a couple of geeky boys told their friend to stay away from them as they didn’t want any trouble from bullies at school. 


The characters were so typical, it made me laugh. They were geeky, quiet, shy…not attractivesocially awkward. Those are the types who suffer from bullyingright? Now, I know I am biased. But my child isn’t the type. She can be bossy, and spoiled, she spends too much time on her iPad, and doesn’t follow orders from other friends…But she is far from shy or awkward, or weird. She is pretty. She is cool, in many ways. She doesn’t always want to brush her hair, but I doubt that was the reason. However, as I am learning now, it isn’t always the case. Is not necessarily someone shy, or unpopular who gets bullied out. 

In fact, it is more popular, pretty or confident children who fall victims of emotional bullying, as the bully gets threatened by them and seeks to “destroy their credibility among their peers”.

 

My teen daughter argued that her sister simply didn’t like the things the other girls liked doing. Yes, I see that. She isn’t into the hip hop/TikTok culture the others seem obsessed with. However, only a few months ago, she was still playing with all those girls and everything seemed fine. 


But, suddenly, things went wrong. Doors got locked. They are hiding from me, she would come home and say, looking confusedI know they are inside, but they are hidingThey saw me coming and shouted, “she is coming, hide!” That’s a weird game, I thought, but it will surely, pass. The worst part was that we, her parents, who didn’t realize how bad things were for her, would push her to go back and get involved. Don’t be difficult, we would tell her. Go and play with your friends! And she would follow our advice and go back out and try to be part of the group that suddenly started pushing her away in a heartless, unexpectedly cruel way


As a grown-up woman, I have experienced way too many times how mean other girls can be. I saw jealousy, gossip, lies, fake smiles…I was myself sometimes suddenly excluded when I believed people were my friends…but I am old and ugly enough to be okay about that. But when it is my child…well, I think it affected me more than it affected her. 


Every time I think my daughter will be fine, and she will just learn from this life experience, I then remember some small nasty details, and I get upset


They are only nine, ffs I think to myself. How can they be such a stereotypical mean girl group? At such a young age? 


I realized how scary and scarring bullying can be. You don’t really know it till you experience it. You don’t ever think it would happen to your child. Now I understand why schools are so strict about this, and how important it is to recognize the signs and act to stop it. Sadly, in social setting like that is a compound life we expats live in, stopping emotional bullying is impossible. Is difficult to catch, impossible to prove. 


All I could do is stop my girl from contacting the group again, from trying to be part of it. You don’t go anywhere near that group, I told her. Thankfully, she is not short of other friends.

 

Interestingly, most of those girls individually are quite nice. However, what I suspect happened was due to the pack mentality. Once their leader decided one of them was no longer welcome, the others followed. It is either that, or get pushed out yourselfAs this article points out, social exclusion works exactly in such a way, where one person intimidates the others from interacting with the victim, to exclude them from the circle. 


As I sat there one night, plotting a master-level phycological revenge, I asked my daughter if she wanted to invite just a couple of the nicer girls from the gang for some amazing day of fun. To teach the mean ones a lesson. She looked at me, baffled. 

“But then the others would be excluded?”, she said. “That would be mean, wouldn’t it?” 


Well, that shut me up. What was I thinking? I can’t teach her to be mean when I judge the others for being mean towards her. So how do I protect her, how do I teach her to handle such situations in life, without teaching her how to become a total bitch? How do I teach her to be proud, to be strong and to grow a thick skin, while still remaining a nice person? 


Look, I said. You’ll have other friends, but unfortunately, some people will always let you down. And wait till you start dating boys! I am so not looking forward to that stage. 


When they were babies, I thought parenting was hard. Turns out it only gets harder as they grow up.


And no, I don't think i should pretend to like someone or think they are genuine just because they are girls- children or grown-ups, regardless.  

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Vacations. Yes, that word.


Today is the first say of spring, guys! 


For us in Qatar it also means summer is coming. 



 

I was going to work this morning wearing high boots and tights (there were days when you wouldn’t find a pair of tights in my wardrobe. Pantyhose for those of you who are in the US. I find them terribly unsexy! I mean even the word pantyhose?...Is plain awful. But these days, when I get to put them on like what? twice a year? They make me happy. They make me feel like I am somewhere with a proper winter. ) and a warm cardigan…Wow. It felt cosy. And nice.

 

You guys out there, with normal seasons, have no idea how wonderful it feels to be able to put boots on.

 

You are probably reading this, like this friend of mine who has to start her every day worrying how many hours she needs to allocate to shoveling the snow from her driveway….and thinking shut up bitch, just shut the F up!


But here’s the thing, guys. We all have our own reality, and our own set of problems and things that make us happy. Or not.

 

This very same friend told me off a few months ago, as I shared some meme on Facebook, which was mocking 2020 as a terrible year- “What the hell was so terrible for you personally, anyway? You had a great year. You didn’t lose the job, everyone is ok, you had Covid but recovered well from it…so what exactly are you wining about? Oh yes, you could not go on holidays! And couldn’t have as many parties as usual! Big effin’ deal!”

 

I love the way she can twist the facts ever so slightly to make them sound like she wants to. But that’s not just her, right? Look at the media these days. Every article is written in such a way, and often not even with too much effort to make it look accidental, that suits the agenda of the writer. Karabakh coverage in the world media was a great eye opener for me. I know I am just stating the obvious.

 

In a few days, it is my mother’s birthday. And I always tried to organize something special for her birthday. I took her to Paris once...and Dubai. Or that time when i flew to Baku to surprise her...(That face when she opened the door! Those five days we spent in Baku! Just us!) 

Looking back, we have had some really fun birthdays. On her last one in Doha we even got to meet Meryem Uzerli. Check them out! 



But that doesn’t make me feel any better still, knowing that she is alone this year. And nothing I can do. 


Vacations are not just about getting away from somewhere you live. When she said “so what? big deal, you don’t get to go on holidays” she is missing- on purpose or by accident, the fact that when expats go on holidays, is not always to Maldives to lie around with pina colada all day. (Which of course, would be nice right now, too…) Is to go home. To see ageing parents. To see the old friends. Relatives. To visit the places you left behind years ago.

 

Looking at all my vacations, I realise that we almost never gone somewhere just by ourselves. Every vacation away was with friends or family, or visiting friends and family. 


From the days of my single life, when my stoned friend picked me up in the airport in London and took me straight to a midnight mass at St Paul’s cathedral…my first proper trip abroad, which I will never forget; to family trips away, for me vacation was always mainly about people. Well, and food, of course. 

 

But…to this friend of mine who works hard, and has to deal with meters of snow every morning these are not real problems. To her, my privileged life as an expat seems shiny, spoiled and lazy.

 

And she has a point of course. I am not complaining. Life in Doha is pretty good. And spring is here. In a few weeks’ time we will be able to swim again and wear flip flops. I just really miss going home. And I miss my mother. I even!!!! miss my in-laws, imagine that? I miss the UK- my beautiful, rainy second home. Tiny cars with drivers who drive like pussies compared to us here, in Doha where every day is a battle for survival on the roads. Waitrose! I miss Waitrose. And the local butcher. And pies.  And fish and chips.

 

I miss Baku and the Caspian sea and shashliks. And meeting the Russian university friend in my favourite Mari Vanna


And taking an old (terrifying) train up to the mountains in Azerbaijan, where nobody spoke Russian and fed me boiled eggs and hard cheese for breakfast. And pure local honey. In a small family-owned resort with that room that looked like the set from Orange is the New Black. Bring it all back, I won’t complain, I swear. Bring back my vacations, that one simple word that has so many layers, so many memories, so many friggin’ awesome experiences.

 

So lets hope that this spring will bring us all lovely sunshine and vaccinations rolled out everywhere, and hugs and….vacations! And that I could finally see my mother.

 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Friends Day


Well… is Valentine’s day today, guys. In case you forgot. 

For some it is a romantic day, for others I know is just a commercial holiday which means nothing at all. I also read that it originated from some pretty naughty behavior of the Romans.


For me, it means a lot. But in the Finnish way. 


One of my brightest memories of this holiday goes back to when I used to live in Baku still, young and single, and suddenly someone called me from reception at work. 


“You have a package” they announced. What? I was not expecting anything from anyone that year. I ran downstairs, excited, curious and there was a beautiful little box of heart shaped chocolates. There was no card and no name on the box. It was a total surprise.


For a few hours that day I thought I had a secret admirer. Or a weird stalker. In any case, it was exciting to know someone secretly cared. 


Later, my American girlfriend called and told me it was from her. So, someone did care. It was not the guy I was secretly hoping to hear from that day though, not any man at all in fact, but a friend, and a woman. I never knew girlfriends would send each other chocolates for Valentine’s?


“Of course, we do!” she exclaimed. Well, I thought, maybe Americans do. They are odd, those guys. At that moment in time, I guess I felt a little disappointed that my secret admirer turned out to be a girlfriend. 


Now, as I grew older, looking back at my life experiences, I realize that most of the amazing gifts, wonderful surprises and proper signs of affection came from my girlfriends, not the guys I went out with. 


During our first lockdown in Doha, my Qatari girlfriend sent me a hamper with all those necessities I could not come out and get. Shaving creams, razors, face masks and chocolates. Things that matter for a girl, you know. 


I also love it that on this day, my children often made cards for me at school, and occasionally would get me flowers. This day for me is just another opportunity to pause and tell someone you care, and it doesn’t have to be your romantic partner. 


So today, I am thinking of all my friends who for some reason might be alone. Divorced, single, widowed…stuck in an unhappy relationship, or simply separated by Covid. 


Whatever the reasons may be, there will be a few of my friends who won’t be celebrating tonight. And I wish I could send them all secret little boxes of chocolates. Just to say I care.


It has been many years since I had that  box from my girlfriend delivered to the reception desk at BP office in Baku. And I still recall it every year. Some memories stay with us forever. And as I look back, I don’t think of the guy who’d never bothered to send me anything that day, I remember this girlfriend of mine who cared and was so thoughtful.


So, I am with the Finns on Valentine’s day. I hear that in Finland, St Valentine’s is a friends day. Or just the day to show someone you love them- whoever they are.  


So, I just hope, wherever you guys are today, and whether you are single or in a relationship, you will have something that will make you smile. Whether it comes from your lover, or your friend, or your child. Happy Valentine’s and Happy Friends day! 


And maybe you could, just today, send a card or simply a text to someone who might be alone tonight.


 

 


Monday, 4 January 2021

Lessons learned in 2020



Well....So here we are. Welcome to 2021. Same shite different year.

I have not written here for so long that I don’t even know where to start. Is a bit like not having sex for a while- you forget how to initiate it. Much simpler if you are doing it all the time.


Anyway. Is not for the lack of stuff to talk about that I have not written. I have plenty of excuses.

 

The Karabakh war distracted me from my usual topics here, and then it felt kind of strange talking about anything else. And there was still quite a lot I felt like saying about that war. And a lot I personally learned from getting so involved emotionally in that remarkable for us, Azeris, moment. 

 

First of all, I realized how easy it is to just get swept up by the nationalistic wave, and how easy it is to hate the other side. I also realized more than ever just how damaging the social media can be for fueling that hatred and spreading lies. I saw even most balanced people on twitter try to remain balanced, and fail. I also was shocked to read such openly biased reports on what I thought were reliable, well-known news outlets. Yes, I know. A flash of obvious. Media these days is a manipulating, lying, cheap whore. That’s the reality. Now, if we all could just remember that, and treat it accordingly, we would not be hurt every time like a naïve young girl who expects honesty from her handsome boyfriend.

 

I also realized that, despite the national pride and incredible joy of winning the territories back, I also felt awfully sad for al those dead soldiers- on both sides. One article in particular left me tearful, as I was reading about the way azeri soldiers kept climbing up the wet rocks, in the rain, getting killed and falling down, while the ones behind them just kept going. That image somehow got imprinted in my mind. I suddenly pictured, with such vivid clarity, how at this very same moment as we, patriotic assholes both in Armenia and Azerbaijan, including those who are not even in their home countries but scattered around the world, from LA to Moscow, sat there in our comfy homes spitting out more and more insults at each other on social media; those young guys, exhausted, scared, cold and wet were climbing the wet rocks in the dark winter night, to get to Shusha. How we had no idea what it must have really been like for them. How we laughed at the Armenian soldiers being afraid of the drones, not knowing where they might strike from. How they laughed at our guys who kept advancing “like robots”, despite getting shot over and over again. There was nothing fucking funny about any of that. We, patriotic assholes, who tucked our own kids in warm beds that night, what right did we have to laugh at and celebrate the deaths of so many other children?

 

So yes, I had still a lot to add, a lot to say about how I felt it was very tragic, despite Azerbaijan winning (and we did win, whatever some skeptics might say) and the joy of getting our lands back. But wars are ugly and tragic- there is nothing revolutionary about that statement, nothing new that I felt I would be adding by writing a whole post about that. The other night, I was at a party hosted by a friend where I suddenly ran into someone i knew had Armenian roots, who was able to smile and drink and chat with me. I was grateful for his composure and his ability to remain civilized. It isn’t easy at the moment for any of us. And it wont be for a while. 

 

Now, moving away from the topic of war…

 

We also were busy having Covid in our family. 


Thankfully, a very mild one, and thankfully the kids somehow mysteriously avoided getting it. Also thankfully, we were over and done with it before Christmas and the New Year holidays, which we then had a chance to enjoy. Just like I was saying above about the lessons I learned from the whole Karabakh war observation, I also learned a lot about getting Covid, and how people react.

 

There were two most memorable moments in this whole Covid experience. First of all, everyone was demanding to know where we had got it from. As if we went to a whorehouse and saw a particular girl, say Lara, who gave us syphilis. And I could tell them to simply avoid Lara, or at least not go to particular whorehouse, and they would be safe. No, guys. Sorry. Covid is not quite like that. I also got a funny feeling that some people were annoyed with us for getting it. “But, but... where were you???” One of the class mums demanded to know. “How come you got it??? How come no one else we know got it?” 


I felt interrogated and accused of perhaps having secretly attended some wild debauchery parties with hundreds if suspicious covid-spreading strangers. Of not being careful enough.

 

I got so tired of answering text messages and phone calls. The sad thing was that the attention or even simply some texts I perhaps expected to receive- from people I thought maybe somewhat cared about me? I never did. 


I had however, received texts from strangers I normally don’t talk to- like unwanted advice (make sure you exercise every day!) depressive prognosis (be careful, you can still have awful complications during the next six months!), insincere offers of help ( well if you need anything, just give us a shout)  

But mostly just curiosity. 


The real help was, I have to say…kind of scarce, and truly appreciated. A neighbor who sent us a soup. A friend who did our groceries shopping every time she went. Another friend, who walked our dog.  I am not the type who expects or feels that anyone at all should be helping me in life, and I get absolutely stunned and eternally grateful every time someone does.


Other than that, I will tell you one thing- if you get Covid, expect judgment, gossip, anger (some neighbors thought our dog should not be allowed to get walks outside) and endless questions about how is it???? how did you get it???

But don’t expect a lot of genuine sympathy or love. People are “covided” up to their eyeballs. They hate it. And they don’t wanna know. They don’t want to be associated with it or be near it, or even feel sorry for you for having it. There is something weird not just about the virus itself, but how people react to it, to the others getting it, to the whole situation, somehow. It is almost like the virus not just caused a lot of sickness and death. It also caused a further division between people- your close friends or relatives suddenly turn out to be conspiracy theorists, non-maskers, anti-vaxers… killing friendships and relationships. This just got to stop.

 

Another thing I learned (there seems to have been a lot of learning last few months, for sure) is that Qatar is surely one of the best places to get sick with Covid. The medical attention we received, the way we were looked after, was literally amazing. 

 

My favorite joke recently has been the word blessed

 

As a non-religious person, I found it funny to refer to things as me being blessed all the time. Look at this lovely dog (who is a pain in my arse) aren’t I blessed? I would say.

Or yes, that’s my child shouting in the background. Blessed.

 

But guess what? I guess I am blessed. 


I am so grateful right now that we were here, in Doha, when we got Covid. I am grateful for the sunshine and the beautiful weather we have here now; and for not being locked down. I am grateful for living in a lovely compound where we were able to celebrate New year at a street party, with lots of smiling people around, grateful to be able to still share a drink with friends. Grateful that we still have jobs (well for now, anyway) and that our Covid didn’t kill us. 

 

So yes, even though I joke about being blessed, I kinda am. 

 

Happy New Year to you all, wherever you are. I hope 2021 is going to bring us all peace, and health and some money to buy alcohol with. And some true friends who are there for you when you are sick with Covid. 

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Nagorno Karabakh- a proof that parallel worlds exist.


In the car journey yesterday, I was asked to explain to two teenagers why Armenia and Azerbaijan were “bombing each other”. 

I explained. But surely, one of them suggested, they just need to stop bombing each other and just go sit down with a coffee and discuss the issue? 

Funny how kids think, isn’t it. 

Well, I said…if only. 

The more comments and coverages by some incredibly biased media I see online, the more I am realizing that this conflict is not going to end that soon. I have to say, if it weren’t for the people dying on both sides, I would find the whole thing quite amusing. Because, both countries, incredibly so, have their own reality. Those two realities are like two parallel worlds in some fantasy novel, where someone lives right next to you but impossible to see or hear from your side.

The accusations coming from each side about the other are practically identical, as if two toddlers fighting with the only few bad words they know.  You are a terrorist! No, you are! 

Both Azeri president and Armenian PM, according to the other side, wanted this war to distract from their country’s economic crisis. Both sides claim they didn’t kill, didn’t bomb, didn’t violate yet another ceasefire. Both sides claim they didn’t start this war. Both claim the land is their home. Both claim the other side are “terrorists”, delusional and brainwashed by the above-mentioned government. Both claim they have control of the same regions and villages. Both sides make up some crazy stories about horrific murder scenes some cousin had personally witnessed. 

Having watched by far the worst, most hideously biased coverage of this situation I have ever come across, by Armenian Ana Kasparian, for The Young Turks, I felt furious at first. 

But then, a thought occurred to me. How is it possible, I thought, that someone could have such strong belief in their “facts”? Without at least some sort of a reason behind it? So I decided to try and understand the other side a little more.

And you know what, it isn’t that easily done. That’s why majority of comments on both sides are so stupid. Because people do not want facts. They are just following their reality. 

So I tried to investigate the main questions I was curious about. 

1.   How come Armenians believe in #Artsakh? Why do they think it is their land?

Now, having read carefully through as many unbiased documents online as possible, I realized something that I suspected all along. They feel it is theirs because Armenians actually lived there for a while. That fact seems to be true. Back in 15thcentury there were Armenian Melikdoms that ruled the area- for some time. But the reality is, the area was never really owned by anyone for too long without being taken over- again and again, either by Ottoman or Persian or the Russian empires.  

Nagorno-Karabakh was long contested by the Ottoman, Persian, and Russian Empires as part of the Caucasus Mountains”.  (https://geohistory.today/nagorno-karabakh/)

I guess it depends on how far back we want to go. In ancient times Karabakh was populated by Caucasian tribesmen who spoke a Lezgic language. Does that mean the land belongs to Lezgi people? 

My "bestie" Ana claimed in her reportage on the conflict zone, that the land was STOLEN from Armenians by Stalin and given to Azerbaijan. Well, it seems, if we go back, and like really far back, it was stolen and given to melikdoms by Persian prince at some point, only to be then “stolen” again, by Ottoman empire. 

In 1823 it was liquidated into the larger Russian Karabakh Province. Tax surveys performed by the Russians revealed that while Azerbaijanis were a majority in Karabakh—almost two-thirds in 1845—the mountainous districts were populated almost exclusively by Armenian villages. However, they did not recognize that the majority of Karabakh’s Azerbaijanis lived a nomadic lifestyle and spent their summers in the highlands of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani herdsmen’s claim to the lands of Nagorno-Karabakh is thus not reflected in these surveys, which were typically conducted during winter. https://geohistory.today/nagorno-karabakh/

See what was going on there? 

I think this is enough of history. To summarize, the land was always ruled and taken over by someone and given to someone else. Isn’t it the case usually, everywhere in the world? So what is the final word on who lived there for generations? In my humble opinion looks like both Armenians and Azeris did. And fought for the ruling of the land for what looks like, in British technical terms, donkeys’ years.

Now, all that history seems to be irrelevant however, as legally, and I am sorry it doesn’t matter why and when and who decided to “give it “ to Azerbaijan- Just because Stalin was an unpleasant dude doesn’t change the fact that the land is well, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but is ours. Sorry, Armenia, but I, in my brainwashed state, simply cannot see how it is yours. 

2. Why are Armenians going on and on about the evil Turks and the genocide, and why are they constantly claiming there is a danger of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno Karabakh, if not Armenia too? 

Now, this one is interesting. 

The other night, at a small dinner party, my husband brought up something about cultural identity and this strong feeling of belonging some nations seem to have. We were having dinner with Irish neighbors, and one of them explained her need to feel Irish. Husband, who never felt any need to feel British, suggested that perhaps it is the fact that as a Brit, he was never raised with the history of injustice towards British people. Never was taught that people could be awful to him just because he is British, and how every Brit needs this national identity to perhaps, survive all together as a nation. 

I thought husband had a good point. British people never had a particular reason to worry about being humiliated, abused, stolen from or murdered just because of their nationality

I have a Jewish friend however, who will bring up the Holocaust at any given opportunity. 

Now, Armenians remind me of the Jews in the way that they have a long history of being killed or chased away or otherwise hated and mistreated. Mostly and most famously by the Ottomans. 

So, their fear of the Turks is primal, irreversible, and unshakable. And I guess, kind of understandable. 

So, when I see some of the crazier nationalistic ones spreading legends of Azeri’s having burned Armenians alive and eaten some babushkas in Baku; and read claims that Azeris will most probably eat their babies because Turkish generals tell us to do so…. I guess I cannot simply laugh it off, however ridiculous that may sound. This is an unconditional fear, first thing every Armenian probably learns before they even learn to walk or talk, based on their history as a nation. This fear and hatred of the Turks is a huge chunk of their national identity. And this fear is, I believe what drives people like Ana Kasparian to shout from her safe and comfortable apartment in LA about dangers of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. She is prepared to risk her reputation as a journalist to protect her tribe, at whatever cost. 



Finally, my last question or rather something that amuses me endlessly these days is 

3. Why, how is it even possible that there could be two versions of the same event and no way to simply know the truth?

For example. 

“Ha-ha! Armenians say. “Aliev keeps lying to his people that they took control of Fizuli! How many times did they take control of Fizuli? We lost count! Ha-ha!”  

But Azerbaijan did take control of Fizuli. How can that be so difficult to prove to be true?

And the Syrian mercenaries? Is that true? Or not? How do we know for sure when there is absolutely zero concrete evidence? Their bodies, according to Armenian officials, may have been eaten by wild boar, so impossible to present as evidence. 

You will say but Scary, but this is normal. This is what everyone does. Biased media is normal. Crazy stupid people with access to the internet (and ability to breed which is even more disturbing) are normal…conspiracy theories are normal…and different “facts” are normal, depending on your “side”. 

Yet…I cannot comprehend how, in our days, when allegedly we are all being spied on by the governments; and Bill Gates knows exactly how many times we shat today, and what porn turns us on….how come in this amazing modern technological world we cannot prove -even to the most stupid ones, even the most nationalistic moronic ones… that children did get murdered? Cities did get bombed? Thousands of soldiers, only marginally older than some of our own children… are probably dead? Is their national pride or whatever you want to call it so blindingly all-consuming that they refuse to accept that it is maybe possible that their side did indeed commit some pretty gruesome shit? 

Finally... 

Those Twitter images of Armenian press secretary claiming to blow up their own tanks to show us what they are capable of are probably fake. 

The stories of Azeris hiring jihadists and then not paying them which led to the annoyed jihadists sending missiles to Ganja are also probably fake. 

Finally, the fact that Turkey likes us and supports us…well, we are not sorry about that. Armenians have the US, France, Canada, Russia…(They do have Russia, right? Hard to tell at the moment) They can play the Christian religion card and get sympathy based on that fact alone. We only have Turkey. FFS, let us have at least one country who supports us! Oh, and Hungary for some random reason. Cheers, Hungary! 

So what is going to happen then? Will there ever be peace? How can Armenians ever live in Nagorno Karabakh next to Azeris? Without getting ethnically cleansed? Well, do you know how many Armenians live in Turkey right now? Around 70,000, according to Google.  Despite the Turkey-phobia. 

So yes, maybe it will be possible. They will have to learn to co-exist at some point.

But in the meantime…sadly, there wont be many coffees had between Armenians and and Azeries.  Because the stupidity of some people who continue to share fake stories and hatred online, the aggressive biased reporting by the likes of Ana Kasparian and the refusal to accept anything the other side says as possible truth…all that just takes us nowhere.