A “temporary” hero

By Arzu Geybullayeva

It was as if a bomb was dropped into the social networks. Both on Twitter and Facebook people were congratulating each other with the news. Ramil Safarov was back in Azerbaijan. And yes, you heard me right; I said congratulating because it was welcomed as great news and almost like a holiday worth celebration. And this was the overall attitude, sadly. Few, including me, condemned Safarov’s pardoning that day. Perhaps more than Safarov’s extradition to Azerbaijan, I was stunned by the pardoning and all the “presents” he received upon his return – rank promotion, a new flat, a lump sum reimbursement for the past eight years spent in prison. It was all happening. It was all real!

The negative reaction that followed my online statement wasn’t shocking. I was called many names before; traitor, agent, fake nationalist, you name it. After all, the average young person from Azerbaijan is angry and unhappy with their lives. And they need a target for all their anger. The government is certainly not an option – we know what happens to those who take the slightest risk of putting a spotlight on the government or any of its officials. What else? Well, there is nothing much left to target really. And so Azerbaijani mostly male (with an exception of a few female users) population took Safarov’s release and pardoning as an excuse to channel all their anger on those who thought differently – who said Safarov was not a hero, and that he should not be treated as one.

You think the latter would be simple to understand, but not when your mind is clouded with nationalist propaganda and fanaticism. This is the only reason that would explain all the abuse that I personally faced on Twitter after posting that Safarov’s only place is in a prison cell, paying for his actions. Surely this was bound to explode and explode it did! I won’t cite here all the things I was called, but suffice to say, it was pitiful. As I tried to explain the reasoning behind my statement few even bothered to read. Hate tweets continued to come (even today) one after another.

Who are we fighting?

These past few days made me realize that we are not at war with our neighbors. No, we are actually at war with ourselves. We fight those who think differently while we should respect different opinions. We belittle and abuse those who believe in alternatives and are too blind to see beyond ourselves. We start bringing examples form the past where others committing crimes were pardoned and treated as heroes as well. Shouldn’t instead we look to the future and put the past behind us? What use does it bring to constantly bring examples from the past? How different this particular case is from the classic good old notion “tooth for tooth, eye for an eye”? I know, I know, its politics, it’s the so-called diplomacy, it is who has the strongest argument, but isn’t it time we realize that “tooth for tooth” won’t make the resolution process any easier? I guess the only time we will realize and come to terms with ourselves is when there won’t be any teeth left to begin with. Or like Gandhi said once “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”.

Many talked about forgetting too, and questioned me how quickly I have forgotten. Well, I haven’t. I know my past, my history well. I know what happened but I do not let my history get in my way and cloud my judgment. We must acknowledge the past but in no way let it guide us today when we desperately need our sane minds. This attitude of negativity and justified reprisal is possible only because our government let this happen by feeding its population not to mention the generations with nothing more but propaganda.

What we should remember is that the whole case was not about an Azerbaijani killing and Armenian because Safarov might as well have murdered someone from another nationality had he or she belittled the Azerbaijani flag and angered him. In no possible way, his act can be justified!

Ramil Safarov’s case, caused a huge blow to the reconciliation world of pro-peace activists working hard to change opinions of people I talked about in this post. Surely, it will require even more efforts now to gain back what was damaged in these past few days – the fragile trust and the brittle hope. But we will continue doing what we do. We will continue believing and hoping that one day fanatics will stop and realize their insanity; in the meantime, the struggle for peace will continue.

“I object to violence, because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary: the evil it does is permanent” – Gandhi.

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