Another black garden

By Elshad Yusif

If there is still fighting in the twenty-first century, it is definitely not war. It is violence that governments have created, spending millions to change people’s minds. They invent conflicts to change the direction of popular opinion, to peddle their armies. And unfortunately, people believe in the authenticity of these conflicts and continue to murder the blameless – the old, the young, even children. I mention the twenty-first century because today so many people are well educated; they could understand everything if they thought more deeply, but they do not want to. One such “war” is now ongoing between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is a large dispute over territory between the two countries – Karabagh, “The Black Garden.” Unfortunately, we, the citizens have becomes pawns in this game – on both sides of the conflict. We, Armenians and Azerbaijanis have lived together for hundreds of years, sharing our friendships and families, as well as our tragedies, our history, our culture.

I decided to write this article as a result of my last trip. Recently, I participated in a “Conflict Resolution” training in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was so excited to go and participate, especially because I was going to meet the Armenians – the “enemies” for the first time! I was so excited to talk to them, hear their opinions about the situation, and, in general, see who they are! Thinking about them had felt like thinking about aliens. I had heard so many negative stories – and I was 100 percent sure that they were thinking the same about me.

I am a citizen of the “world of the twenty-first century.” I had to think more deeply, and so I did. I thought like this: I, myself, am NOT guilty of starting this war; I did nothing except that I was born into one of the warring countries. Likewise, the Armenians who would participate in this training were also not guilty, only being similarly born into the opposing country. Such an embedded deep and very foolish reason to continue to fight – certainly, to be blamed for simply being born a citizen of one particular country could be the stupidest prejudice ever. Once, I was talking to one of my friends after she visited the WWII death camps in Germany and she said it was unbelievably horrible – just for being born Jewish, you could have been one of the millions killed!

During the training in Tbilisi, the trainer stated a well-known conflict resolution thesis: “Peace starts when you, yourself, accept the truth.” I have been told and taught by everybody in my country that the “truth” is only on one side. The Armenians have also been taught the “truth” – but from a completely opposing view. This dualist thinking makes the problem more difficult to solve, and offers us – the pawns – a real challenge. During the couple of days I spent with the Armenians, I came to a realization that could help me and everybody involved to understand and perhaps help solve this issue. We, Azeris and Armenians are just the SAME people! Our behavior, culture, food, thoughts about the world, political views, and another hundred of points are the same. I could not believe my eyes that two peoples so similar to each other could be so far apart from each other. I was so sad when I realized this, it made me cry. Since then, I have realized why people always claim, “They have stolen our music, our Sari Gelin, our Buta, our Dolma.” But you know what I say now?! God damn the war, god damn the unresolved conflicts, god damn the ancient and modern history, god damn the customs, god damn the music, god damn the culture, and everything through which we continue this hate for one another! We are just the same people; of course we will have the same food, the same music, the same culture, etc.

I will finish my article with a last thought. I read a book last year about this conflict that was written at the end of the 90’s. The writer frequently said “almost ten years ago…” Yet here I was, reading it twenty years after this conflict started, and nothing, NOTHING has changed. We must speed up and find better ideas for solving this problem. I, myself, and, I am sure, so many of the people on both sides have no more patience for waiting! Time flies!

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