Moving forward

by Arzu Geybullayeva

Suddenly laughter breaks out on both ends of the line. I am savoring the moment. Its one of those special ones, when you don’t want it to end and in fact secretly hope that if only this is how it would always be – understanding, kindness, open-mindedness. Then snap! Back to the reality. The conversation is over. We have said our “goodbyes” and “hope to see you soon’s”. The atmosphere in the room is calm. There is no more tension, but there is still misunderstanding. Ah this word… This strong powerful word and state of mind that unfortunately often takes over us and is so hard to get rid of.

This is all from a recent workshop the Imagine Center organized in Baku and in parallel in Yerevan. The topic of the workshop was conflict resolution and the role of social media in conflicts. It is always easy to talk about theory, to watch funny examples and pretend that understanding is real and possible. But not when the real stuff kicks in and the real questions rise. Can someone be called a hero for murdering someone else? Can someone be a friend if its other “kind” took away your childhood, your family members or relatives or your home? Can someone be a neighbor after years of war, hatred, and aggression?

All of a sudden understanding is no longer possible. The guard is up and so are the thick and tall walls.

It’s spiraling down
Biting words like a wolf howling
Hate is spitting out each other’s mouths

And it is spitting out in a speed that is really difficult to catch up with. We forget that beneath everything that’s on the outside – there are human beings – you, him, her, them, us, and me, all the same creatures occupying this earth and all bound to leave it at some point. We don’t live in a parallel universe. We live in this world, now. I am an Azerbaijani, you an Armenian, we live in this moment, together we co-exist – or try to at least.

And I am no less of an Azerbaijani if I chose the path of reconciliation. An Armenian is the same person, for choosing the same path as I have. I don’t want to pretend that we live in a parallel universe and think that it is going to always be us vs. them. That we will never reconcile. I am refusing to accept this reality. You know why? Because understanding our past and moving forward is our own responsibility. Not our governments’, our institutions’ or our surroundings’. It starts from us, as individuals, as body and soul. Me as one, you as one, moving forward, letting our thick walls break.

Why are we so afraid to challenge the reality? Is it out of fear of being different? Can’t we understand each other? And here I would like underline that it’s not about forgetting the past but understanding the past and then taking the step forward.

There are always moments when I stop myself and ask one question: “Why am I doing this? Why go through all the trouble? Hear all the belittling comments, get aggressive e-mails?” At times like these, I think of giving up, leaving everything behind and not looking back and hiding in my own world of silence and comfort.

As it turns out its easier said than done. Because back in that room, with people laughing, making jokes I once again find the answer – no one said it is going to be easy, no one said it is going to be simple. While it may be a lot more comfortable to remain silent, this is only a temporary comfort – like sitting on a chair you think is fixed but in reality has that little crack that will break the chair eventually if you don’t get up and fix it. Back in that room, I understand that just like me there are others too who have decided to fix their chairs. And so I move forward and hope others would soon join…

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