The concept of ‘constructive dialogue’ doesn’t exist in Azerbaijan. At least, not where I’ve seen opportunities for it. I think the last few weeks (and years) here have been a great example of what happens when countries and their governments don’t engage in constructive dialogue about the problems they face. Instead of thoughtful discussion and attempts to do what is right, you end up with language throttled with invective, foolish statements of hatred, and a general inability resolve any given conflict. What’s happened recently in Azerbaijan is a testament to the disaster that’s been fomenting by an environment boiling with ignorance.
In terms of the conflict Azerbaijan has with the Armenian neighbors, the communication failure is something both the Azeris and the Armenians are responsible for. While it seems that the leaders of the countries can shuttle between various capitals, meet on gentlemanly terms, and be generally civil with each other, you give an Azeri an Armenian spark and they blow up like the Hindenburg. A good example is what recently came to me via Facebook invite. The invite to “Like” a group called Ermeni Quruplarini Baslarina Yixaq was a bit disappointing. That means something to the effect of destroying the heads of Armenians. Not exactly a nice thing to do. There’s a comment on that page praising the work of Azeri snipers killing Armenians, with people “Like“ing it. I wish there was a Dislike button. That invite coincided with the revelation of this story by RFE/RL:
An Armenian man detained in Azerbaijan last month in circumstances that remain unclear has been found dead in his prison cell, military authorities in Baku said, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.
In a joint statement reported by local media, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry and the Military Prosecutor’s Office claimed that Manvel Saribekian, 20, hanged himself early in the morning. It said forensic experts found no traces of violence on his body.
A senior Armenian official told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, however, that Saribekian was either beaten to death or “driven to suicide.”
Instead of recognizing the tragedy that this infighting reaps in both countries, both sides go nuts trying to assign blame to the other and engaging in complete obfuscation. This collusion in not discussing the human cost, not recognizing that the conflict is costly for both sides, results in destructive, hot-blooded rage. And it goes from officials trying to tack blame on someone else all the way down to kids in schools denouncing the “Armenian devil.” It is a sad state. A state in which everyone is to blame.
What could turn this around? I pretty firmly believe it comes down to communication. I can attest to the Azeri side, and I’m sure the Armenian side is no better. Improving media communications here would go a long way. Azerbaijanis would probably benefit from a little piece of mind knowing that the news they are fed is reliable and truthful. Instead, all they have to work with is a propaganda that feeds their insecurities. When people like Arzu engage in promoting dialogue, especially amongst youth, the bridges that create civility and conflict resolution are built. Work like hers is honest and reliable. The same goes for Onnik’s. Instead of babying and insulating themselves from reality, they have embraced it and are finding ways to increase communications between Armenians and Azeris, thus giving a chance to resolution. The OSCE Minsk Group could learn a lot from what they are doing.