Caucasus Conflict Voices: December 2010

Download Caucasus Conflict Voices: December 2010

Post on 21-Feb-2016

214 views

Category:

Documents

0 download

DESCRIPTION

Armenian and Azerbaijan bloggers on the conflict between the two countries and need for peaceful coexistence.

TRANSCRIPT

  • VOICES

    1

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

  • t h i s p r O j e c t w a s c r e a t e d b y O n n i k k r i k O r i a n , a j O u r n a L i s t , p h O t O j O u r n a L i s t

    a n d b L O g g e r F r O m t h e u n i t e d k i n g d O m b a s e d i n y e r e v a n , a r m e n i a , F O r t h e p a s t

    1 2 y e a r s . i n a d d i t i O n t O w r i t i n g a n d p h O t O g r a p h i n g F O r t h e m a i n s t r e a m

    t r a d i t i O n a L m e d i a , h e a L s O F i x e s F O r t h e b b c , a L j a Z e e r a e n g L i s h , n a t i O n a L

    g e O g r a p h i c a n d t h e w a L L s t r e e t j O u r n a L ,

    h e i s a L s O t h e c a u c a s u s r e g i O n a L e d i t O r F O r g L O b a L v O i c e s O n L i n e a n d F i r s t

    v i s i t e d t h e d i s p u t e d t e r r i t O r y O F n a g O r n O k a r a b a k h a s a r e p O r t e r i n 1 9 9 4 a n d

    a s s i s t e d t h o m a s d e W a a l i n t h e r e s e a r c h f o r B l a c k G a r d e n : a r m e n i a a n d

    a z e r B a i j a n t h r o u G h P e a c e a n d W a r .

    h t t p : / / w w w . O n e w O r L d . a m / d i v e r s i t y /

    F r O N T C O V E r p h O T O : E T h N I C A z E r I , k A r A j A L A , g E O r g I A O N N I k k r I k O r I A N 2 0 0 9

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    A B O U T C A U C A S U S C O N F L I C T V O I C E S

  • O v e r c O m i n g n e g a t i v e s t e r e O t y p e s i n t h e s O u t h c a u c a s u s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

    t h e m e d i a i n a r m e n i a a n d a Z e r b a i j a n : e F F e c t i v e O r a F F e c t i v e ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    a r m e n i a a n d a Z e r b a i j a n : i n s e a r c h O F s t a t e s m a n s h i p . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0

    p e r s O n a L r e F L e c t i O n s O n c O n F L i c t a n d d i s p L a c e m e n t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6

    L e t t e r F r O m b a k u : t h e m . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0

    L e t t e r F r O m t b i L i s i : e a t , L O v e , p r a y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4

    L e t t e r F r O m y e r e v a n : t h O u g h t s O n t h e u L t i m a t e p e a c e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 8

    a r m e n i a - a Z e r b a i j a n : t i m e t O L i v e t O g e t h e r p e a c e F u L L y a g a i n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2

    b e y O n d t h e b O u n d a r i e s O F i m p O s s i b i L i t y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 6

    a v i e w F r O m t h e d i a s p O r a : t h e r e i s O n L y h u m a n i t y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 0

    a v i e w F r O m t h e d i a s p O r a : t h O u g h t s O n t h e O t h e r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 4

    a v i e w F r O m t h e d i a s p O r a : s O m e t i m e i n m y L i F e t i m e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 8

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    V O L U M E I , D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 0

    VOICES

  • e t h n i c a Z e r i w e d d i n g , k a r a j a L a , g e O r g i a O n n i k k r i k O r i a n 2 0 0 9

  • Overcoming negative stereotypes in the

    South Caucasus

    O n n i k k r i k O r i a n

    2

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    in the 16 years since a 1994 ceasefire agreement put the conflict

    between armenia and azerbaijan over the disputed mainly-

    armenian populated territory of nagorno karabakh on hold, peace

    remains as elusive as ever. the war fought in the early 1990s left

    over 25,000 dead and forced a million to flee their homes, leaving

    ethnic armenian forces, backed by armenia proper, in control of

    over 16 percent of what the international community considers

    sovereign azerbaijani territory.

    the situation, perhaps, is typical for many frozen conflicts, but

    what makes this dispute even more complicated is the almost

    constant rhetoric of hatred from both sides. nearly two decades

    after the troubles broke out, new generations of armenians and

    azerbaijanis are unable to remember the time when both lived

    side by side together in peace. armenia's last president, robert

    kocharian, for example, declared that the two were 'ethnically

    incompatible' while his azerbaijani counterpart, still incumbent

    ilham aliyev, regularly threatens a new war.

    regional analysts fear that such threats are not merely empty

    words. Fueled by massive oil revenue, the azerbaijani military is

    rapidly re-arming itself and the august 2008 war between russia

    and georgia over south Ossetia was enough of a wake-up call for

    the international community to once again direct attention

    towards unresolved conflicts in the south caucasus.

    in such a situation, perhaps, the possibility for reconciliation looks

    bleak, especially when the local media on both sides regularly

    perpetuates negative stereotypes of the other, often publishing

    little more than propaganda and in some cases even

    misinformation. without more accurate and unbiased

    information [] free of negative rhetoric and stereotypes,

  • armenians and azerbaijanis will continue to see themselves as

    enemies without any common ground, read a recent report on the

    local media from the caucasus resource research centers.

    yet, in the past 18 months, unprecedented development in cross-

    border communication can be found on the popular social

    networking site, Facebook, where a new breed of young activists

    in both armenia and azerbaijan are now able to virtually cross the

    ceasefire line.

    although not intended at the time, the first tentative steps towards

    this happened through global voices, a citizen media site co-

    founded by harvard university researcher ethan Zuckerman and

    former cnn tokyo and beijing bureau chief rebecca mackinnon.

    as caucasus editor for the site, my own initial physical contact

    with azerbaijani bloggers soon led to meeting many more online.

    through a combination of email, chat programs, social networks

    and blogs, relationships were built online, setting the scene for

    future cooperation.

    but the real breakthrough happened in july 2009 when two video

    blogging youth activists, adnan hajizade and emin mili, were

    detained and later imprisoned in azerbaijan. global voices

    became the main online resource to continuously follow the case,

    and as some armenians began to take notice, they also began to

    make contact with their counterparts on the other side. indeed, if

    it was once unthinkable for such open communication to occur, it

    soon become something almost routine.

    it was also then that i also began my own voluntary personal

    project, Overcoming negative stereotypes in the south caucasus,

    in cooperation with bloggers and journalists from georgia and

    azerbaijanand the idea was simple. although the notion that

    armenians and azerbaijanis are unable to live together is

    commonplace, that is very far from the truth outside the conflict

    zone. in neighboring georgia, for example, ethnic armenians and

    azeris coexist in the same villages and towns. they speak each

    other's language and sometimes inter-marry.

    yet, the media in armenia and azerbaijan never reports on such

    stories, preferring to emphasize differences rather than

    similarities, and this is where blogs and social networking sites

    have stepped in. with internet penetration still low throughout

    the region, the audience might still remain small, but they have

    started to fill a gap long left vacant. indeed, even the very idea of a

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    3

  • collaborative story on an ethnic azeri village wedding in georgia

    with an armenian and azerbaijani name side by side working

    together was once unthinkable.

    by this time civil society organizations had also started to notice

    this work, with some desperate for contacts of young people on

    both sides to include in their own programs. having largely failed

    to identify suitable participants through traditional means,

    especially in a climate usually more against cooperation than for,

    ngOs were now eager to involve those already communicating

    online. since then, their numbers have significantly increased and

    Facebook has become a crucial medium for participants to remain

    in contact once they return home.

    that's not to say that such tools are without their risks or faults

    either, of course. at a recent conference, blogs and bullets:

    evaluating the impact of new media on conflict, at the u.s.

    institute of peace, there was perhaps more criticism of how

    Facebook sometimes polarizes connections on national, social and

    political grounds. even so, in the context of armenia-azerbaijan

    relations it has become an incredibly valuable resourcefor now,

    at least. while once the internet was used to perpetuate conflict, it

    is now also being used to promote peace.

    as a result, and building on its coverage of citizen media during

    the 2008 russia-georgia war, global voices has since established

    its own special coverage page, caucasus conflict voices,

    summarizing some of the new conversations taking place between

    armenian and azerbaijani bloggers. true, they might still be a

    minority, with the use of such tools still in its infancy, but until

    recently such communication never existed at all. it now remains

    to be seen whether these developments continue or if those

    opposed to peace also utilize them to drown out such voices.

    O n n i k k r i k O r i a n i s a F r e e L a n c e j O u r n a L i s t a n d

    p h O t O g r a p h e r F r O m t h e u n i t e d k i n g d O m b a s e d

    i n y e r e v a n , a r m e n i a , a n d t h e i n i t i a t O r O F t h i s

    p r O j e c t .

    t h i s a r t i c L e w a s O r i g i n a L L y w r i t t e n F O r t h e

    w O r L d b a n k w O r L d d e v L O p m e n t r e p O r t 2 0 1 1 .

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    4

  • s t e p a n a k e r t, n a g O r n O k a r a b a k h O n n i k k r i k O r i a n 2 0 0 9

  • a r p i n e h p O r s u g h y a n

    The Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan:

    Effective or Affective?

    6

    c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    many academics argue that the influence of the media is especially

    strong in environments where citizens depend on a limited

    number of news sources. in contrast, when citizens have

    alternative sources of information they are less subject to the

    potential effects of media. Following this argument, how affective

    is the media in armenia and azerbaijan in establishing an image of

    the other in an environment where over 90 percent of the

    populations choose television as their primary source of

    information on current events with over 40 percent choosing

    family, friends, neighbors and colleagues as their second main

    source?1

    well, according to the annual nationwide caucasus barometer

    conducted by the caucasus resource research centers (crrc), a

    rather large percentage of people in both countries appear to

    agree that the media determines what people think. the figure

    was 39 percent in armenia and 59 percent in azerbaijan.

    meanwhile, statistics highlighting the number of people who

    approve of friendship between armenians and azerbaijanis

    illustrate that quite well. Only 28 percent of armenian

    respondents approve of friendship with azerbaijanis while just 1

    percent of azerbaijanis approve of friendship with armenians.

    moreover, as the same theory on media effect also argues, those

    with little or no interest in politics are more prone to influence

    from the media. in armenia, 37 percent of people are not at all

    interested or hardly interested in foreign policy. in azerbaijan, that

    figure is 64 percent, but what about those who are interested in

    politics and access alternative sources of information? academics

    have something to say about them as well.

  • 7c a u c a s u s c O n F L i c t v O i c e s , d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 0

    some argue that those with a strong interest in politics and access

    to various sources of information are subject to biased

    processing, the argument being that those that have a strong

    interest in politics tend to filter information based on their already

    existing views. Focus groups conducted by crrc as part of the

    eurasia partnership Foundation unbiased media coverage of

    armenia-azerbaijan relations seem to support this argument.

    Focus groups participants, as well as active media consumers in

    the armenian and azerbaijani capitals, showed general

    dissatisfaction with the current state of the media in their

    respective countries and demanded unbiased media.

    yet, those same participants held very similar positions on the

    nagorno karabakh conflict, it being the one opined by the state.

    is there hope? well, as crrc's report suggests, while the media

    can amplify existing tensions and reinforce differences, it also has

    the potential to build confidence across existing fracture lines by

    covering a wider spectrum of issues, diversifying sources,

    representing more voices than just the elite, and consciously

    eliminating bias from coverage.

    social media and projects like this one, as well as global voices

    Online and the social innovation camp caucasus have been a great

    kick start to providing a platform for discussing issues beyond the

    conflict. after all, we have so much in common to discuss and we

    share similar concerns. in both countries the biggest concern in

    2009 was the need to reduce daily spending in basic expenditures,

    both are worried about western influence, both perceive poverty

    as the biggest threat to the world, and in both countries, while

    generally uncertain, a significant percentage hopes that their

    children will be better off than they are.1

    1 caucasus resource research centers caucasus Barometer 2009

    a r p i n e p O r s u g h y a n i s F r e e L a n c e r e s e a r c h e r ,

    F O r m e r L y a r e g i O n a L r e s e a r c h a s s O c i a t e a t

    c a u c a s u s r e s e a r c h r e s O u r c e c e n t e r s ( c r r c ) ,

    a n d t h e c O - a u t h O r O F a r m e n i a n a n d

    a z e r B a i j a n i i n t e r n a t i o n a l n e W s c o v e r a G e

    e m P i r i c a l f i n d i n G s a n d r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s f o r

    i m P r o v e m e n t .

  • 8s u a r a s s y, a r m e n i a n - c O n t r O L L e d a Z e r b a i j a n O n n i k k r i k O r i a n 2 0 0 6

  • 1 6 . 7 k m s O...