Armenia-Azerbaijan peacebuilding kicks off in Tekali, Georgia

The roads have seen better days and probably so too have the villagers, but if plans to establish a regional peacebuilding center in the small ethnic Azeri village of Tekali (Tekalo) come to fruition (See Hopes for an Armenia-Azerbaijan peacebuilding center in Georgia), that might all change in the future. Situated just 29 kilometers from the Georgian border with Azerbaijan, and 10 kilometers from the crossing into Armenia, those behind the project say it is necessary. Locked into a bitter conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, attempts to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group have failed to produce any significant breakthrough in nearly 17 years since a 1994 ceasefire put fighting on hold.

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Hopes for an Armenia-Azerbaijan peacebuilding center in Georgia

May 2011 will mark the 17th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan which effectively put the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold. Since then, in addition to skirmishes on the line of contact which claim dozens of lives each year, attempts to find a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group have faltered. Indeed, following bellicose and less than conciliatory remarks from the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at the OSCE Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, late last year, talk this year has been more about the need for conflict prevention rather than resolution, especially in an environment which has seen Azerbaijan's military budget spiral to over $3.1 billion and renew talk of another war.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Backseat musical musings… and ethnic conflict

With broadcast media heavily controlled in both Armenia and Azerbaijan there are few avenues left for independent journalists to use to disseminate alternative information and reports. This is especially true when it comes to the still unresolved conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. However, as Internet penetration increases in the region, and as costs come down and connection speeds slowly improve, the one obvious medium is online. Indeed, with organizations such as Conciliation Resources and Internews uploading video reports to YouTube and Vimeo, it is no surprise to discover others doing the same.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Does culture unite or divide?

With a recent survey indicating that the majority of Armenians and Azerbaijanis are against mutual friendship, hopes for peace between the two neighboring countries appear very bleak indeed. Locked in a bitter stalemate over the the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, successive attempts to broker a peace agreement since a 1994 ceasefire have consistently faltered. And with a recent festival of Azerbaijani films due to be staged in Yerevan after a backlash from Armenian nationalists, is there any hope left?

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: More dialogue through film

With national television in Armenia and Azerbaijan controlled directly or indirectly by the authorities or government-linked individuals, there is little opportunity for independent reporting. This is especially true in the case of the simmering conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.

The war, fought in the early 1990s, left 25,000 dead and forced a million to flee their homes. Few ethnic Armenians remain in Azerbaijan, and ethnic Azeris also left Armenia, while attempts to negotiate a lasting peace continue to falter. Skirmishes, however, still occur on the front line despite a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

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  Armenia-Azerbaijan: Dialogue through film

The free flow of information between Armenia and Azerbaijan since independence is obviously problematic given the still unresolved conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, but can new media move in to fill the gap? With the mood in both countries as uncompromising as ever, and perhaps even worse, the task at hand is not going to be easy for those involved in peace-building initiatives, but there is potential.

This is especially true given the level of propaganda and misinformation often evident in the media of both countries, leaving alternative methods of delivering information and news sorely needed. One example of this comes in the form of a joint Internews-Conciliation Resources project aimed at encouraging dialogue through short films produced by young journalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno Karabakh.

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Caucasus: Blogs and Bullets

Earlier this month, on 8 July, a half-day conference, Blogs and Bullets: Evaluating the Impact of New Media on Conflict was held at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. Co-sponsored by George Washington University, it included panelists from the U.S. State Department, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Facebook, eBay, and Global Voices Online.

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  BBC Facebook Diary

As part of the BBC Superpower Season, the BBC's Azeri service approached Global Voices Online's Caucasus editor to participate in its own reflection on the power of the Internet. Locked into a bitter stalemate over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, BBC Azeri were specifically interested in how new and social media could bring the two warring sides together. What follows is the series of three posts originally published in Azerbaijani in English and French.

English: Part I | Part II | Part III    
French: Part I | Part II | Part III

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus

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.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Bloggers build dialogue

Although a recent conference held earlier this month at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. highlighted some of the shortcomings and dangers of using new and social media in conflict resolution, there is no doubt that online tools have moved in to fill a gap left vacant by a usually politically polarized and propagandist media in the South Caucasus.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: More Conflict Voices

As mentioned in previous posts on Global Voices, new and social media is increasingly playing a role in facilitating communication between Armenians and Azerbaijanis online. Locked into a bitter conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, there are few other possibilities for connecting since the 1994 ceasefire other than meeting in third countries as The Story of a Brilliant Idea explains in terms of coverage by Global Voices' Caucasus regional editor in this area after attending last week's Young Media Makers Preach and Practice Peaceful Journalism in Kobuleti, Georgia.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Conflict Voices

In the 16 years since a ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, successive attempts to broker a final peace have faltered.

In the past year and a half, however, social networking sites and blogs offer new opportunities to those engaged in conflict management, transformation and resolution initiatives although the adoption of these new tools in such work remains low throughout the region.

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Finding mutual ground online

As Global Voices looks back at the success of Rising Voices grantee Ceasefire Liberia, a citizen media site dealing with conflict and reconciliation, new activity in the same area is starting to be noticed in the Caucasus.

In part, this has also been thanks to coverage of the potential role new and social media can play in this area by Global Voices. Certainly, it directly facilitated communication and cooperation between bloggers and activists, some of whom are now involved with NGOs working in this area as a result, on both sides of the ceasefire line separating estranged neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Conflict transformation

For the past two yearsGlobal Voices has covered the use of new and social media to overcome differences between Armenians and Azerbaijanis still locked in conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. Most recently,Global Voices presented on the use of new online tools in conflict resolution and transformation at conferences in Romania, Macedonia, Georgia and Chile. Since then, more NGOs are using new and social media in their conflict-related work.

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Unity in Diversity

With three unresolved conflicts and a local media that often self-censors, blogs comment on an online project hoping to break stereotypes by reporting on examples of ethnic groups otherwise in conflict in the South Caucasus co-existing peacefully together. The project was undertaken by Global Voices Online's Caucasus editor alongside bloggers and journalists from Azerbaijan and Georgia.

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Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus

Following a recent collaboration between Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines blogger Arzu Geybullayeva and Global Voices Online's Caucasus editor, an online project using new and social media to overcome negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus entered a second stage last week when two blogging journalism students, Vusala Alibayli and Khanim Javadova, joined a Georgian blogger and Global Voices Online author Dodi Kharkheli aka Dodka in the initiative.

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Unity in Diversity: Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the South Caucasus

In Tsopi, a Georgian village close to the Armenian border, a group of 80 pupils study together at a dilapidated school with no running water or electricity. Although this scenario might not seem uncommon in parts of the world, the students, who are ethnic Azeri and Armenians might surprise you. Armenians know the Azerbaijani language and Azeris know Armenian. After countless years of war and animosity, co-existence seems like a Utopian fantasy for these two groups.

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Building dialogue in the Caucasus- a road to remember in years to come

Couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a trip to Georgia for a workshop called Model Caucasus Parliament (MCP). I also wrote about a visit to an ethnic Azerbaijani village just 15 minutes drive from Telavi where the workshop was held. Well, this was just the beginning of what I hoped for many more visits to come. And another trip did actually happen.

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Hopes for peace in the Caucasus

I am a citizen of Georgia.I was born and brought up here, never leaving its borders until two years ago. I have heard about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but I have never felt it. Why? Well, everyday I see kids playing in the yard. Some of them are ethnic Georgians, some Azeri, and some of them are Armenians.

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The problems of Tsopi village’s school

The village of Tsopi is situated just a few kilometers from the Armenian border and even though it is situated in Georgia, most of its population are ethnic Azeris and Armenians. No one knows the history of this village, but elderly inhabitants say that it is already a hundred years that these two groups have lived together without any problem.

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Ethnic Armenian-Azeri coexistence

It might be no surprise for some that ethnic groups can and do live side by side in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, but the situation is not so clear in the regions of Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. But, perhaps, that in itself is a stereotype put into circulation by many. Armenians and Azeris, for example, have long maintained that while both lived side by side in urban centers such as Yerevan and Baku prior to the Karabakh conflict, they did not in rural areas. To some extent this is true, but not entirely.

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Tsopi: harmony despite ethnicity

They live in Tsopi, a village not too far from Marneuli, Georgia. There are three men in her family, but none of them has work. They earn 20 Lari – about $11 a day — by selling pig and wood from the forest. Petrosyan says they go to the forest three times every month.

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Overcoming negative stereotypes

Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and arguably the cultural heart of the South Caucasus. It’s always a delight to visit and not least because it is perhaps the only place in the region where Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians can meet without centuries of mutual hostility and post-Soviet conflict driving a wedge between people with more in common than not. For Armenians and Azeris this is especially true given the still frozen conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.

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Tbilisi: Where cultures meet

It was perhaps only appropriate that the route for a return visit to an Azeri tea house run by ethnic Armenians in the old part of Tbilisi took us past a statue of the renowned ethnic Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov. Like other Armenian cultural icons such as Sayat Nova, an 18th century troubadour who wrote songs in Armenian, Georgian, Persian and especially Azerbaijani, Parajanov belonged more to the Caucasus than any one nation and it was perhaps for this reason that he remained in his native Tbilisi for most of his life. He moved to Yerevan just two years before his death in 1990.

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Georgia: An Azeri Wedding

Last weekend saw an unprecedented event occur in the South Caucasus. Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines blogger Arzu Geybullayeva, an Azerbaijani citizen based in Istanbul, Turkey, and Baku, Azerbaijan, worked with Global Voices Online’s Caucasus Editor Onnik Krikorian, a British citizen partly of Armenian descent based in Yerevan, Armenia, to produce various reports on an ethnic Azeri village situated close to Telavi, Georgia.

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Trip to Georgia

Last week, I was in Telavi/Georgia at a four- day retreat for an event called Model Caucasus Parliament (MCP). […] There was another highlight of the trip, and that was a visit to a village- Karajala- 15 minutes outside of Telavi, populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis.

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An unexpected visit to an Azeri village wedding

It was a dream come true. Despite knowing each other for several months online, the chances of meeting regional analyst and superstar blogger Arzu Geybullayeva seemed remote at best and unlikely at worst. As Arzu is based in Istanbul, Turkey, and Baku, Azerbaijan, it’s not easy for someone based in Armenia with an Armenian surname to meet even virtual friends from the country’s eastern neighbour in the South Caucasus.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Environment a mutual concern for young bloggers

With most of the blogs created as part of an online project to “create socially conscious media that will impact communities across the U.S. and the Caucasus” now up and running, many of the participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan and the U.S. have already completed their first module. DOTCOM, funded by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is implemented by Project Harmony.

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Diversity in motion and peace in action

Every time I visit Tbilisi, a wave of fascination mixed with a slight touch of sadness hits me. Fascination because there is something magical yet real about the city that never ceases to amaze, nor ceases to offer something new to be explored. There is sadness, however, because I realize another reality back in Baku is completely different from the one found here.

Tbilisi is the only capital in the region where you can experience diversity in motion and peace in action.

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Azerbaijan: Bloggers remember Hrant Dink four years on

Wednesday 19 January 2011 marked the fourth anniversary of the murder in Istanbul of Hrant Dink, the renowned Turkish-Armenian journalist, editor of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, and human rights activist who consistently advocated for reconciliation and friendship between nations, and especially estranged neighbors Armenia and Turkey. This year, however, and quite unexpectedly, the anniversary was also marked by many bloggers from Azerbaijan.

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A majority of minorities and a kaleidoscope of culture

A rainy Easter Monday morning in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the weather had already managed to disrupt my sightseeing plans as I instead concentrated on jumping over the puddles. But, coming from a predominantly Moslem country, I could not help but satisfy my curiosity once again when I found myself in front of an Armenian Church. [...]

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Friends like Sisters: A view from Moscow

I admit that I don’t remember much about the war or the incidents in Sumgait and Baku, but one memory still remains clear. We were at the house of my grandparents in a small village in Armenia with my numerous cousins playing in the yard. And I can remember drawing huge posters with red letters while screaming anti-Turkish slogans very passionately. [...]

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The Things I Want

I don’t want to be from a country that is permanently occupied, that is permanently grieving, that has miserable refugees with forever ruined lives. Neither do I want to be from a country that is constantly considering aggression. I don’t want to be from a country where the news accumulates around the enemy, what the enemy does, what the enemy says. I don’t want to be from a country where the word describing the people living next door carries a negative meaning no matter what the topic is. I would like Azerbaijan to free itself from its post-war identification based on Armenia as the enemy.

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Expired Hatred

The first time I was told that I have an enemy was when I was just four years old. That was when I was forced to flee my home in Armenia because of the conflict with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Since then, the image of the enemy has been a changing one, but primarily based on my own creativity after seeing photos and videos in the newspapers and on National TV.

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The Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan: Effective or Affective?

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.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan: In Search of Statesmanship

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is one of those intractable confrontations left over from the dying days of the Soviet Union. Since 1994, the calm brought about by an uneasy cease-fire has 'frozen' the frontline between the belligerents into place. Save for occasional, localised breaches of the truce, the jittery peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been maintained.

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Eat, love, pray… or how you can get the best of cultural cocktails in just one day

"I used to take the similarities between our nations for granted, but this war made me appreciate how similar, if not the same, we all are."

"I miss Baku more than anything else, and I still remember the delicious smell of freshly baked bread in our yard in Ganja, Azerbaijan."

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Time to live together peacefully again

“How can you learn Turkish?” my five-year-old cousin asked when he saw my Turkish text-book and asked what the book was for. “They are our enemies, he went on to exclaim. “Turks and Azerbaijanis are bad people… and I hate them!”

Of course, I’m used to hearing these kind of reactions from people when they find out that I study Turkish. More often than not their reaction is “how can you learn ‘their’ language?” It’s either that or questions such as “isn’t it ugly?” (!)

And this is only because, I suppose, ‘their’ language is that of the ‘enemy…’

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Sleeping with the Enemy

I click a link on Facebook posted by a friend. It takes me to news published in an unfamiliar media outlet. “Azeri girl…love with ....Armenian…. Disgrace…. Azerbaijan in shock…..”.

I read on… a love-affair between an Armenian and an Azeri girl studying in London. As far as we know, an Azeri girl, apparently the daughter of one sinister, pardon, minister. But did the media conduct a social survey? How can someone assess the whole country being in shock? What is the barometer of disgrace?

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Thoughts on the ‘other’

It’s difficult to be an Armenian. Not so much because of all the bloody history (in every sense), or the conflicts, or the never-ending migrations… The major issue for me lies in separating the fact from fiction, the real from the imaginary, the myths, the legends, and all the propaganda from the reality I live as an Armenian; especially, as an Armenian abroad.

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Sometime in my lifetime

The first time I saw an Armenian name in the comments of my blog I was confused. Who was this man, why would he be so friendly to someone who called her blog Scary Azeri? He turned out to be a journalist working in the region. Very shortly after his first comment, I noticed that he linked to my blog posting. Sure, I was grateful for the exposure.

However, it was a slightly controversial topic, about restoring virginity back home.

‘Why would he choose that particular piece?’ was my first reaction. ‘He might want to portray my home country in the worst possible light! What if he is using me to laugh at Azeris?’ Pretty soon I realized that all he was trying to do was bring the two nations closer, in whatever way he could, by getting people to communicate.

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Beyond the Boundaries of Impossibility

When you are born into an Armenian family with terrible stories about a war waged nearly two decades ago passed down by relatives, it usually doesn’t occur to you to think about dialogue, peace or reconciliation. This is especially true when that conflict effectively continues today and when you have grown up with images of atrocities haunting you from time to time. It is also the case when still have fresh personal memories from the bombing of your native village by Azerbaijani artillery deployed near Sadarak, Nakhichevan, in the early 1990s.

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Letter from Baku: Them

Allergy “I have an allergy towards Them. I have never talked to Them, and I never will!” once exclaimed a friend. Someone working as a human rights activist in a NGO. Hypocrite “I would gladly risk my own life trying to save a human life. But I will never bat an eyelid if I see Them in pain,” once proclaimed a doctor treating me. Someone who promised to serve humanity after taking the Hippocratic Oath.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkey: Thoughts on the ultimate peace

For those of you that know me, but didn’t when I was still a freshman or sophomore, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that just four years ago I was one of those to be found among young Armenians shouting anti-Turkish and anti-Azerbaijani slogans during commemoration events. I was also the same person writing articles for my university newspaper with titles such as “The big hoax, Azerbaijan.”

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Personal reflections on conflict and displacement

I was born in Vardenis in 1984 and four years later my entire family as well as all my relatives had to leave Armenia, fleeing to Azerbaijan due to the mass displacements. I was only four when I left Armenia, but in retrospect I don’t know whether that’s fortunate or not as I am unable to remember everything I left behind. But I doremember our house, our garden, the playground, my friends, my apple tree, and the rooster which I loved so much.

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