The Things I Want
By Nigar Hacizade
“Write the first thing that comes into your head & send it off immediately before another thought occupies you. That’s all I ask.” This is the task Onnik gave me roughly 45 minutes ago, because I have started too many pieces on the topic of Armenia and Azerbaijan that I haven’t been able to finish, and I am starting to piss him off. I haven’t been able to finish because there are nuances and complexities; there are so many points of view to empathize with; there is the weight of being from one side of the conflict; and in my case, there is the even heavier weight of needing to say the right things.
But then again, there are so many people out there that don’t care about these things. People who do nothing but swallow hate, regurgitate it and spit it out. There is such little attempt at empathizing, and the weight of identity always seems to overpower whatever good will people have. And this might even be okay if it did any one of us any good, but it doesn’t. So I think it might be ok to start out with the basics and have them be said. Get them out there. We can go into the details later.
Here it is: I want peace.
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.
On a very personal level, I am battling a learned instinct that I would like to unlearn: I would like to not constantly worry about balancing my opinions and statements everytime I criticize my own country in the context of this conflict and its consequences. I shouldn’t have to match up every mistake, deficiency or atrocity on this side with one on the other side. See, I want little things understood, things that are so straight-forward to me. Such as there being no innocence in war, such as there being no black and white conflict.
I know many people would tell me I am welcome to “leave”, physically or mentally. Trouble is I don’t want to leave and I shouldn’t have to. I love my country; I love its sounds, smells and I love its spirit, in the countless ways that I imagine it. I love its people. I want the things that I want because I want the spirit of my country uplifted.
I have never been to school in a country where I was in the majority, and it so happened that I have been taught that the destruction brought by nationalism overshadows its creations. But I have made myself into some kind of a Caucasus-nationalist. I would like to visit Armenia. I would like to stop by Lake Sevan like my family once did on a road trip. I would like to meet more Armenians, because I have little doubt I will like them as well. I know this because from experience, despite two peoples speaking different languages and practicing different religions, there are none as alike as us.
Perhaps managing to live together, through good and great and bad and worse days for a thousand years does that to you. I would like us to forcefully reject the inhumane, cruel idea that we can’t live together.
What will my parents say when they read this? What will my uncle say? What will my cousin think of me if she googles my name and finds this? What will other Azeris think? I suspect they will think something along these lines, something that I have found myself thinking in the past: Peace is great. Who doesn’t want peace? But what about justice? What about our lands? What about our legitimate grievances? Why should we be the ones advocating for peace?
Well, these are the hard questions. They can’t be ignored; they don’t disappear just because you don’t want to deal with them. And the attempt at answering them comes with a heavier load of history than most people on either side can handle. If you are like me, when you try to answer these questions, you will have to think about what justice means, how memory works, how history is made, how humans are wired, and if they can be rewired.
I have no concrete answers, certainly not for this piece, but I will end with one thought. I know Armenians think about these questions just like we think about them. They think about peace, justice, their lands, and their legitimate grievances. Believe it or not, they think that they are in the right; isn’t that crazy? Well, it’s not. Neither are we crazy. It’s such a basic idea, yet such a hard nut to crack. But I believe it’s the key to get out of this windowless cell we have locked ourselves in.
I know there are Armenians who want the things that I want, and I know that we have no other choice but to find ourselves a middle ground. We don’t have to meet each other exactly in the middle; we just have to start walking towards each other. We have to do it for ourselves, for our legacy, for our collective dignity.
Nigar Hacizade blogs at Fuck Yeah, the Caucasus!
This post was a voluntary contribution to the first independent grassroots initiative aiming to encourage and facilitate online communication and discussion between alternative voices in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The project site is at http://www.oneworld.am/diversity/.
- 02.07.11 / 12pm by Nigar