15 Jul 2010
Freedom of Choice
Our birth does not depend on our will. We are never free to choose where and when to be born. So when I appeared in this world I was already given several facts about myself in the following package:
1. Nationality: Armenian
2. Place of Birth: Baku, Azerbaijan
3. Year of Birth: 1988
In 1988, I could not imagine that the first two facts were actually about to be incompatible. And it was not me to decide that at the age of one I would have to leave the city, where my life had started, without a right to ever go back. Anyway, it had to happen and it happened.
My family left for Yerevan, where life restarted from an absolutely new page. I was growing and with time understood who my mommy meant when she repeated from time to time: “I wish I could have any news from Jamal Mekhtiev” (Jamal was her favorite student in Baku). I learned what a strange word “Montino” meant (it is the name of the neighborhood where we lived). I was actually told so many different stories about my family’s peaceful life in Baku and the tragic events we turned to be engaged in, that it was really difficult for me to define what I exactly felt about all that.
Many years passed and I chose political science as my major at university. On the one hand, I realized that I was truly interested in that field of study. But on the other hand, I could notice that my profession was making me a hard-hearted person. I started perceiving events mostly in the light of tough politics. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for me was less about compromise/dialogue and more about fighting till the end. Though if you asked me, I certainly was totally unaware where that “end” had to be….
More years passed and I got a chance to participate in a project called “Model Caucasus Parliament” aimed at creating a platform for young people of the South Caucasus to develop cooperation for positive political change in the region. It was the first time when I met Azerbaijani guys. To tell the truth, I had mixed and uncertain feelings and expectations from the upcoming meeting. The first day of the program confirmed my thought on a slim possibility of both a dialogue and even a simple communication. But the second day was already totally different. It started from the moment when an Azerbaijani guy who seemed to be the most intolerant and impolite (shame on me for that thought about him!) came up to me and introduced himself. We shook hands and started talking about so many similar things about us. That was only the first step and a perfect start to the program, my acquaintance with Azerbaijanis and finally a future global change in my perception of Azerbaijani-Armenian relations.
And then… effective parliamentary coalition building; an unforgettable cruise of the Bosphorus; presenting gifts to each other in Istanbul; a bright photo shoot with the flags painted on our faces in Crimea; exemplary teamwork on planning a political campaign and discovery of new friends in Telavi; singing “Wind of Change” as a hymn; absolutely useful debate skills; cheerful outdoor activities in Gudauri and many other warm memories from the time when we worked on building mutual respect and trust. Every new task/discussion/interactive game within the frameworks of those projects was challenging us to find out whether we were ready to listen to and hear other participants, draft any proposal on the basis of universal human values, and realize an utmost necessity to unite in order to solve a lot of our essential issues concerning civil society, free media, parliamentarism, and conflict transformation. My experience revealed that not only were we ready to face those challenges but also could succeed in most cases.
Today my major is still political science. And the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is still frozen. The policies of the Azerbaijani and Armenian governments did not change almost anything at all. However, something very important changed in myself. Now I clearly see that none of our countries will become developed unless we live in a peaceful region. Otherwise, the whole world will further avoid starting any projects here, because we do not recommend ourselves as a sustainable region, which other countries can trust and rely on. So the fight till the end, which I mentioned above, has to be directed against endless hate, vengeance, and malice for our compatriots who did not yet have a chance to realize that they are on a wrong way.
Well, our birth indeed does not depend on our will. However, it is always us who decides how to live further. We are always free to make a choice between war and peace, hate and love, destruction and creation, death and life. Taking into account the facts of my life one can notice that I was actually too close to devote myself to the negative feelings. But my parents as well as Armenian and Azerbaijani friends did not allow it to happen. And I am most grateful to all of them for that.
P.S. The birth of our children also doesn’t depend on their will. And neither will they be given a chance to choose the circumstances to be born in. So if each of us takes responsibility to bring and keep peace in the region, our children before their birth might be confident that there is something in this world they must be born and live for.