1 May 2010
Peace, Trust and Love as a Cornerstone to Co-existence
Armenians and Azerbaijanis, representing conflicting countries, have long been denied the chance of mere communication, which unfortunately has resulted in two-sided hostility during confrontation anywhere on the globe. In fact, this confrontation occurs occasionally only within the frames of joint European or American projects outside the countries in conflict. As a matter of fact, I was one of the privileged to have witnessed such a confrontation.
As an Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program alumna, I spent one academic year sharing a short-term lifetime with an Azerbaijani girl within the scopes of the same program. However, I am grateful that “Muskie” brought us together, otherwise the stereotypes I held against the Azeri people would have remained unbroken forever.
In the beginning, though, it was quite a breathtaking challenge to face each other until we established a mutual trust. I recall our first meeting with a flashback, because I had a hidden fear I would lose control and throw a temper tantrum when meeting an Azeri. But actually, that didn’t happen because I managed to conceal my emotional turbulence when we met in Washington, D.C. It was perhaps because I had presumed she was Georgian judging by her complexion. Later during orientation we were informed that we were both meant to study at the same university and were taking the same flight to Minneapolis. This was already a tougher challenge but I realized backing out would not comfort me, and I decided to be polite and demonstrate positiveness. During the flight we engaged in a conversation about finding housing and shared common concerns about a new life in the USA. This conversation, however, ended with a painful reminiscence of the Nagorno-Karabagh war’s destructive consequences in our lives and economies. We remembered the deceased among our relatives and friends. Actually, we cried without daring to look at each other, since the unspoken grief had arisen in us. This was when we both agreed upon tabooing the apple of discord–Nagorno-Karabagh–since we knew it would bring non-stop tears and heartbreaking memories with it. This decision averted the chance of further conflicts during our friendship. I think we both realized that continuous attempts to resolve this discord at our level would only yield an evanescent result. But instead, we decided to alleviate and facilitate our co-existence by putting it aside and establishing our own peace, though we had our own subjective views about territorial objectivity. I believe this was the best solution we arrived at, otherwise we would have held a grudge against each other and would have aggravated the situation.
I have shared my most precious times with Leyla, my “Muskie” sister. We have gone through everything together. We traveled, we shared a bed, we shared food, we shared a wonderful piece of life together. Now when I look back on where we started and where we are now, I am amazed by the magic of friendship, love and peace we have created. I feel so proud we were courageous enough to have broken the ice and got the ball rolling. Leyla is the greatest friend of mine, and I hope many other Armenians will have such a precious friend as she.