Azerbaijan International

Spring 1994 (2.1)
Page 2-3, 52

No Winners in Any War

As I sit writing this letter, the war between my country, Azerbaijan, and Armenia has tormented us for almost six years - this war that the outside world knows so little about. During this time, more than one million of my fellow countrymen have been forced to flee their homes. Nearly one fourth of my country's territory is occupied.

But my main purpose for writing is not to speak about the horrendous images of torture, plunder, and destruction; or of the horror of civilians being murdered, raped, and taken hostage; or of the stories we hear from distant lands that the enemy is selling internal body organs that they have stolen from our mutilated bodies-both dead and alive.

Is it not enough that we Azerbaijanis and Armenians have blamed, cursed, and killed each other for six years. The season of passions must soon be replaced with reason.

There have never been winners in any war-only losers, suffering varying degrees of defeat. We understand that. But we are afraid of those degrees. We are afraid that our defeat might be greater than theirs. But someone has to compromise.

It is the ugly truth; we are very weak. We can't even prove to the world that nearly one quarter of our land is under occupation; that, in reality, 200,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have managed to defeat 7 million Azerbaijanis.

We can't even convince a single representative of the U.S. Congress that both the time and circumstances have changed since they voted against sending us any assistance and their response to us is like an old record that is stuck in its groove. We haven't succeeded in countering the lies of a century-old, well organized, well-funded Armenian lobby. We are weak and small when our interests counter the interests of giants of international relations. And it is for these reasons that we suffer immensely.

If an Armenian reads these lines, he knows that Armenia can never re-locate to Australia; or Azerbaijan, to Africa. We are destined to live side by side-to be neighbors.

Each day the river of blood running between us flows higher and higher. It will not be easy to dry that river even if we did agree to do so. It will not be easy to forget six years of mutual hatred. But we must; otherwise, there will be no end to this destruction. Hatred blinds and deprives us of seeing the reality of the world as it really is.

That hatred is so strong that no one dare tell an Azerbaijani or an Armenian mother whose only son has been killed to forget it all and live together peacefully. Not a single politician could survive such a proposal. People would not accept it.

But there is no way out. Sooner or later, it will have to be the politicians who make the compromise and they will have to succeed in convincing their people to accept it. Each day of delay only adds more drops of blood in this river that separates us.

Azar Panahli
Baku, Azerbaijan
November 2, 1993

Azerbaijan Like A Newborn Child

It was such a great experience for me to read Azerbaijan International. I enjoyed it immensely. It was like the rays of the sun, giving hope and confidence.

We have suffered a lot. Many articles written about our Republic and our people are not true. There has been so much misinformation that our people are beginning to feel like an orphaned child whom everybody hates and who cries because of the injustice.

We have recently become an independent state. Despite the fact that we have an ancient history, we are on the eve of our future. We are like a new-born child who needs care and warmth. Everything will depend on how we will be brought up.

We need objective opinions from the outside world to correct our behaviour. And all these objective and true facts, I found in your magazine. Thanks a lot!

Naila Mehrabova
Baku, Azerbaijan
16 years old
October 18, 1993

Thanks for Azerbaijan International. Your efforts in producing such a fine magazine are greatly appreciated by the Azerbaijani American community of 350,000. You are doing a great service for 31 million Azerbaijanis world wide.

Bruce B. Farhangi
President, National Association of
Azerbaijani Americans
Lancaster, CA

Best Wishes: US Ambassador

Azerbaijan International's Executive Editor, Betty Blair, was invited by Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to serve as an independent observer at the Presidential Election held October 3, 1993. The following letter was received by the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Thank you for sharing your impression of the recent Presidential election in Azerbaijan with me. I appreciate your involvement in this process and found your detailed comments very perceptive. It was a pleasure to meet you recently and to have the opportunity to get to know you better.
All best wishes for your success and the success of the magazine, Azerbaijan International.
Richard Miles

US Ambassador to Azerbaijan
Baku (now assigned to Moscow)

Religious War? Not at All

I have just returned from Azerbaijan for the second time this year and am very disturbed how the Western media depicts this conflict.

Most people in the West have been led to believe that this awful civil war is a religious war between "Christian Armenians" and "Muslim Azerbaijanis". In the West it is only natural that our sympathies would lie with the Armenians who were the first nation in the world to accept Christianity as a state religion (302 AD).

Most people in the West know very little about Azerbaijan. Because of this, it has been very easy to give the impression that they are "fundamentalist Muslims", who have been oppressing "Christian Armenians". But this is a false impression. It is true that the Azeris call themselves "Muslims", just as Danish people call themselves "Christians." However, only a few Azeris practice their beliefs. Most of them have never read the Koran or visited a mosque.

In the capital, Baku, there are only two mosques for two million people. So they cannot really be called fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, they are an areligious people with great tolerance for other world views.

Evidence shows that when the Armenians lived in Azerbaijan they had established their own churches, schools, and universities. Furthermore, in Azerbaijan, there are laws which protect minorities and give them a certain autonomy in matters of culture and religion.

In contrast, the 300,000 Azeris who used to live in Zangezur were subjected to Armenian laws without any autonomy or protection for minorities. Today Armenia has expelled all Azerbaijanis from their own country though several thousand Armenians still make Azerbaijan their home.

Before the violence started in 1988, 250,000 Armenians lived by choice in Baku. Would they have done that if the Azeris were "fundamentalist" oppressors? In addition, the myth about the "Christian Armenians" is almost an illusion, today. Of course, there are Christians among the Armenians, but many of them are secularized.

The threat of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave being separated from Azerbaijan, and the Armenian demands in the area naturally stirred up nationalist feelings. As soon as this happened, the Armenians began to talk about religious fanaticism.

Western journalists latched onto the propaganda and clichés set out from Armenia. I don't want to imply by this that the Armenians are villains, and the Azerbaijanis are angels! But it is necessary for people in the West to get a more balanced picture than that which has been presented in the media.

There is no doubt that with one million refugees the Azerbaijanis definitely need help. I am not suggesting that the Armenians do not need our help. They surely do. But the information which has released until now has almost excluded and denied the reality of those who need our help most-the Azerbaijanis.

Rev. H. K. Neerskov
Founder of Danish European Mission
VP, International Sakharov Committee
Bagsvard, Denmark
October 10, 1993 (English)

Childhood Memories: Bonfires and Alphabets

Your last issue (Fall, September 1993) regarding the Alphabet Transition brought back vivid childhood memories of growing up in Tabriz (Iran).

Born in 1940, some of my earliest memories are related to many historical events of Pishevari's independent Azerbaijan government (1945-47). I well remember the civil clashes in the streets, the killings, and many people who were uprooted from their homes.

But the one memory that remains strongest is about the alphabet and my mother tongue-Azeri. In those days in school, we were taught to read Azeri in Arabic script. I can still remember some of the little poems and stories in our primers as we used to memorize them.

But the chance to read Azeri was short-lived as the Central Iranian forces overthrew the independent Azerbaijan government the following year and the Azeri language was officially banned.

I still remember the day our principal told us to assemble in front of the school. I was in first grade at the time. We were told to bring our Azeri books and throw them on a huge bonfire.

I loved my book so much that I tried to hide it in my pants but one of my classmates saw and told the principal. I had no choice but to obey. It was an awful feeling to give up that book.

The memory lingers as if it happened yesterday and so does my desire to see that book again.

Ray K. Bour
Orange, California
November 23, 1993

Why Azerbaijani Youth Don't Fight the War

I've heard the Western media is claiming that many of the Azerbaijani young men don't go to war. Basically, that's true.

Part of it has to do with our nature. We are a very meek people and we don't like to fight. We have a legend about the Tower of Babel when the nations were scattered. One of the fallen angels-the meekest of all-just happened to get involved with Azerbaijanis. As a consequence, we are very meek by character.

But there are other reasons, too. You have to understand that many of us had neighbors who were Armenians-who used to live right beside us. They were our friends.

I'll never forget Black January (1990), when someone had set the Armenian church on fire. Azerbaijanis who saw this immediately got very angry. They cursed those who had started the fire. When one man tried to kick the Bible out of the church, he was immediately reprimanded by others.

I remember another situation when there was an Armenian woman on a bus, cursing all Azerbaijanis because her family was being split up as her husband was Azerbaijani. She was unbelievably aggressive as if she expected everyone to beat her. But nobody spoke a single word against her.

How do the young men avoid the army? By falsifying health documents, making bribes, and leaving the country for Russia (sometimes just on paper) but sometimes they become Russian citizens. They like to marry blonde-haired Russian girls. Besides, a wedding ceremony in Russia is much cheaper and Russian girls much less demanding.

But if you really want to understand our young men's dilemma, you have to realize how close our families are. Azerbaijani mothers love their sons dearly. To die in the war means to make your mother unhappy until the day she, herself, dies. Nothing will console her if she loses a son.

The biggest reason why they don't want to fight is that they don't want to die. And if you had ever seen a soldier - so young that a razor has never touched his face - dying in intensive care because there is no medicine, and if you had ever heard him cry out, "Ana-jan" ("Mommy Dear"), then you would understand why, too.

Lala Ali 
Baku, October 15, 1993


From Azerbaijan International (2.1) Spring 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.

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