Co-Chair of the Azerbaijan Office of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly
– Dear colleagues, dear friends and allies, I’m writing to you in difficult and troubled times: dangerous hostilities have resumed in Karabakh in earnest. A beginning of a new great war cannot be ruled out; a war with tens of thousands of dead and wounded, with hundreds of thousands of new refugees. Do our nations need it? Of course not. Will our conflict be resolved by a war? Of course not. A military solution is possible only in one case: the Armenian army captures Baku and orders the capitulation of Azerbaijan, or the Azerbaijani army captures Yerevan and orders the capitulation of Armenia. Raise your hand if you believe in this wild idea. Raise your hand so everyone can see it and so no decent person ever shakes that hand again.
The conflict has brought a lot of misery to our peoples, has taken away a number of our loved ones and belongings. 17 thousand dead and 20 thousand wounded in Azerbaijan; 6 thousand killed and over 10 wounded in Armenia… Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani people lost their homes in Armenia; hundreds of thousands of Armenians lost their homes in Azerbaijan. They’ve all become refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly displaced. Hundreds of villages, dozens of cities were burned down and destroyed. Out societies were thrown back to the past, into the Middle Ages. Who’s happy about that? Who is proud of that? Raise your hand so that we can see and recognize the enemy of the human race. So that Armenians and Azerbaijanis can see and recognize the gravediggers of the joint, peaceful life of the peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
To my deep regret, the recent escalation of hostilities has disturbed the peace of mind of some of our most valued colleagues; they have succumbed to the war hysteria and have made a number of bellicose statements. I believe that the relentless times and the difficult circumstances of the life in the stuffy and poisonous atmosphere of our authoritarian and corrupt societies have undermined the foundations of our peoples’ moral resistance. Nevertheless, most of the members of our family of peacekeepers and human rights activists managed not to yield to the spur-of-the-moment influence. Those, who failed to resist the hysteria, have lost their unique identity and have become “like everybody else.” By doing so they have lost themselves, they have cheated on themselves, on their glorious and honest past and perhaps even the future. Believe me, true and sincere peacekeepers and human rights activists have always been and still are an exception: a rare and valuable exception against the ignorant and callous masses of ordinary people infected with the bacillus of chauvinism.
All these years Armenian and Azerbaijani peacekeepers have tirelessly been working towards peace. We’ve agreed on matters of principle; namely, that the key to the democratization of our societies is a peaceful resolution option that would allow Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live together in harmony. First, in Karabakh, then, God willing, in Baku and Yerevan. Apartheid, segregation, the victory of the myth about the “cultural and ethnic incompatibility” of our peoples will only perpetuate the victory of the criminal-oligarchic clans whose power feeds off the crowd’s hatred and intolerance.
My health has deteriorated; temporarily, I hope. Therefore, I was unable with the same promptness to respond to the current developments. Many years of hard work, hardship, moral pressure and misunderstanding have undermined the health of civil society actors. All I wanted to say to the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples I have already said; all I wanted to advise, I have already advised. I am not easily influenced by the moment. I’m glad that a younger generation of Armenian and Azerbaijani peacekeepers has grown. We know more, they can do more. I really hope they will be able to explain to our nations better than us that happiness is not about a larger state territory, but about a country with a reliable Constitution, a country where courts are just and independent, where officials serve the people and do not rob them, where citizens are confident no one will dare to drown out their voices.
Only in such countries will our people be able to live in dignity and happiness. Today’s Armenia and Azerbaijan, for which young people are killed, have to become such in order to ensure the conditions for a dignified and happy life of our nations. The path to the establishment of such countries lies through a peaceful conflict resolution based on compromise and consideration of the interests of each of the parties.
The text was originally written in Russian.