Solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will bring to an end the daily inconveniences and dangers faced by people on the borders.

·After decades of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a peace agreement has finally been signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Though an official agreement has been achieved and armies have withdrawn, the people have trouble truly understanding it and living a life of peace. Trust towards each other needs to be regained and rebuilt; the image of ‘the enemy’ still exists in the minds of the people. To abolish this image is crucial, but of course it is not easy. Some people have yet to adjust to the new reality, and need to let go of the bad memories in order to live alongside each other and trust again. Therefore, several projects have been implemented since the peace agreement in various spheres, targeting the reintegration of the two peoples.

First of all, a new project was developed by both sides in a bid to diminish and eliminate nationalist, fascist and xenophobic propaganda. The project was launched initially in schools. Previously, during the conflict period, schools had commemorated each day that a village had been invaded, and the pupils were required to know this timeline by heart. Since childhood, pupils on both sides had been presented with an image of the other side as the enemy. During the post-conflict period, this system in schools has changed, and a meticulous review of history books was carried out. Now it is important not to exaggerate certain issues, such as the image of the enemy. History is taught objectively, and negative events are no longer exaggerated.

The other sphere that is continuously changing is the media. In the past, it was acceptable for the press to use provocative and tough language. Nowadays, the media demonstrates a more professional and less proprietorial attitude. For example, during the conflict period while participating in a competition, if an Azerbaijani athlete beat an Armenian, journalists would violate media norms and frame the news: “We have always overcome Armenians throughout our history.”

Propaganda of this kind can causes incorrect perceptions to develop, especially in children. Since peace prevailed, media kits have been used to train journalists on particularly this topic. It is important for them to learn to write professionally about the other party, without biased discourse.

Of course, in societies that have experienced a long-lasting conflict, it is almost impossible to immediately eliminate the influence of nationalistic views. And so it is inevitable that today there remain people who promote nationalistic ideas on television channels or other media, protesting against the peace agreement. But the mass media should avoid promoting or exaggerating such opinions, while of course always upholding freedom of speech.

Yet it is essential to show counter-arguments to these approaches, to develop healthier ideals in society and to slowly dissolve the long-held image of the enemy.

No side would like to see blood spilled again. After all, who wants to live in conditions of war? Who could be happy if the youth of these two nations living together hate each other?

When Armenians
and Azerbaijanis
have lunch together
at the Kari Bulbul
Restaurant in
Shusha, they are
given a 50 per cent

Before the war, members of both nations intermarried easily. However, such relationships inevitably changed during the war period, and there were fewer love stories between the two nations. Even during the post-conflict period, the youth of both nations remained trepidatious about loving a person from the other side, afraid of criticism from their social circles, the memory of history and the risk of separation by politics. In order to abolish those fears, stories of good examples of mixed families are being shared.

After the war, people who have both Armenian and Azerbaijani parents have a reason to be happy. Their families can reunite easily and they are free to travel to their countries and choose a place to live. Those who have both Armenian and Azerbaijani parents can now easily travel to their parents’ homelands. Establishing connections of this kind can inspire the youth of both countries to love each other without any fear.

Our neighbour changed his name during the war because he was Armenian. Now he easily utters the name of his nation. People who had an Armenian father are no longer obliged to indicate their mother’s patronym instead of their own father’s on their ID cards.

In the cultural sphere, projects have been developed and implemented to join the two previously warring parties. The mostly widely implemented projects are social and cultural in nature. There are new works of fiction being written about the finished war, the difficulties it led to and the reintegration of both nations. There are new subjects for literature.

During the conflict period, there were several encouraging books. For example, Quqark by Seymur Bayjan was an impressive book in which people learned about the friendships and existing sincere relations between parties on opposite sides. Increasing the number of such books will rebuild the bridges between both societies. As cultural exchange brings people closer together, well-known writers and musicians of both societies are being interviewed, and their books are being translated, shared, screened on television and demonstrated in large exchange programmes.

Besides all this, developing economic relations is essential. As both nations have their own special trade traditions, they recognise that making peace and abolishing the image of the enemy can be economically beneficial to both sides. There are several inspirational ongoing projects being implemented now.

According to its geographical profile and tourism, Nagorno-Karabakh has become the most significant part of the region. Businessmen are integrating their interests in this area. When Armenian and Azerbaijani people have lunch together at the Kari Bulbul Restaurant in Shusha, they are given a 50 per cent discount. These projects are very attractive to young people, and they help develop new friendships.

The geographical profile of Nagorno-Karabakh is suitable for agriculture, and the development of agriculture in the region is inevitable. Essential pastures play a big role in the development of animal husbandry. The construction of joint dairy product factories is increasing employment for local residents and improving farm profitability. Focusing on education helps the development of society, and branches of the Universities of Baku and Yerevan are being established in Karabakh.

In addition, new research is being conducted to regenerate different notions and values between the nations. For example, the victims of warfare are not symbolised in order to exhort revenge. They are instead recognised as manifestations of previous mistakes and are being turned into symbols for thoughts, such as: “Never make this mistake again.”·

Saadat, 24, holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Baku State University and has been a social worker for more than three years.

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