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Awareness Raising Tour for Culture and Peace

Gyumri - Akhaltsikhe - Kars

Date: 10-14 October 2007

Venue: Gyumri ( Armenia) – Akhaltsikhe (Georgia) – Kars ( Turkey)

Organizer: City Research Center NGO, Gyumri (www.cityresearch.org)

Financial Support: European Youth Foundation (http://www.eyf.coe.int/fej/)

The target geographic area is North Armenia, South-West Georgia, and South-East Turkey.

The target groups are young citizens of different ethnic and religious groups inhabiting South Caucasus.

The purpose of the tour is to build bridges of understanding and respect among the young citizens of different ethnic and religious groups inhabiting South Caucasus.

The purpose of the tour is through art-and-culture-based activities to:

  • Challenge stereotypes
  • Mediate tension between the need for historical justice and a need for better and different future
  • Transform the relationship of hatred into relationship of interdependence and trust.

This initiative is an attempt to prepare and encourage the youth of South Caucasus to build a region where diversity is embraced for its positive potential, equality is actively perused and an interdependence between different groups is recognized. It’s an attempt to ensure the societies of the South Caucasus states that they can leave more equitably and peacefully together.

Gathering day, October 9, Gyumri

The working group consisting of 15 young citizens from Armenia, Georgia and Turkey gathered in Gyumri.

 

October 10, Gyumri

“Style” Art Gallery hosted the international group for the informational seminar. During the informative seminar the group was presented All Different –All Equal campaign of Council of Europe for diversity, human rights and participation.

The group practiced the interactive methods for promoting the campaign among the community, such as role games, theatre performances and others. The participants also made presentations on his/her city and community.

The cultural infill of the program was the workshop of national dance aiming to teach the participants a piece from Armenian, Georgian and Turkish national dance.

October 11, Gyumri.

The working group met the young citizens - University and school students of Gyumri, Representatives of some ethnic minorities living in Gyumri (Yezidis and Russians) were present. The group presented the aims and objectives of the campaign and the project. An interactive performance for developing mutual understanding and respect involved both the working group and the local citizens. Following the performance in a circle they discussed different issues of coexistence: stereotypes, historic memory, importance of looking forward and making a step forward in partnership and development.

 

Another activity was creation of a big poster of All Different All Equal. Later on the group and the local students made a walking tour by public places in Gyumri with the poster in their hands sharing the campaign message with larger community.

The main conclusion of the people involved in the activities was that all people are humans regardless nationality, religion, governmental policy and other factors and that the most important and effective step in developing relations between neighboring countries is face-to-face communication.

The evening was left for a walking tour by historic Gyumri.

 

October 11, Akhaltsikhe

In early morning the group started to Akhaltsikhe – the next destination point. On the road the group did not lose the time, they started to explore Armenian, Georgian and Turkish national songs trying to find similarities in the music or the words of the songs. Ultimately they found a piece, which became the anthem of the tour.

Arriving in Akhaltsikhe, the group was hosted in the Center for the Multi-ethnic Youth Community of Akhaltsikhe. That day the representatives of different ethnic groups (Armenians, Ukrainians, Russians, Georgians, Greeks) came together to meet the international group and learn about the campaign.

The tour group made an introduction of the project and All Different All Equal campaign, hold an interactive performance on the diversity, human rights and equality and organized role games.

The workshop of national dance we started in Gyumri continued in Akhaltsikhe in a wider format involving the local youth.

The specialist and volunteers of the Center organized a crafts workshop for the group called “Teka” (Georgian for felt). The group learned the technology of making the texture out of wool and designing patterns on it. Participants themselves prepared a felt poster of All Different All Equal. This became a practical output of the workshop.

The process of common work and production of a synergy was very attractive process stimulating the participants to feel as one group and one unit and be more productive in promoting the campaign.

In the evening the group together with locals had a walking tour by historic places of Akhaltsikhe, attended Georgian dinner. The national dances were a good experience for both locals and project participants.

 

October 13, Kars

The next morning charged with Georgian hospitality and full of impressions the group took the third destination of the tour – Kars, Turkey. That day Turkey was celebrating Ramadan – a big religious holiday. Most of the population is spending that day with families. Nonetheless many young citizens from Kars (mainly Kurds and Turks) found time to meet the international group and talk about diversity, human rights and coexistence.

The meeting was held in the conference hall of Sim-Er hotel. Regardless the official look of the interior room, the environment was very friendly and human from the very beginning.

Through interactive games and performances, we have organized from the very beginning of the meeting, the participants and local people quickly got to know each other and the atmosphere of understanding and trust was established. The musical workshop of the national song, where Turks were singing Armenian and Georgian songs and vise versa was a perfect continuation of that process.

Once the understanding was gained we transformed the communication in a more complex level, i.e. to try to go deeper into the meaning of All Different All Equal slogan, which seems so simple and so clear. We tried to understand where we are equal: in rights, in desires, in feelings as humans.

We also tried to transform the phrase for describing the society of our region. We offered the group and the locals to continue the phrase all different – all…… They offered lots of assumptions, among them:

  • all different all human;
  • all different all friends,
  • all different all problem;
  • all different all together,
  • all different all similar, etc.

The word game helped to find out many qualities, perceptions, and understanding of our societies and.

After lunch the group and locals had walking tour by historic Kars and visited the Kars Art Center, where the concert continued.

Evening was given for a farewell party with national dances.

Conclusion

All Different All Equal campaign held by the group of young citizens from South Caucasus gave them an opportunity for face-to-face communication with the coevals from the neighboring countries. The life contacts helped them to overcome many barriers and stereotypes formed by governmental policy, historic memory and other factors. They had possibility to see and perceive each other just as humans with the same emotions, feelings and desire for peaceful coexistence and development.

They have exchanged their e-mails, they started to write to each other, they started to be tolerant.