Cultural Caucasus
Back to Forum Activities

Roadmap to Peace

Workshop and Awareness Raising

Tour by Eastern Anatolia

Date: September 25-October 11, 2009

Venue: Eastern Anatolia (Turkey)

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

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

Black Sea Trust for Regioanl Cooperation http://www.gmfus.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=324

US Embasy in Armenia: http://armenia.usembassy.gov/

The target groups are young citizens and art and culture people of Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaiajn.

The project aimed at addressing the issues of peaceful coexistence, rehabilitation, fostering of the societal and intercultural dialogue between the citizenries of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Our group consisted of young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The  group  included  mainly art and culture people - musicians,  photographers,  filmmakers,  people  from  cultural  NGOs. So  a very  unique group was created  where everyone was so different but each carrying a sense of solidarity.
First evening was celebrated with Nina’s birthday (a musician from Armenia), one of the  participants of  the project. Armenian brandy and toast to Nina removed all the borders among the participants creating a  very  friendly  and  warm atmosphere from  the  very  beginning.

For 4 days of our stay in Kars we practiced a variety of activities. Among  them  interactive  games  which  is  a  part  of  intercultural  non-formal  education,  made  us  recognize  each  other  better,  helped  us  to  charge  with  positive  emotions  and  have  fun.
Another  interesting  part  of  the project  was  film  workshop. The  group  learned about  how  to  create  films  theoretically,  discussed  possible  film  scenarios  which can  reveal  our  imaginations  about  neighboring countries and  can  promote peace  in  the  region. We demonstrated  different  conflicts  through  small  performances  created  in  small groups.
The  group  watched  some  short  films  about  the  devastating  effects  of  closed  borders  between  the  nations  which  appeal  against  hatred  and  hostility and   aimed  to  promote  peace  among  nations. Through  watching  these  films  and  discussing  them we  got  more  convinced  that  close  borders  and  feud  among  nations  are  destructive.
We  have  had  discussions on  stereotypes , conflicts  and  closed  borders. The discussion  analyzed  the concept  ,,stereotype’’  and  ,,prejudice’’  in  all  its  depth  revealing  very  interesting  details  about  them. Each  of  the  participants  told  about  his/her  experience  on  having  stereotypes  and  the  ways  of  overcoming  them. 
Alongside  with  the  workshops every  evening  we  were  enjoying  multicultural concert  where  musicians  of  three  countries  performed  ethnic music. All  of  us  were  fascinated  by  the  rhythms  of  the  instrument  called  kanon. The  musicians  offered  a  small  workshop  to  other  participants  which  was  a  great  case  to  try  ourselves  playing  national  and  classic  instruments.  The  musicians  of  the  three  countries  also  created   a   joint  music  which  was  a  unique  composition  and  was  performed  during  the  tour  by  Eastern  Anatolia.

Tour  by  Eastern  Anatolia

On  September  30  our  group  started  the  tour  by  Eastern  Anatolia - from city to city. On the  road  we  didn’t  lose  time  singing national  songs  of  the  three  countries. The  renowned  Caucasus  song  ,, Sari  gelin’’  which  has  Armenian, Turkish, Azeri  and Iranian variants ,  became  the  anthem  of  the  tour  and  served  to  be  a  binding  tool  for  the  group.
Each  place  we  visited  we  were  hosted  by  local  people. We  were  astonished  by  the  warm hospitality and  sincere  attitude  of  the  locals  towards  us. In  Dogubayazit  and  Gevas  a  few kurdish  families  hosted  us  at  night.
In  each   place  we  have  had  discussions on conflicts, closed  borders  with  locals  accomplished  by  cultural  activities. Our  musicians  performed  Armenian  and  Turkish  music  with  the  local  musicians. The  musicians  organized  concerts  accompanied  by  dances.  From  the  beginning  we  figured  out  that  the  national  dances  of  the  three  countries ,  especially  Armenian  and  Azeri  ones  have  much  similarities  and  it  wasn’t  difficult  for  us  to  make  an  integral  dance  circle. This  was  an  occasion  to  discuss  the  cultural  links  and  similarities  between  the  neighboring  countries.
In  Gevas  our  group  attended  Kurdish  wedding  party  for  two  days.  Kurdish  weddings  take place  about  7  days. We  arrived  at  the  wedding  place  in  the  evening. On the first  day  the whole  village  people ,  mainly  men  were gathered   dancing  the  national  dance  called  Halay  and  drinking  Turkish  tea. On the  second  day  mainly  women  were  present  at  the  wedding and  lots  of  children  from  the  village  surrounded  us  wishing  to  listen to  Armenian  national  songs  and  dancing  with  us. Our  intercultural  interaction  mission succeeded   at  the  wedding  as  well.  We  learned  kurdish  national  dance offering  in  exchange Armenian  national  dance  ,, Kochari’’,  we  listened  to  kurdish  songs  and  Armenian  musicians  sang  Armenian  songs.
Enriched  with  the  cultural  interactions  and  excited  from  the  hospitability  of  the  locals ,  the  group  paid  a  visit  to a  number  of  historical  places and  natural  landscapes  in  Eastern  Anatolia. We  had  a  tour  in  Ishak  Pasa  Palace  in  the  vicinity  of  Dogubayazit  and  we  admired  the  marvelous  beauty  of  Van  lake  and  Muradiye  waterfall.  Our  group  had  a  boat  trip  to  Aghtamar  island  enjoying  the  beautiful  landscape  of  Van  lake  and  continuing  musical  interactions  and  dancing  on  the  ship  and  the  island. On  Akhtamar  island  we  had  an  architectural  workshop  about “Surb  Khach” church. At  that  time  a  group  from  Turkish  public  television , TRT 1   was  making  a  documentary  film  at  Akhtamar.  They  involved  our  group  performing  a   joint  music  in  the  film shooting. 
Full  of  impressions  we  returned  to  Kars,  which  already  became  a  very  beloved  city  for all of  us. After  the  farewell  party  at  Baris  cafe  we  were  sitting at  the  lobby  of  the  hotel very  sad . We  became  so  close  to  each  other  that  we  didn’t  want  to  get  apart,  we  didn’t  want  the  project  to  be  finished. Some  of  us  started  to  cry.  I  remember  Aygun , an  Azeri  girl  while  crying she  said,, I  don’t  know  if  we  can  meet  again  in  our  lifetime. We  can’t  come  to  Armenia,  you  can’t  come  to  Azerbaijan. Will  we  ever  meet  again?’’  Of  course  we  would  like  to  see  each  other  again, however  the  closed  borders  are  an  obstacle......Still  we  do  believe  that  we  will  meet  again!
Next  morning  we  departed  from  Kars  very  sad  that  the  project  ended  and on  the  other  hand very  happy  that  we  had  an  opportunity  to  enjoy  such  unforgettable  days  in  Eastern  Anatolia  both  in  terms  of  interesting  workshops  and  interaction  with  people.
The  project  was  very  fruitful  and  effective. The  outcome  of  the  project  became  evident   after  discussions  with  the  participants  during  and  after  the  project. It  helped many  participants from  Armenia to  overcome  stereotypes  and  change  attitudes  towards  Turks  and  Azeris  and  visa  versa.  Cultural  activities  made  possible  to better recognize  each  other’s  cultures,  appreciate  them  and  become  closer  with  each  other. And  the  most  important  thing  in  my  opinion  is  that  it  connected  lots  of  people , making  friends.

 

Text is developed by Sona Khachatryan, the participant from Armenia