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