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South Caucasus

The Ambassador of Peace Rauf Rajabov upon his arrival in Baku for some reason was transformed into a staunch bitter enemy to Armenians

Georgi Vanyan
Interview Day.Az with Georgi Vanyan around the sensational project of Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives.

Mr. Vanyan, in an interview for Day.Az an expert Rauf Rajabov who has recently visited Armenia, announced that the “Steps to Dialogue” event was being attempted to be regarded as the “Days of Azerbaijan” in Armenia. How would you comment on this statement?

This situation needs clarification. “Step to dialogue” and the “Days of Azerbaijan” are quite different events. “Step to dialogue” is a long-dated project of our organization, the execution of which started as far back as last year.

Our events in the school started two weeks prior to the visit of the guests from Azerbaijan. Creative competition of compositions, paintings, posters was declared to be held on the following subjects:

1. An open letter to my contemporary from Azerbaijan,
2. Azerbaijan in my imagination,
3. Armenia-Azerbaijan: what is our future to be like?
4. Azerbaijan (free subject).

The name itself was thought out by the schoolchildren themselves. Today, I assert that it is the “Days of Azerbaijan” that was held in the school, which did not result in the departure of the guests. During this time Azerbaijan was much spoken about in “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex. A lot was written about Azerbaijan. The staff of “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex had a meeting with the Azerbaijanians, had a chance of communicating with them, asked them questions and told about themselves. The creative competition is still under way. New compositions will be written, the exhibition of new posters and paintings will be opened in the year 2008.

These were the “Days of Azerbaijan“, weren’t these?

Did Rauf Rajabov mention in his reply to the organizers of that event that his participation in the “Days of Azerbaijan” in Armenia was undesirable and unacceptable for him and he consented to participate in “Step to dialogue” program only during which a documentary film about the Nagorno Karabakh war is to be screened.

Rauf Rajabov suggested removing the name “Days of Azerbaijan” on the grounds that the organization of the similar event was prerogative for our presidents. No further remarks concerning the program on the whole were received by him. I answered him that the official name of the project was “Step to dialogue” which he had been invited to partake in. So, there was no any problem concerning it.

After Rauf Rajabov had arrived in Yerevan, he insisted on removing the work-combination “Days of Azerbaijan” from the approved and printed program and on the whole he proposed banning the usage of the word-combination “Days of Azerbaijan” within the school and the word “delegation” taken separately.

The grounds for his concern were the publications appeared in the press which announced that the “Days of Azerbaijan” held in “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex were turned into the “Days of Azerbaijan” in Armenia” and the guests of the project were treated as “delegations”, accordingly.

I do admit that it was my mistake to have invited Rauf Rajabov. Luckily, he was given a chance of making a demarche and could go back to Baku on the very first day. But he did not go. He was not conscience-stricken since he had not partaken in the “Days of Azerbaijan” held in “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex because he had not read school compositions and had not awarded prizes and had not associated with the schoolchildren.

To what extent does the nature of the statements made by Mr. Rajabov in the course of his stay in Armenia coincide with the statements made upon his arrival in Baku?

To be frank, I am quite surprised at the fact that Rauf Rajabov actively and promptly covered his stay in Armenia upon his arrival in Baku. Usually he becomes absorbed in deep silence after his numerous trips to Armenia. I wonder why he “broke this habit”.

Based on the results, I can state the following: After visiting Armenia “The Ambassador of Peace” Rauf Rajabov upon his arrival in Baku for some reason was transformed into a staunch bitter enemy to Armenians.

How big is the role of the participation of Mr. Rajabov in the shooting of the film “Open up the frontiers!” screened within “Step to dialogue” project?

The film “Open up the frontiers!” was made on the basis of the video materials of “Peacemaking Team” the project executed in the year 2005. The concept of the film was born only about a year later or so. Rauf Rajabov participated only during the first stage of “Peacemaking Team” project in five regions of Armenia (July 2005). Afterwards, the cooperation between us ceased to exist and the project in the rest of the five regions of Armenia and Karabakh was conducted without his participation.

Nothing personal was pursued in this matter. Simply, our cooperation was undesirable and did not serve the interests of the project. One of the basic reasons is the fact that upon his arrival in Baku, Mr. Rauf Rajabov breached the contract and did not keep the public of Azerbaijan informed of his actions in Armenia. Over 30 characters are involved in the film “Open up the frontiers!” and Rauf Rajabov is one of those characters. I wish to mention that I found it important that Rauf Rajabov should watch the film and express his opinion before the film was displayed to the mass public in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Is Mr. Rajabov authorized to comment on the reaction of an Armenian viewer to the film and to what extent do his comments appeared in Mass Media of Azerbaijan correspond to the really?

In the first place, it would be irrational to speak of “the reaction of an Armenian viewer” in terms of “positive” or “negative” terms. Secondly, the film has not been yet widely shown. Working screenings were attended by the people whose monologues could be heard in the film. The presentation of the film initiated by Rauf Radjab, including the demonstration of the episodes and an oral narration of those parts which were not shown, go beyond all the limits of ethics. Similarly, his statement about the reaction of an Armenian viewer can be regarded.

How did the Armenian society react to the film “Open up the frontiers!”?

It is too early to state anything about the reaction of the Armenian society. The film was viewed by about 100 people. Different opinions were expressed during the working screenings. Many admit that the film helped them to learn something new about the views and opinions of their compatriots about Armenian-Azerbaijanian relations. We were thanked for the film and received congratulations. There was a man who considered the film to be dangerous and thought that it should not be replicated since the demonstration of separate episodes and fragments could give rise to an anti-Armenian propaganda.

The discussions with the viewers sometimes were not to the point and mostly the film was analyzed as to whether it was pro-Azerbaijanian or pro-Armenian. Numerous arguments were brought in favour of this or that version.

Then how would you explain the fact that the Armenian bloggers presented four pieces of soap to the organizers of the event?

This “soap demarche” took place during the opening ceremony of the “Days of Azerbaijan” held in “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex and the presentation of the prizes for the best composition. Of course, there were schoolchildren, the students of the School of Human Rights Defenders and the Azerbaijanian lecturers who conducted the ceremony together with us. After the departure of the guests, the schoolchildren held a series of discussions around the results of the project. That “demarche” was also the subject of one of the discussions. The guys concluded: the demarche failed, our intellectual bloggers were not well brought up and were not gifted with artistic skills. They should not have interrupted the speaker. It would have been better to ask for the floor and introduce themselves, express their views and afterwards present them with a piece of soap and not to leave so hastily. This view was expressed by young human rights defenders. Much can be learned from them.

After leaving the “scene” in a hasty manner, the so-called “patriots” gladly shared their opinions with the journalists who were all ears to them: “We protest against the “Days of Azerbaijan” event held under the support of Great Britain, even if this event is taking place within one Armenian School. As they say, no comments.”

What purposes did you pursue by shooting that film?

No purposes, as such. The only wish was to share with others about our meetings with people, public discussions and talks about Armenian-Azerbaijanian relations. We did our best to find the most valuable and important information in this huge video materials that we had learnt and heard and therefore we made this film.

I think this film won’t be easy to be watched by both Armenians and Azerbaijanians.

What are the future prospects of this film?

Although the film deals with the problems which were regarded to be “sensitive” in conflictology, we together with the co-author Luiza Poghosyan decided to show it to a wide circle of the viewers in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

I hope and am sure that the film “Open up the frontiers!” will fill the gap which separates and isolates us. I hope and am sure that the film will become the foundation of a frank conversation between our societies. This is the necessary condition for an Armenian - Azerbaijanian dialogue.

Ilia Finezilberg