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South Caucasus
Festival in Gyumri

south caucasus festival - 2008: the sense of measure

Ashot Mirzoyan: I really wish for the festival to return to Gyumri so that all of us could find ourselves at the celebration of art, equality and justice. This festival “Nationality-Human” first of all it’s an experience and to be exact it’s a co-experience. Our center (The Center of City Research) is a network of people who are working in the Caucasus region to activate the processes of getting close with one another and the exchange, and development in our societies.

When the festival in 2007 was over we all admitted that we don’t often see a project where there is so much “cleansing” knowledge as there is in the content of the festival films. The fact that our viewers, especially the teenagers didn’t leave the audience and participated in the discussions, disregarding the fact of the unfamiliar format of the one and a half hour long movie, says a lot!

"bridge over the wadi" film discussion, september 16

Martina Tichov
Festival coordinator
Martina Tichov
👤 Loyalty to your own religion is as important as tolerance.

👤 Of course it’s necessary to be a peacemaker, but I think the Arabs are at fault for not returning the Jews their historic lands.

Host: The Arabs live on that land close to 2000 years. That’s why it’s a difficult question. Would you attend such a school?

👤 I would gladly go, because it’s important to know whom you’re in conflict with.

А teacher: Yeah, during the Soviet period we had such schools, but would a child who went to such a school and graduated from it survive or be able to live fully in our today’s reality?

А teacher: My opinion is that we need other people’s conflicts in order to be able to analyze ourselves. And one more thing, we don’t even have the minimum of the freedom here.

А teacher: Concerning the freedom, our schools are transferring to new methods; there are reforms, which give the teachers new opportunities for teaching and making the organization of the classes more interesting.

We had different nations that lived together and went to school. Arabs just need to study own history in detail, in order to fully understand where does the justice lie.

Host: I have a question about the last episode. I’d like to ask you, what do you think will these boys shoot at each other?

👤 Even if they do become soldiers, they don’t necessarily need to kill. Host: Meaning if an order was given you would refuse to shoot?

👤 Yes.

Host: Bravo.

👤 I believe a personal opinion is more important and you mustn’t submit to authorities.

Host: Exactly what I would have done? This is why we are speaking about the freedom of speech, democracy that is where our right to have a personal opinion is, to have our own opinion about the conflict. I would like to remind you the episode where the two little girls are discussing the relationships between men and women with one of the girl’s father. What do you think, are discussions as such important?

👤 If there is honesty between parents and children, then the parents will be able to raise their children correctly so they don’t break the laws of the given nation.

А teacher: I also agree, there is nothing wrong when children discuss the standards of relationships between the sexes. But to be compliant to religious limitations and taboos is also right. The important thing is for the children to understand that you must not break those laws secretly.

Host: Who did you like the most in this film?

👤 The girl who cried when she heard of the in justices that were conducted by her people.

👤 The teacher did not have a right to make the Jewish kids grieve even if Arabs are grieving that day. Every one should grieve and celebrate, as they want.

👤 But if they all go to the same school, it isn’t necessary to celebrate your national holiday with such commotion when for other people it’s a day of grievance. That’s not good.

👤 But the Israelis only returned the land that belonged to their forefathers.

Host: And in the process they offended Arabs...

👤 But it’s their land the land of the Jews...

Host: And how could we convince the Arabs of that?

👤 Documents must be shown to the Arabs and to prove them that they are newcomers and don’t have any rights to those lands.

Host: We mustn’t forget of moral values. You can’t force someone out of his or her home.

Marco, the special guest: It’s a very difficult film for a young audience. Lets focus on something like this would you attend such a school if you imagined that there is such a school in your country. It’s important of course to adapt to living with those who differ from us due to religion or the color of the skin.

Martina Tichov: I find the following interesting, if, for example there was such a school in Karabagh , how would the history be taught?

Host: The answer was in the film, because it also shows the methods of comparison teaching, where the student can get a general view on the basis of many different hypothesizes. In our case it’s impossible as of right now. Because the reality differed from the existing hypothesizes.

"encounter point" film discussion, september 17

Tamuna Gurchiani
Festival assistant
Tamuna Gurchiani
Host: Here is a question in regards to the film. Is it possible to forgive the killer of your own son?

👤 When you forgive you are not demeaned you rise above the one who did something bad to you – and he won’t go on doing it any more.

Host: What do you think, is it right to create a forum of parents, Arabs, Jews who lost their children.

👤 Yes, let them help each other because a common pain unites them.

Host: Second project that was show in the film was concerning the creation of a common newspaper for the youth. And we saw that the majority of the society wasn’t supporting the idea, but there is hope that the youth can bring changes.

Marco: You are the generation, which must live in peace, except how will peace be achieved? Everyone has one life and we must help one another.

Host: You can ask Marco questions about Iran, the youth of Iran and the schools. Female senior student: In your schools do they have a subject on civics?

Marco: People think that Persians are the same Arabs, but in comparison with the Arabs we have a lot more freedom, and the limitations in the sphere of our studies are strictly tied with the religion. Of course in that aspect we are very distant from Europe.

Host: I have a question. Is it possible to create an Armenian – Azerbaijanian forum of parents who lost their children in the conflict?

👤 I think there are very strong NGO, which can create such an institution.

Host: I have another question. What other, new conflicts in South Caucasus do you know of?

👤 There is a conflict between Russia and Georgia. Georgia and Russia are arguing over Ossetia. I think it would be for the best if Ossetia stayed in Russia, Russia helped Ossetians the most.

Host: How did you find out about that conflict?

👤 From Russian television.

Host: Haven’t you ever considered that the information could be one sided, because Russia is the side which has the most interest in that question.

A girl during one of the discussions: What’s the matter, they didn’t have negotiations in 1915 with the Turks, and there weren’t any smart people involved in those negotiations? And if dialogue is such a good thing why do we call for other countries to get involved in the solutions of our conflicts?

"enemies of happiness" film discussion, september 18

Ashot Mirzoyan
Festival host in Gyumri
Ashot Mirzoyan
Host: What do you think, does the heroine of the film have the right to be chosen for the parliament or she must subordinate to the Shariath? Please tell us the fundamentals of your position.

👤 Men and Women – they are all people who have the right to participate in elections, because they are people.

Host: What prevents women from realization of this right?

👤 My opinion is the laws were against her.

Host: But her problems were in the family, among the close ones and not with the law. What’s the way out for her, to comply with the family’s opinion or is there an alternative?

👤 I think everyone has the right to be free. She must do what she wants.

Host: A question is put here in the film: To comply with society’s opinion or go against it? Where do you think we need to start in order to soften the contradictions and find the points that touch?

👤 The laws should be changed.

Host: Meaning the Shariath needs to be changed?

Tamuna Gurchiani: I think that women should not depend on protection from men and defend themselves.

The girl from the Peace Corpse: You don’t have the Shariath, but there are problems women’s in social lives. There are difficulties for women in social activities. Female senior student: In my opinion we don’t have any problems. Only the boys have more freedom. Us, girls have to come home early. The boys control the free time that’s at their disposal.

👤 I think that since every one primarily is created as an equal she has the right to do anything she wants and she must feel that she is worth it.

Host: But statistically we have very few women in the parliament and the government. There is something in the family upbringing that prevents women from realization. For example how do your parents react when you, girls wish to periodically participate in social events and leave to meet other people as often as you wish? Will you have problems?

👤 Well Hasmik and I for example are in such a position that our parents don’t create any obstacles, they even help us.

Host: Is it the same for everybody here?

👤 We all know that us the girls aren’t always allowed to go to places and when we are then its to specific places that we are allowed to go.

Host: Why were you not allowed to go to Kars for ac project, for example?

👤 My parents told me they didn’t know the people very well, whom I was going to travel with, I agreed with them and willingly did not go.

Marco: Excuse me, but I have seen huge restrictions in Armenia that were tied with ‘namoos’ which holds a royal position in people’s minds. For example how many girls can come home at 2 o’clock in the morning?

A teacher: And in the USA don’t parents worry when their children come home late?

👤 My father wouldn’t allow me, of course. Then again I really don’t feel like wandering around in the night.

👤 Every person has a sense of measure. Us, girls, decide when to go home in cooperation with that feeling.

Marco: Of course everyone has a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. For example a divorce in Armenia is good for a man and for a woman it’s a tragedy. She looses all her chances and must stay at home. A divorced woman in Armenia simple cannot get out of the house. In many cases a girl doesn’t have a choice in the marriage because she is under her father or brother’s influence.

👤 It depends on the woman. She can disobey one or the other if she has chosen a husband for herself. From another point of view if the husband turns out not to be a good one, then it doesn’t matter who chose the husband. There is also a reverse effect – a lot of times when you disobey, your parents wash their hands because they don’t want to restrict their child, and tell her “do as you wish”. That’s also not good. It’s nice when the parents aren’t getting in the way but freely speak their minds out. You cannot refuse your child of moral support.

👤 I’d like to say this for Marco especially that I have a lot of women friends that are very happy in their second marriage.

Marco: But the society’s view is against it.

👤 Society’s view - that’s the people that surround me, and I know for a fact that those women don’t have any difficulties.

Host: You don’t need to feel ashamed when you speak about problems. Be honest. Regretfully the suppression of truth is also our problem.

👤 Why would I lie? (Smiling) I am being honest, within the people that are a part of my life I know many women that are on their second marriage. Believe me I know them very well and see them quite often. It all depends on the person; it’s only after the marriage that you find out who is a good spouse and who is a bad one. And I personally know women that left their first husbands who weren’t very successful and are quite happy with their second choice. The treatment they receive is a NORMAL one.

The girl from the Peace Corpse: I already reside in Armenia 4 months and I have to say the “Red Apple “law makes me very nervous. How is it possible to live in those conditions? What is your opinion?

👤 Yes but we aren’t asking you. What are the laws where you live? Are there any of them that are bad for you or you don’t agree with?

A teacher: I’d like to explain to the guests what the “Red Apple” is, it’s not a law it’s a tradition that has been formally kept, as a ritual, but has lost its meaning with the development of society. Our traditions change with our lives. And about that tradition specifically – I agree with the children, there is no actual problem with it. Of course it doesn’t make sense-comparing Armenia with Afghanistan. There are other traditions in the world that are demeaning to human dignity, for example polygamy or merchandizing of women. What I see is, that today’s youth is on the right track.

The girl from the Peace Corpse: The second part of the question is for the girls. How do you imagine your life – at work or in the kitchen? Female senior student: Both, why do we have to choose?

👤 I personally imagine my wife in the kitchen. And I will do everything to provide her with the necessities, so she wouldn’t have to work.

Ashot Mirzoyan, conclusion of the festival: The main object of the discussions after the showing of the films was to bring out the global problems and human rights that exist in our region as well. Each film had its own subject of discussion: attempts to resolve the Arab – Israeli conflict from a social side, the results which atrocities of war bring into the lives of individual people, public’s attempts to avoid conflicts, the idea of forgiveness, racial discrimination, which exists not only in third world but in developed countries as well, a woman’s fight in order to find her worthy place in active public life, problems with the image of an enemy among others. The Nagorny Karabakh problem and the Georgian - Ossetian - Russian resistance also became subjects of discussions. Also interesting opinions about well-kept family traditions in Gyumri were heard.

Recorded by Luiza Poghosyan
Participants of discussions: senior students and teachers from the schools of Akhurik, Acika, Azatan, Akhurian, Maissian, and Arevik villages, Martina Tichov, festival coordinator in South Caucasus, Tamuna Gurchiani, festival assistant in South Caucasus.

Organizer and host of the festival in Gyumri: Ashot Mirzoyan
City Research Center (CRC)
The showing of the films was done, as two shows at a time and people from each county would come to each show. The show was accompanied with the host’s brief tour of the films followed by an explanation of the conflict’s meaning or the problem as well as the facts and the occurrences, which were described in the film.
South Caucasian Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights in Armenia implementing by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives with support of Eurasia partnership foundation - Armenia and the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)