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South Caucasus
Festival in Vanadzor

south caucasus festival - 2008: sensitive questions

Razmik Sardaryan: The idea of the film festival “Nationality - Human” is very actual and interesting. The problems of the world, the description of individual people’s fate, peace treaties, and peaceful resolutions of conflicts are presented to you in the language of Cinema. The film festival will be something new for our viewers. I’m certain that as a result of the viewing, many interesting discussions will develop, which may give birth to new ideas and approaches. It’s important to keep the discussion going so its result can be presented also to government officials as well.

"punjabi cab" film discussion, september 12

Hamlet Gyulzadyan
Host of festival
Hamlet Gyulzadyan
Mkhitar Gishyan
Mkhitar Gishyan arrived to Vanadzor from Noyemberyan for exchange of experience
Festival in Vanadzor Festival in Vanadzor
Host: My first question will be such: How do we treat people of other nationalities and religions in Armenia and why?

👤 We treat any stranger very badly, because Armenia is multi ethnic country and we’re not used to seeing others. For people in those countries where there are a lot of nationalities it’s easier. And the fact that we Armenians live only among Armenians has a negative psychological reaction on us.

Host: So what you’re saying is that because of that we treat other nationalities badly like for example Indians and Blacks?

👤 There is a man in the film that says people make fun of him because of his beard. Based on that is it possible to consider that he is being discriminated against?

👤 There was a Mohammed in our city. Many of you probably new him he worked on a UN program. Once I caught a few young people that were “conversing” with him with a sense of ridicule in their tone. They were using the fact that Mohammed didn’t understand Armenian very well. I toned them up and shamed them for that.

👤 I also have seen bad treatment of foreigners but to be honest I never took any steps toward it.

👤 Until 1991 they thought kids to be tolerant starting the first grade. And they taught to be good towards one another. Today there aren’t any state enforced laws that control that sphere. The main thing being taught right now is patriotism.

👤 If were going to talk about the film then I’d like to mention the episode where the main character the Sikh refused respond to the blood donation and donate his blood. I think he was wrong in doing so. Every person should take socially meaningful steps without regarding the treatment he receives.

👤 The government can’t regulate the street. There must be changes in every individual person. Do you mean to say that there was no discrimination before 1991?

👤 We generally know the dangers Fascism and Nazism present, for a nation, which is cultivating. And in regards to minorities in Armenia, we don’t have any discrimination. And racism cannot control the relations between the majority and the minority. And if in time Armenians had not been Nationalists we would not have survived as a nation until today. And that’s the reason why Nationalism cannot be100 percent reject able. I’m not completely sure that you can really come to 100 percent equality within any country. So the facts of discrimination are only natural. The same way the Armenians, who are considered to be one of the smartest nations in the world, consider themselves to be minorities in many other countries of the world. And they remain in that status. Not mentioning that all countries take the best from Armenians for the sake of their country’s welfare. And simultaneously they remain equal. If we were well programmed Nationalists, there wouldn’t be such phenomenon as the “brain leakage” factor. In my view the nationalism program gives more of a chance for survival than tolerance, and such a program should be made official.

Georgi Vanyan: I listened to you very attentively and noticed that you said a lot of contradictory things. And I think, that you demonstrated a typical Armenian way of thinking. We don’t have any lawmaking bases in Armenia today that protect and guard those national minorities that stayed in our country. And it is with pain that I recall the words of my teacher Grant Matevosyan, who back when thousands of Azerbaijanis were leaving Armenia said, “It will be a long time before we feel this loss, the weight of this loss. Well, do we feel it? I’d like to ask you ‘what is patriotism, of which we so often talk about?

👤 Patriotism cannot be only verbal, or borrowed. To be a patriot it means to have a family to give birth and grow children and teach them to be real Armenians.

👤 In the film he says they don’t treat him as they fully accept him, but in refusing to donate Blood he himself displays his own unacceptability. Maybe he must take steps toward feeling himself fully accepted.

👤 For example he mentions that the problem is that Americans keep mistaking Indians for Arabs. So the fact of the matter is that Arabs also suffer because of it. So it works out that due to the actions of a certain group of people, there is a change in relations not only to those nationalities, but also to those who are occasionally mistaken for Arabs. And what’s interesting is that because of this unpleasant phenomenon Indians begin to badly treat Americans and Europeans.

Host: Let’s remember the saying; Let the snake, which doesn’t bite me live for a hundred years. Lets leave the Indians in America and concentrate on us. How would you treat the Arabs had they committed the terrorist acts here in Armenia?

👤 Before I answer that question, I’d like to insist on the fact that foreigners feel very comfortable in Armenia compared to other countries. We don’t have any problems.

Host: Interesting, what do you mean when you say problems? When I was in Tbilisi I received very negligent treatment from the police and the representatives of the law, now I don’t have those problems be it when I go on tours or just to visit relatives and close ones. How is it related to people’s way of thinking? On the surface there are only changes on an official level. Recently Georgia’s politics have opened that country for us and we, as foreigners feel very comfortable there. And the motivation of economical profit explains this type of tolerance. I think the same reason explains our tolerance.

👤 I’d like to answer to your question “What would happen if Bin-Laden blew up a building in Armenia?” Our reaction would be the same. The Turks are the same Bin-Laden for us Armenians, and we do not forget that factor. We feel in the inexplicable every time we hear about that country, or when we say the word ”Turk”. And of course we are set towards having bad relations with them. We don’t stop to think about weather that particular person is guilty or not.

Mkhitar Gishyan: I got a chance to socialize with some Turks, the co-organizers of the festival, when I was in Istanbul for the first time. I was surprised by the good treatment Armenians received from the Turks. I think in Turkey there are literally only but a few people, who accept Armenians inadequately. There are very little of them. I’m not saying that we should roll out the red carpet in front of the Turks, all I’m saying is that it would be good if everyone in unison thought in one direction, which would be towards tolerating Turkey.

👤 I’d like to briefly express a few positions. Today Russia is a country, which is our ally, and Turkey is an enemy. Can any one testify that Turkey bring coffins to Armenia, no they are brought to us from Russia. So, who’s our friend now: Turkey or Russia?

👤 When you say that only a few in Turkey who are set against Armenians… Then just recently we saw what Sahakashvili did, who is also one of the few in Georgia…

Host: It just occurred to me, since we’ve decided to enter the EU we must change the image of our ideology completely.

Georgi Vanyan: Armenia is not prepared to discuss its problems with other nations, because every Armenian considers himself to the tolerant of the tolerant. In my opinion our reality is a fascist one, and that reality exposed itself after March 1. Everyone, starting from an ordinary person to a politician, a representative of the law, a representative of the intelligence said the same thing “It doesn’t matter whose fault was it, who started it or why it happened. What’s important is that an Armenian spilled the blood of an Armenian, an Armenian killed an Armenian.” So that means it’s ok to kill Kurds, Greeks and people of other nationalities, but not one of your own…our generation has lost the game …you’re our only hope.

👤 I don’t think we live in a fascist reality, because I don’t see any discrimination to any nationality within my vicinity. And putting a difference between nations doesn’t necessarily mean discriminating. We don’t have any fascism whatsoever. We don’t react to the empanelment of our own culture. We even segregate within ourselves; we put differences between Yerevan, Vanadzor and Gyumri... In reality we need to start loving ourselves, and then we should start discussing relations with other nations. There is a minus of love and honesty toward one another in our relationship to us.

👤 How can we treat Americans who represent different cults, in strict suite with white shirts that are walking around in our streets? Why should I be normal with Americans who are “soul hunting” in our country?

Host: I of course cannot agree with you on the cult growth being a problem. But I know that ignorance is very insulting, and perhaps ignoring the Jehovah witnesses and the Mormons is the best way to battle against it.

👤 Mr. Vanyan I’d like to address to your question on what is patriotism. I will never be able to change my appearance and neither will an American. That which we consider national is on a level of degradation. Armenians in other countries try not to catch anyone’s eye. And the Indians upkeep their traditions of wearing national clothing among other traditions to visually differ from the rest. We for example don’t have a tradition to wear national clothing.

👤 I’d like to say that we have a strange way with clothing, even with the details. Such a thing as wearing a tie or carrying a bag happens to be an important signal. Because of such a uniform a woman in one of our villages came up to me and asked me if I was a Jehovah’s Witness. Meaning our senses is sharpened toward substandard appearances. To us clothes are a cliche and nothing more.

Host: Every one of you has already underlined the problems that disturb them. Lets do something toward taking certain steps or prescribing something in order to make some changes in our reality.

👤 Every one of us must be able to tell him or herself to stop. Otherwise everything will remain the same.

👤 I don’t understand why we have put the problems of tourists and national minorities in one bracket?

Host: I don’t consider it to be frightening, I think everyone of us was discussing the problems that were real to them, in any way; my opinion is that we stayed within the boundaries of the discussion of tolerance.

👤 When a woman wearing a veil walks on our streets it seems strange to us, but our girls will also look strange in any Muslim country. It’s a matter of a stereotype.

Host: I’d like to mention that not in all Muslim countries people dressed in a European style look strange. I’d like to remind you that our discussion began based on the themes hinted to us by the film-the changes towards Muslims that were brought on by the events of 9/11.And I asked you to formulate prescriptions to overcome the problems of which we spoke today. It isn’t necessary to only discuss Armenia; I think that you will have opinions also about Azerbaijan, Georgia and other countries. Please.

👤 I recommend Education. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to sympathize, but you have to be informed any way. What is the right way to organize such an education? To constantly say that people of other nationalities are good to teach their songs? I don’t think that’s necessary. The education must be directed to understanding the culture through knowledge. For example when I don’t understand the meaning of some rituals it’s unpleasant for me to view them. An education and self-education with a correct direction is what’s needed.

👤 I completely agree with you. For example if the Americans knew the meaning of wearing a turban then it wouldn’t be such a strange occurrence for them.

👤 The very same India has laws that protect the life of animals that are considered to be holly and has a specific punishment for harming them. But for an Armenian citizen the law does not specify anything on human relations. We don’t have sharp specifics of what discrimination is, and because of its absence any action can be considered as discrimination. A mechanism of adequate and sharp differences is needed for every single occasion of reaction and punishment. But we don’t have that. That’s why the idea of ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Impatience’ are virtually unattainable, and possess an endless number of interpretations. That’s very important. I don’t wish to be subject to false brandings. Giving this type of advantage to the role, that, tolerance plays, is dangerous.

👤 The thing is that only one out of three thousand Armenians gets the chance to see and feel the world. And for a few of us vacationing on the shores of the black sea in Georgia is accessible that’s all. There are more of us in the counter of responsibilities than that of rights. I saw a show, which was setting everyone toward tolerating Azerbaijanis, it was said that we’re brotherly nations and that we should tolerate them. But how can one simultaneously tolerate Azerbaijanis and serve in the army, which is a must. Why should these young people remove the barriers from within themselves?

Host: What is the right path, eventually?

👤 There shouldn’t be discrimination of Armenians by Armenians. The discrimination is as follows segregation into classes - Armenian from the capitol and not from the capitol, rich and poor. Their relations must become indiscriminative, and with the disappearance of this discrimination we can then begin to think on how to treat other nations. And of course education, and the study of other cultures will be necessary, especially in universities.

👤 Our government could care less about our interests and our opinions. We get help from America Europe and Georgia in that aspect…

My opinion is that after viewing this film, we have changed, and we will change our treatment and our understanding from now on. We all got a chance to feel as an Indian wearing a turban. As long as these kinds of programs are brought to us often and regularly the outcome may be the changes we all are longing for.

👤 I completely agree with you and I’d like to add more. We do have a habit of watching soap operas and then tell them to our friends. It would be great if everyone shares the impressions they got from this film festival. It’s always good to share positive impressions.

👤 For example there were very few people who liked the “Beatles” in the beginning, but that band proved that it deserves the love of many. There is a serious obstacle and that’s confusing the feeling of something new with the feeling of disgust. When we see something unusual we begin to think that it’s the entire world that’s being subject to destruction and not our habits. This is why we need to find a mechanism that would help us to accept something new without any sacrifices. What you already know is not necessarily bad for you. The rejection of something new brings to newer and bigger problems. There must be positive energy towards the new. When the disgust is formed from the beginning then it’s difficult to convince yourself that something new, from which you declined, can be something good.

👤 After all we need a thought process on the level of instincts. The kind of thought process that tells you to treat every person you’re dealing with, as would treat yourself. It’s very important to constantly put yourself in the other person’s shoes. For example one of my girlfriends kept teasing a Chinese by stretching her eyes with her fingers every time she would see him. And so we excluded her from our company because she dishonored the Armenian people with her action.

Georgi Vanyan: So as a fact, it works out that you excluded her because she dishonored the Armenian people and not because she hurt someone’s feelings?

👤 Of course. At that moment I felt really bad that the Chinese person would be thinking negatively about the Armenians.

Georgi Vanyan: We often talk about AIDS and bird flu, but there is a much more dangerous disease called “being and Armenian”. I felt sorry for everyone because they were Armenians, when I joined the Army. I grew up as a terrorist in the same Soviet school and I used to dream about blowing up the Turkish embassy. Only in the Army I understood what’s what and that there are other people besides Armenians. We have a horrible split personality. I, on many occasions happen to hear such discussions as: as a person my opinion is such and such, as an Armenian I think quite the contrary. There was a young lady here who was saying if we don’t respect ourselves how we could respect others. And why do we need to respect one of our own, only because he or she is an Armenian? What’s one of our own and what’s an outsider? Where is the borderline? When Nursun Erel a journalist from Turkey came to Armenia, то give a Master –Class for her young colleagues-the students of the journalism department, during the press conference, after her professional report on the Turkish Press, a correspondent from radio “Freedom» in Armenia, for over ten minutes kept proving the importance of Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide. When I interrupted her speech, and I said, after all you’re here as a journalist, are you going to ask any questions? She answered, “ first and foremost I’m an Armenian, only then a journalist.” I’ll be happy to continue this conversation with you tomorrow.

"bridge over the wadi" film discussion, september 13

Festival in Vanadzor Festival in Vanadzor
Host: I think the film shook you as it did me. I will introduce the theme of today’s discussion and let’s come to an agreement we’ll continue as we did yesterday without going into dialogue with one another, merely express opinions. And so the question; would you like to study in such a school with Azerbaijanians? And how do you imagine this school to be?

👤 With Azerbaijanians?

Host: Well yes. As you noticed in this school the kids were from conflicting zones.

👤 My reaction is very normal to such a school. I personally would help to support this type of school, because I think its and opportunity to relate to one another.

Host: Do you personally imagine yourself on that field of relations?

👤 Yes of course. I would send my own kids to that kind of school. But on one condition and that’s if I personally was acquainted with the teachers. I would first meet the teachers then send my kids to school.

👤 When I was watching how all children even Jewish kids were doing the Muslim praying ritual during the celebration of Ramadan, I asked my friend if she could imagine her child performing a Muslim ritual. It’s very difficult to imagine. Even though I myself am atheist there is no real reason for me to be worried… but at some point I did not feel like myself, I felt how bad what they were doing was.

👤 When I studied in Tbilisi, I made a lot of friends and there were Azerbaijanians among them. We celebrated many holydays one of which was Ramadan as well. But the religious ritual…that which concerned the religious rituals, faith and etc our relations were closed ones. We can celebrate holydays together. But there is a separate meaning a, sacred meaning, which we do not touch even if we are participating in the holyday.

Host: Is it easy to communicate? Do you think that communications are possible and are necessary?

👤 Yes, of course.

👤 A kindergarten is needed for that, not a school. It’s easier for young kids to contribute their perceptions of the world into the concept of the school. Of course I’m not against it and would really want to have friends of different nationalities.

👤 I, for example am against it. Because we are Armenians and us and the Turks used to kill each other. How can we be close with each other when there are so many victims? It’s not always necessary to relate or look for something relative, because there must be a sense of revenge, a sense of pain.

👤 I’d like to say something. We are all discussing globalization. And globalization offers communication between different nations. There is nothing wrong with relations between children of different nationalities. But not in this school! This school is some sort of a political project! Instead of distracting the children from the conflict situation they’re living in and doing everything so the school would be the only safe haven where the kids felt safe… Instead of that it’s as if the school’s main mission is lost, education, solitude from the outside world, and it works out that the children focus even more on the conflict.

👤 I don’t think it’s coincidental that everything begins from the children. The main characters of the movie are also children. A young lady was talking about revenge and memories, but the children aren’t responsible for the history. And the case of relations between children is justified for the sake of the future. That’s why I am for relations. I am not an atheist that’s why the religious factor is very important to me. And I wouldn’t allow my child to perform other religious rituals. I prefer simple relations. Creating a sphere where simple relations would be adequate. And a school is an institution with its own settings, which cannot be the same for absolutely everyone. I wanted to comment on the opinion; there cannot be community education, where there are victims. In any case the formulation of a national self-value must be in the upbringing.

👤 I also don’t agree with being educated together, every nation must learn their own history, which would not be the same for Turks and Armenians.

Host: But we’re talking about an Armenian-Azerbaijanian school…

👤 It’s the same thing.

Host: So what you mean is that we cannot sit together and commonly accept the same historical fact?

👤 Yes and I insist that it’s impossible. We can only communicate from time to time.

👤 We always had hostile feelings toward Azerbaijanis, and had the same hostile feeling toward the influence their religion, culture and art had on ours. And that’s why the opposite process is hardly possible. We always fought against it.

👤 In Armenia, in Vanadzor, in Yerevan … for example, there used to be a school in the Shahumian sovkhose where soviet kids, Armenians and Azerbaijanians, studied together up until 1988 when the system failure.

Host: This is very interesting. That means Azerbaijanis studied about the Armenian Genocide, and it was in the soviet textbooks, wasn’t it?

👤 Yes.

Host: Then what’s the problem?

👤 It’s not necessary to complicate the question and create a school. It’s also possible to create other cultural facilities where it would be made possible to learn about each other’s cultures and be in relations with one another.

👤 I think that it’s impossible to eliminate enmity with only schools, no matter how many of them we created. You saw in the very same film that the kids lived in families that are on the different sides of the conflict. That “school” must be in the family. The opening such school is not the panacea for overcoming the hostility.

Host: Ok, let’s continue the subject and remember the adult figures in the film and their role in the process. For example an adult could have this type of a set up: I cannot forgive an Azerbaijanian but my kid has a right to have a relationship with one. If it was announced one day that Armenians and Azerbaijanians can return to their former place of inhabitance what would your reaction be? What would be your choice if Azerbaijanians returned: would you isolate yourself or would you find a way to communicate?

👤 If it’s all the same I am against relations. There was a scene where the kids were eating together Even in my worst nightmare, I can’t imagine an Azerbaijanian kid coming to my home and sharing bread with my child. An Azerbaijanian will never sit at our table; I will never forgive the death of my father and will teach my child the same.

👤 Now that there is no choice I mean really no choice whatsoever to allow or not to allow your kids to be in relations with Azerbaijanians, I will only allow my child to inherit the negative qualities for relations with them. But if the neighborly life with the Azerbaijanians were reinstated I would think deeply about my righteousness and possibly would give my child freedom of decision in that aspect. I would allow him to have that alternative of his own personal experience of relations, regardless of my own opinion.

👤 For example, the relationship with the Arab boy who thought that terrorists should be punished was a revolutionary event for that Israeli family.

👤 Our fathers and grandfather fought and died. It’s only logical that all nations should be in good relations; every thing would be clearer only if our borders were open. Enemy relations will only beget enmity and vice versa.

Host: I believe here we have returned to the subject of tolerance again and to treating others, as you would like to be treated yourself.

👤 The Azerbaijanians didn’t do anything bad to us in comparison to what the Turks did many years ago. The modern Turks also haven’t done anything bad, but the wounds made by Azerbaijanis are still fresh today. Our wars with Persia were also very cruel, but today Iran is politically considered to be a good neighbor. I just want to say that relations between nations are also a result of politics. And from another side we really don’t have any hatred towards Persians. Possibly it’s a question of time. We must be in peace with the idea that time can be the only healer now. We can’t close our eyes on the law that everything is forgotten in time. We shouldn’t do anything; we shouldn’t try to force or accelerate the events to happen. We should just be in peace with the fact that time is the only healer now.

👤 The Karabakh conflict is our freshest conflict. But why do we feel it necessary to deepen it further and further? Why don’t we act as we do in our other conflicts? For example conflicts with our parents. When it happens we do everything to smooth it out, and that how we react in the majority of conflicts. Why can’t we do the same in the conflict with the Azerbaijanis? We need to differentiate conflicts from relations. During conflicts we need to communicate more.

👤 You can’t compare parents with enemies or generally speak and think that way!

A person from auditorium: For example, in the end of the film the boys are talking about how will they later kill each other. It works out that at that particular moment they love and respect each other, but in the future they’re destined to kill one another.

Host: Perhaps you paid attention to what one of the boys said to the other: Its not up to you to decide, to kill us or not…

👤 The humanitarian law is broken here; this type of a destiny kills everything that’s human in us.

👤 You want to say that it’s only politics. To turn the page over and start from a clean slate – its impossible! Armenian-Turkish resistance is eternal because…

Host: And again you’re off the subject. The question was formed as follows: if the Azerbaijanians return - isolation or relationship? What do you personally consider acceptable and why? What form of neighborly living would you choose for yourself personally?

👤 I will not have any relations with them because they are the same Turks, no matter how they change they will remain the same Turks.

👤 So it works out that two boys are friends and their fate may turn out so that they will kill each other. I think the upbringing plays a major role. If the parents insisted to their children that there is eventually a way out, so when they grow there won’t necessarily be a war - that, would be really important for the kids. Because regardless of weather they have a relationship or not they’re both haunted with the thought of their own future?

👤 I would live with them as neighbors. But only under the condition if that Turk or Azerbaijani would respect my traditions and me. If we’re talking about a specific person there aren’t any problems here.

Host: We remember our victims of war. There are specific memorial days when the Press talks about it, and every one of us feels pain for those who fell on the battlefield. We also know that things were a lot more terrifying, and that people reached the level where they went into battle with sticks in their hands… specifically to kill. We had a lot of casualties, and a whole army of people had personal losses. And of course they weren’t obligated to think that those who died -also killed. Meaning, for those people it was apparent that naturally Azerbaijanians were guilty in it all. And so? What do we have to do, divide into two sides? Those who have relatives that were killed and won’t hear of any relations, and those who don’t have killed relatives and they will communicate with Azerbaijanians? There may be other situations such as a group of people who does not care for relationships with Muslims. Is that how it works out?

I have a question: If you see an Azerbaijanian man walking down the street and an Armenian woman attacks him and is literally tearing him into peaces what would your reaction be? You can comment on the vice versa situation as well if you wish, an Azerbaijanian woman attacking an Armenian man. It doesn’t matter.

👤 We lived together with Azerbaijanians in our village without any discrimination. But as soon as something would tense up at the top, our relations would worsen…and those people left our village in one night… Therefore I think if they return, perhaps something else will happen that will make them leave again…because it’s not difficult to recreate tension. However relations on a human level are possible...

👤 When I dealt with Azerbaijanians in Tbilisi we avoided painful questions…

Host: Why do you keep avoiding my question? And why do you turn this question into a subject that’s a painful one? I explained the situation and I’m waiting for a response. Please.

👤 We must understand what kind of a great pain could have provoked her outburst…

Host: Once again I must ask you to subordinate and answer, what would your actions be in the given situation?

👤 I don’t understand, but I can imagine what kind of a strong pain would have forced her actions. I consider that in any way she does not have the right to see a murderer in every single Azerbaijanian. And I would attempt to stop her and explain to her not to do so.

👤 During the Soviet Union we allowed them to live with us, and what were the results? I am simply disgusted when I hear the majestic accent when the given fact is spoken about. The history repeated it self. And if an Armenian woman were beating an Azerbaijanian man I would do everything so the police could not see it or protect her from anyone that would get in her way.

👤 I wouldn’t blame the woman. She probably has a right to do so.

A person from auditorium: There are two truths here. One is - revenge, and the second is – assault and battery is not allowed. I think she has a right to do so.

👤 We keep repeating our historical mistakes. And in the situation you described, my opinion is, if we imagine what could have made her to take that step, and we can only imagine something terrible, that forced her to assault a person, we need to understand her as well. But I would try to stop her anyway.

Host: The thing is that I didn’t want you to go into national differences and national motives of the act. I even said to discuss an opposite situation. I need you to express your reaction…OK lets remember an episode from the film where the teacher had to explain herself in front of her colleagues for infusing her own opinion on the kids by reminding them of the pain that was inflicted on her people by the Jews. The question is as follows: must the teachers forget their own feelings and teach without any feelings whatsoever, absolutely neutral or not? Are teacher-angels who leave their personal at home needed or what?

👤 I think, no matter how painful the personal problem is, but when the teacher comes to work to kids of many different nationalities he or she must do everything not to be the reason for stirring up hatred between the children. And the part about the woman’s outburst… it’s also human.

Host: Meaning she’s right?

👤 I don’t think so, but she is guilty of letting it happen in front of the kids.

👤 I thought those classes were not very organized… what parent would want or allow their son to die? An atmosphere is needed. I know for a fact that there are still Azerbaijanis living and working among us under their own last names, and some of them are teachers, who kept their places. These people can never be considered enemies because enmity is only on the surface. The reason is not that teacher’s outburst. The reason is that she herself resides in a zone of conflict where those kinds of thoughts are dictated – meaning dictated from the general atmosphere in which she lives. That’s why she’s got problems in a school where there is a population of Israeli kids.

👤 Well generally, if for example an Azerbaijanian comes here what am I going to do? I will try not to put an accent on his nationality, and if it turns out that he is an Azerbaijanian and someone tries to offend him, I will not allow it.

👤 I think a teacher’s job is very difficult, because regardless of yourself, you try to influence something onto the children. She had a right to do what she did after all. Because when you’re realizing that you are working with two different nationalities you have to put your “I” aside.

👤 It’s always been said that a child is not responsible for the actions of the parent. Why don’t they ever say if that law works during conflicts? Why should there be any difference between children? In the very same film, why do they get treated within the context of their nationality? Why isn’t the idea where as the child does not carry responsibility for the parent’s action at work there?

👤 If we’re talking about Armenia, from an educational point of view, then we must mention that every teacher has limitations from programs provided by the government. And if the government makes a decision that Azerbaijanians must return then everything will be conducted with ease. Because the same press, the same television will be working in the direction that will be needed at that time. And the same people who are saying they won’t let their kids to communicate with Azerbaijanis, after video editing will calmly change their minds. Meaning, I think it would be great if specifically this method were used if anything was to happen. After all only a very powerful country can allow itself to have enemies.

👤 If the soldiers from the border patrol can communicate with each other holding guns in their hands, then what are we talking about?

👤 We often say that the government is to blame, and not us…Lets for example check out the site “Odnoklassniki. Ru”, on that site you can see clearly how the Azerbaijanis respond to relations. For example I saw a formulation that for Azerbaijanians it’s a war and not politics and we won’t accomplish anything through eternal enmity. But it’s very important how adequate the Azerbaijanians are.

Host:Today we spoke about how in due time or even today we are prepared again to live side by side with Azerbaijanians. But to accept them here and discuss what they’re thinking there, will be unthankful of us. We know very little of what they think, and unfortunately we don’t have the possibility to know…

"enemies of happiness" film discussion, september 14

Festival in Vanadzor
Here is my today’s question: Do you feel protected by the Constitution?

👤 I consider myself protected because I achieved what I wanted using the Constitution. Everyone must look at that document as a weapon against the wealthy instead of looking at it as a peace of paper with descriptions. That’s why every citizen in Armenia must know the constitution and everything concerning his/her rights.

👤 Armenia is still on the path of establishing itself, that’s why none of us have the feeling of full protection and assurance of our rights.

Georgi Vanyan: What do you mean, tell us what is the formulation of “the path of establishing itself”? When you read the Constitution do you feel protected?

👤 Yes.

Georgi Vanyan: In that case, what is it that prevents the Constitution from being functional?

👤 The Constitution doesn’t function because; there is no regard to it as, it, being a necessary document. And the community illiteracy is holding life back from changing toward better.

Georgi Vanyan: I wanted to say that in my point of view, not only for Armenia but also for the entire South Caucasus region. The right to live is the most important thing for us. The recent event showed us that any one of us, our families can become a target, we can get bombarded, and that our lives are in danger every single minute. Only the communities in the bordering areas realize that this right, the right to live is being violated.

👤 I just think the laws aren’t functioning and as a result citizens take the law into their own hands. For example there is such a thing, as freedom of speech, only when a journalist uses that right he becomes subject to pressure, not direct pressure, one in a different sphere, a personal sphere. All of us have feeling of self worth, but it constantly gets belittled and no one addresses to those who are there to serve and protect those rights.

Host: Have you ever addressed them yourself?

👤 I didn’t have a reason to.

Host: I think the problem lies within our neutrality. When you see some one’s rights are being violated, has it ever occurred to you to take some sort of an action?

👤 No. I believe everyone must protect him or herself.

Host: Young lady, are you a student?

A young lady: No, I’ve already graduated.

Host: So do you mean to say that through out the entire course of your study, your rights were never violated, not once?

A young lady: Yes. (Laughs)

👤 I believe every person, regardless of everything, can insure self-protection and feel him or herself in safety. When my family’s rights were being violated, the government and the press whose duty it is to get involved – didn’t help us. No one supported us. But our family, whose rights were at stake, accomplished the reinstatement of our rights without any public support. Others will never protect themselves, but there is always a mechanism, there is always an resource, there is always a chance to solve your own problem, regardless what country you reside in.

👤 The thing is say for example there is a law protecting animals, they can’t necessarily know about it… you can not confuse knowledge with practice. That cannot be an excuse. Is there a structure where I can obtain that knowledge? For example to find out where can I get my teeth fixed for free?

👤 My opinion is that our Constitution, which is copied from several European Constitutions, does not reflect our reality and our social problems. Currently in Armenia – after the changes in the Constitution – the parts about the free education and free medical care have disappeared. But the problems haven’t disappeared. Meaning all that has been removed from real life. The Constitution is like an agreement. And we are at fault for leaving out of the constitutional process. I am aware, but I don’t feel protected. I also addressed to several resources with my problems, and accomplished nothing.

Host: How many of you who accurately know this, can tell me the following; what does he/she owe the government and what does the government owe him/her?

👤 If you please, I’d like to answer the first question. While there is corruption…

Host: Do not distract us from the topic please. Corruption was, is, and will be… its human nature.

Georgi Vanyan: I protest. You’re pressuring the speaker.

👤 Of course corruption will not disappear, but it can be lowered to such a level where it won’t play a major role in preventing citizens from realizing their rights. I myself like to get involved in human rights and I think school is a good basis to get interested in the given subject.

👤 Mister Vanyan considers the conflict to be the reason for our insecurity. My opinion is that that’s a very unprecedented approach. The event of 9/11 showed us that even the USA is unprepared for an attack. The violation of the right to live – is a global threat.

👤 My personal opinion is that our salvation depends from citizen’s ability to learn how to protest. Protest as it self holds a negative meaning in our minds. We need to understand that it’s not a bad thing.

👤 I have a question for the host. Do you feel protected while you’re conducting this discussion here, today?

Host: No. If someone doesn’t like the way I’m conducting it I could get pressured from the top. I don’t have any security guarantees.

That which is free, ends up costing a fortune like the hospitals for example. It’s better to pay then fall hostage to the free medical care.

👤 I want to ask something. What are we talking about? Who or what do we need to be protected or secured from?

Host: We want to hear “Your “ opinion on the topic.

👤 These laws are written on paper and a few people wrote them. It wasn’t done for us it was done for the world society. And when we’re talking about security, then we have security the Armenian way, our own kind of security. And it’s proven to work for many years. And the people protect themselves as well. You know about this method of self defense very well.

👤 In order for something to change an overwhelming power is needed, which I don’t see. I myself feel protected because I am open and just in front of god. (Please don’t think that I am overly religious, I just can’t put it in other words). I defend myself with my cleanliness. I protect myself by not doing anything bad or evil. Every person must find his or her own way of defense.

👤 You are encouraging primitive communal system! Perhaps we should take the spears and go hunting on mammoths?

Host: I protest. Do not attack and upraise yourselves! You can express your opinion and explain why you disagree.

👤 I really don’t like these discussions. It’s only an extra formality. If a person wants to do something, he/she will get it done, without any conversations, and without telling anyone about his/her intensions. Our discussions are not related in any way with our actions.

👤 We don’t have a Constitution and we live by unwritten laws.

Host: So you’re saying, what’s not allowed for you is not allowed for everyone else.

👤 No, not always.

👤 Why do you confuse a person’s security with his rights, all the time? As long as I have the support from my background, I am protected. And that’s enough for me.

Georgi Vanyan: I don’t agree with the comment that there is no power to make changes. I don’t agree with the comment that discussion is unnecessary. I think every one of us needs to be heard and to create that possibility for them. At the risk of repeating myself I’d like to say the following: We get hit over the head as a result of our unstable condition, which is no war and no peace. And when you simply hear in a discussion where it’s stated, “National Interests are a higher priority then the Constitution”, that basically brings it to the point where the Constitution equals zero.

Razmik Sardaryan, epilogue: Everything worked out as we imagined. And it’s important to continue the festival, and it must be made possible to continue the conversation we started to broaden it and elevate its quality. I can’t but not mention one situation: it’s a real pity, even though the festival is running its second year, its ideas and questions: what is the purpose of this festival, what kind of results is it supposed to accomplish, are still pending. There is no unity, no sense of unification of the festival in the entire South Caucasus. We are absolutely unaware of what was done in the other points where it was held. Also a lot of organizations were left out. The festival wasn’t a one-time event for us in the “Youth Canal”. We contemplated on everything a few months in advance: organized questions and the content of discussions. Unfortunately we received the films a few days before the festival. And the selection of the films plays a major role on how the sequence of the shows will be formed - that’s one of the key elements of the festival. We and the host had to spend a few nights on the eve of the festival, to watch 9 films in a hurry, and reconsider how were going to conduct everything to the last detail. I thank the guests of the festival from Georgia. I’m hoping the festival will continue and we will have an opportunity to invite guests from Azerbaijan as well.
P.S. I have to admit, in comparison with the other four points of the project; in Vanadzor I never heard any complaints about the festival or any of the films propagandizing any ideas, or to be forcing any opinions. Everyone really viewed the films with great interest and preparedness after which they discussed the results with the same giddiness. But for the sake of justice I’d like to bring as an example some of the lobby interviews, which disagreed with majority’s point of view.

👤 You have probably formed an opinion that our society is very active, its not so. All are clever in talking. And you know if you look how the very same people act in real life you will see that they do quite the opposite of what they say. What’s more is that the difference is always toward the bad side.

👤 I actually don’t understand, why do we have to talk about politics after these films. The films themselves are already interesting. It would be better to gather professionals and have professional discussions about the films as a product of cinematography that is a part of world documentary films. All these discussions and conversations are just a waste of time…

Recorded by Luiza Poghosyan
Participants of discussions: inhabitants of Vanadzor, representatives of town administrations, political parties and NGOs, artists, journalists, teachers and students Marina Meshvildishvili, Head of 15 NGO coalition «Tskhinvalskiy Dom» Irakli Chikhladze, journalist, Georgi Vanyan, jury member, festival director in Armenia

Organization of festival in Noyemberyan: NGO «Youth Canal»
Chairman: Razmik Sardaryan


Mayor of Vanadzor Samvel Darbinyan
«Youth Canal» volunteers
A television talk show was organized within the festival the participants of which were the organizers, the guests of the festival, representatives of NGOs and political parties functioning in Vanadzor, and journalists.
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)