Perpetual War or Perpetual Peace?

Perpetual War or Perpetual Peace?
Published in “Panorama”, Institute of War and Peace Reporting, July 2004

Hikmet Hajizade, Vice-President of FAR Centre, Baku

13 June 2004

“And how is the Karabakh conflict?” a famous Pakistani journalist
asked me at a seminar in a small German town. “Just the same, the
conflict continues, there’s no peace, no war,” I replied. “How
interesting,” he said with a smile. “The break-up of the USSR began
with this conflict. Now the USSR no longer exists and the conflict is
still continuing?”

Yes, on the whole things are pretty much the same. But we can notice
some changes which are unfortunately changes for the worse. What I
have in mind is Azerbaijani public opinion on the Karabakh issue,
which could be described as close to despair. “It’s impossible to
fight, Russia is behind Armenia, while the West is stubbornly
demanding a peace settlement to secure it’s investments in Azerbaijani
oil. Negotiations, with all possible mediators, have been going on
for years and lead to nothing. Oil diplomacy (our oil in return for
Western support on the Karabakh issue) has brought no
results. People’s diplomacy, sponsored by the West, has also failed?”
So there is a growing feeling in society that Azerbaijan is betrayed
and besieged on all sides. Society is close to a frustration which has
begun to be expressed in uncontrolled hatred and its desperate
manifestations very similar to what is happening in the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“And we understand this despair and hatred,” well-known Armenian
journalist Mark Grigorian told me several years ago at a conference in
Tbilisi. “First it was you who were victorious for a long time (it
seems he meant the Armenian-Turkish conflicts of the last thoutsand
years) and we it was us who hated you. Now we have defeated you and
you are hating us…”

I didn’t have an answer to this piercing observation, I just felt
despair. What is the solution here? If, inshallah, we manage to
defeat them, then they will hate us again and we will carry on
destroying each other till the end of the world. Are we to have
perpetual war?

It seems that the question “who, in the end, finally won in history”
is one of the main questions, if not the prime question, in the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Of course the issues of protecting the
rights of national minorities and of individuals are important and so
is the role of the super-powers. But “who, in the end, finally
won…?” is still more important for us?

But of course there will be no final victory here, only perpetual
despair and hatred and it is time we all understood this. And
generally whichever of the opposing sides “won” a certain round in
this millenium-long dispute failed to understand this. Today Armenia
has won and it now wants to “cooperate” with us, hoping that
cooperation will heal the wounds of defeat. But it is not working:
“There can be no cooperation with the occupiers of our land,” even new
head of state Ilham Aliev said recently and his words reflect public
opinion in Azerbaijan.

As long as this problem is unsolved no road can lead us to peace. Even
if well-intentioned international powers force peace on us, our hatred
will only be driven deep inside us and could flare up again.

Our mentality, our view of the world and history, have to change. We
have to understand that all these “noble historical victories” were
nothing but the pillage and violent eviction of neighbours in the era
of a battle of all against all for limited resources — and that now
these resources over which we destroyed each other have lost whatever
value they once had.

Our confrontational mentality can’t be changed by “third forces” or
written constitutions and ratified European conventions on human
rights. It can change only as a result of honest and free discussion
conducted by citizens of a free country. So I believe that for
perpetual war to be replaced by perpetual peace our countries should
become democratic. Or as Kant wrote in his “Perpetual Peace”: “The
Civil Constitution of Every State (that wants perpetual peace) Should
Be Republican”.

Before beginning negotiations (negotiations with international
mediators, bilateral negotiations or negotiations within the framework
of people’s diplomacy), the parties ought to pay attention to
themselves! The parties ought to become republics, free and diverse
discussions have to begin in their societies about anything and
everything that is of concern to their citizens. The societies have to
find the civic courage in themselves to throw off their historical
ghosts and discuss the problem of perpetual war and perpetual
peace. And if the international community wants to help our countries
establish Perpetual Peace, it should stop spending money on senseless
“joint projects and research” and help our countries become honest and
open, help them become democratic. Democracies do not fight one

As for Azerbaijan, which is sunk in its internal political despair and
internal political apathy, then I have to forecast that Karabakh,
which we have desired all this time, won’t return until we build a
democratic society. Even if Azerbaijan is three times as strong as
Armenia, the world won’t allow a government which oppresses its
citizens to extend its inhuman rule to the Armenian national minority?

I don’t intend to forget about the influence of third forces or the
role of superpowers in fanning the conflict but I believe that first
we have to get to grips with ourselves and then it will be clearer
what we should do about third forces?

Earlier this year I met Mark Grigorian again in Durban, South Africa,
at the Third Assembly of the Word Movement for Democracy. Mark had had
to leave his country and move to London because he was being
persecuted in Armenia for his journalistic work. I was also reluctant
to leave the fairytale beauty of Durban to go home to a country which,
after the presidential elections at the end of 2003, had suffered a
massive crackdown on opposition activists and protestors.

It occurred to me later that, without agreeing to do so, neither of us
uttered a word about the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. Mark showed me
the wounds left by the exploding grenade which had left 32 pieces of
shrapnel in his body which pro-government forces had thrown at him. I
told him about torture in our prisons which our citizens who protested
against mass vote-rigging in the presidential elections endured.

No desire emerged to destroy one another, even in argument. The desire
emerged to help one another?