The Unexpected Visit of Vahe Avetian to Baku: What Was it About?

My friend Vahe Avetian made some serious waves this week. He loves to do this: to break through to a person’s conscious by outrageous behavior, by unconventional means. Remember Salvador Dali’s long, thin, upwards-curling moustache? Everyone remembers his face because of the moustache.

My friend Vahe Avetian made some serious waves this week. He loves to do this: to break through to a person’s conscious by outrageous behavior, by unconventional means. Remember Salvador Dali’s long, thin, upwards-curling moustache? Everyone remembers his face because of the moustache.

It’s the same with Vahe:

Now, most people know that there exists an Armenian writer and émigré, Vahe Avetian, and he is asking the Armenian and Azerbaijani people to make peace with one another.

But instead of a curled-up moustache, he’s taken a different approach: he bought a plane ticket and flew to Baku. And in doing so, he went beyond the bounds of the everyday. That is to say, in a different sort of way, he went bug-eyed and curled up the ends of his moustache, like Dali.

How is this usually done? How does an Armenian visit Azerbaijan, or vice – versa? The organization inviting an Armenian colleague would announce their intention to the Office of the President, where the celestial beings would think it over and, if they believed the visit should be allowed, then the Armenian colleague would be met by bodyguards on the border, and would be vigilantly watched over for the duration of the trip. The situation was the same with Azerbaijani NGO activists in Armenia: permission was requested, the activist would be met and guarded.

Vahe’s arrival without a request to the government, and his deportation, put a question on the agenda: what’ll happen next?

We imagine that others will follow in Vahe’s footsteps. Will all Armenians be deported? There was, after all, a scandal in Moscow in which a Russian citizen with an Armenian last name was not allowed on a plane to Baku. This was an incident overflowing with disgrace.

How is this deportation in accordance with the Constitution of Azerbaijan, with the international laws we’ve signed on to? We’re spending billions to improve our image and with one move we reduce it all to nothing?

And in general, what sort of policy is Azerbaijan pursuing? President Ilham Aliyev has repeated a hundred times over that we are trying to resolve this conflict peacefully. Peacefully – how so? By not allowing regular Armenians and Azerbaijanis to meet one another? By deporting an Armenian writer that dared to say that he loves Azerbaijanis? By dragging through the mud the name of Akram Aylisli, a distinguished writer beloved by the people, who dared to state his love for Armenians and the Armenian Church? By stuffing school programs with hatred towards Armenians? By broadcasting, via radio and television, a campaign of ethnic hatred towards Armenians? And this is called preparing the people for an honorable and peaceful resolution of the conflict on the basis of a mutual compromise?

Who do you take the people for? This is called the propaganda of hate and war! By the way, there’s an article in international law applying to this too. This is a notice to all Armenian and Azerbaijani hardcore patriots who majorly incriminate themselves in a rage of hoorah-patriotism. After all, under Nazism it was considered an expression of patriotism to insult and demean Jews. Later on it came back to bite these patriots in a serious way…

Let’s think for a second of a different model situation. In this model, it is not the marching orders of Russian diplomatic and intelligence organizations that hold sway, but rather considerations of rationality, human dignity, and, forgive me for my pragmatism, simple political gain which suggest to our leaders that they need to respect international and Azerbaijani laws. On the border, they put a stamp in Vahe’s passport and say, “Welcome!” I will say with my hand on my heart that Vahe, not expecting this, would leave the arrival zone, at a loss. There I would be waiting for him, because I read his announcement on Facebook, saying “Hey everyone, I’m flying to Baku!” We would hug, I would say to him “Xoş gelmisen”, would drive him to a dacha on Bilgah, where we would lie on cots on the veranda and talk, while looking at the stars. In the morning, we would have breakfast, and I would take him to the shores of the Caspian, where he would get his feet wet and, if he wished, we would go for a swim. Then I would drive him to see the monument to the victims of the Khojaly Massacre, and he would lay flowers there. Then I would take him to the Taza Pir Mosque, where he would read a prayer for the souls of the murdered innocents, as he had wanted to do. Then we would drive around the city, I would show him my favorite city. Then I would gather all the people that know him in Baku, and we would celebrate his arrival. We would drink toasts to further such trips, by Armenians to Baku, and Azerbaijanis to Yerevan, so that, finally, peace would arrive all the more quickly, on the basis of mutual compromises…

Then would come October 11, and I, with others of his friends, would take him to the airport and sit him on the plane to Frankfurt.

What would happen? Would the world turn upsidedown? Would Vahe fly away, taking with him the plan for the Azerbaijani Army’s general offensive on Karabakh? No. One brick would be laid in the building of mutual trust and understanding. Just one brick. And that’s all…

Nowadays, on the Internet, a wonderful opportunity has appeared to show yourself, to shove your first-class patriotism in everyone’s faces. Armenian and Azerbaijani patriots unite in friendly harmony to berate Vahe. To the former, he’s a traitor (what he betrayed, or what the damage is nobody can say), for the latter he’s a snake in the grass, entrusted with the most treacherous Armenian plans against Azerbaijan. If we ignore the paid KGB trolls and their comments, then we must admit, the last thirty years of propaganda in Armenia and Azerbaijan have done their job. Through these comments, as Vahe writes, we can see the ugly mug of a united “Khachobaijani people” in all its savageness and bigotry.

Fortunately, there are other comments – they are few, but they exist: human, kind-hearted, and dignified.

Vahe lives in Sweden. He’s lived there for a long while. He’s become unaccustomed to the grizzly Caucasus. He doesn’t remember that regular European (read: human) laws don’t work here. There, it’s not considered acceptable to subject people to discrimination for political, national or racial and religious reasons (as is written in our own constitution). There, they live according to this written law, whereas with us the law is written so that our European uncles and aunts would look and say: “It looks as if their laws are no different from our own…”

We have no intention, and will not live by the law. That is why, when Vahe wrote that people from the government had come to the airport and began to think things over, I was imagining that they didn’t open the laws and instructions, and began waiting for orders from higher-ups. And who do we have at the top? Everyone knows. Only one head is thinking in this country, one individual making decisions. This person said “not allowed”, and they sent Vahe away. They didn’t allow him into the city.

And I know that this same individual won’t blink next time he says that “Azerbaijan firmly intends to resolve the problem of Nagorny Karabakh via peaceful means, on the basis of mutual compromises”.

Ana səhifəOp-edThe Unexpected Visit of Vahe Avetian to Baku: What Was it About?