Archive for January, 2010

Revolutionize Your Minds!

A brilliant video prepared by OL! Media for the Democracy Video Challenge organized by the US Embassy in Azerbaijan. Please watch and share!

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Mehriban Afandiyeva

The first person I thought of, when the Women’s Forum told me about the new column Azeris Abroad, was Mehriban Afandiyeva. You probably wonder why.

Well, you know how while being a junior in high school, you always remember the elder classes. People there seem more confident, attractive, smart, and lucky. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that life usually proves these expectations to be wrong.

I was no exception. The object of my admiration among the seniors was a girl named Mehriban. Years later, social networks reunited us, and of course, she didn’t remember me well. But I did. And it turned out my impression of her had been proved with the years.

So, my first interview will be with this smart, attractive, confident and worth-being-proud-of Azerbaijani lady, currently living in Houston, TX.


Mehriban, please tell us about yourself?

I was born in Baku in 1985, graduated from Tusi gymnasium and entered Secondary high school No.160 in 2000. I followed my mother to the US in 2003 when she accepted a position in Chicago, IL. In 2006 I got accepted to The Fund for American Studies program and moved to the city of my dreams, Washington DC. There graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Economics in May 2009. Shortly after that I joined Marcus & Millichap as a Transaction Analyst in Houston, TX. I am a member of Azerbaijani Women of America and the Board of Directors of the U.S. Azerbaijanis Network (USAN)…

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Rise and Fall: January 20, 1990

On March 7th 1990 my dad was filming my brother’s 5th birthday – a small family event at my grandparents’ place. As we were very talky and want-to-act-for-the-camera kids, everyone would ask us questions:

“Rustam, can you count all the players of “Spartak Moskva”?”

“Sure!”, replies my brother and starts counting names.  Then go several questions of this kind and another one for me from my grandma’s brother:

“N, can you tell me what bullets were used by the Soviet Army on January 20th?”.

“Yes!”, I say “Tracer bullets!”.

***

I was only 4 years old when it happened, so don’t remember a lot. But I do remember the sounds of shooting coming somewhere from the street and my mom hiding us under the bed. I remember my dad putting on his clothes, preparing to go out with his crew and film everything, and my mom standing in the door asking him not to do it.

And the spirit. The spirit of pure fight, mixed with dirty intentions and provocations coming from all the sides.  When people didn’t actually know who to fight – friends or enemies. But they did fight for justice, trying to stop the tanks, the shooting, and the chaos.

For a while after the tragedy of January 20, people from all the city would bring the videos they made on home cameras to the secret office of a group of cinema people, who later made an investigative documentary about this tragedy, which showed several proofs of the KGB provocation leading to this tragedy. The film would be hiddenly distributed among people, literally from one hands to another. The creators would be threatened, interrogated, their houses searched for he proof of betrayal.

Later there were millions of people on the streets, broken walls, teared down monuments, the truth, the war, the migration, new country, new history, new hopes, new people, new nation, new lies and new walls – stronger, higher, oilier.

It’s been 20 years since the tragedy, and I’m not a four-year-old who knows what bullets were used on January 20th anymore. But I know for sure, that I wouldn’t want my kids to know what is tracer bullet at the age of 4, to watch their mom edit scary footages of tragedy, or hear their dad calling from the KGB, war zone, or a demonstration.

But if they do ever witness another rise of this nation, I definitely wouldn’t want them to be as sorry as we are for what we did to the country thousands of people sacrificed their lives for.

***

It’s been 20 years since the tragedy of 20th January, which killed 130 and injured around 700 people.

Allah rehmet elesin.

Slightly Violated

What is the difference between Iran and the real wolrd?

***

At 1:00am January 1, 2009 I  was in the office of Radio Liberty Azerbaijan, surrounded by youth, intellectuals, public figures and employees of RFE/RL. An hour before that, the radio they were working for was taken off the FM, and from that moment on, they would have to broadcast on SW, Satellite and Internet, losing most of their followers.

We would drink shampaigne, celebrating the Saddest New Year Ever, preparing ourselves for the difficulties 2009 was promising… and sadly kept its promise.

***

Going through the web-page of one of the main Azerbaijani media sources couple of days ago, I saw an article in bold headline, which said: “A Turkish woman severely beaten by the Norwegian police”. So I clicked on it.

A small article told a story taken from CNN Turk, about a woman in Norway, who mistakenly called the police instead of the emergency, for her mother who was having a diabetes attack. When police arrived, the woman was being impatient and rude and for some unknown reason got beaten up by the officers. While the terrible act was happening, the mother died, left without medical care.

Although the article didn’t provide with any more facts, neither did the only mentioning of this fact I could find online – on CNN Turk, the fact itself was quite disturbing. But there also was this last paragraph, added by the author of the local source, which was, not only disturbing, but also ridiculous and in fact, terrifying. It said: “The most surprising here is that Norway, which tends to judge other countries, including Azerbaijan for the slightest (!! remember this word while reading my post) violations of human rights, better take care about its own democracy”.

Now, about the “slightest vilations”. As Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines says in her blog, this year started even worse than the previous one. Eynulla Fatullayev was ensured not to leave the prison any time soon, Emin and Adnan’s court hearings are being postponed. But the worst happened in a village Beneniyar in Nakchivan region of Azerbaijan, where after marking the Ashura date, more than 150 villagers were arrested and interrogated, including villager Kamal Aliyev, his wife and daughter. His son Yunis, poured gasoline over himself threatening the policeman who was holding his family to set himself on fire. “Do it, if you’re a man”, was the policeman’s response. So he did.

Right after that, 500 Internal Troopers, entered the village, people were taken out of their houses, beaten up, and humiliated. According to the villagers, the exits from the village are blocked, telephone calls are being tracked and get cut, once someone calls to Baku.

Guess what – only couple of news agencies reported it. Most of the work was made by Radio Liberty.

And this is not the end – today the official (!!) statement of Nakhichevan Representative Office in Baku was released. According to it, Yunis Aliyev, as well as his whole family and relatives (thoughtfully counted one by one) are mentally ill, and the “illegal acts” happened in the village were caused by the “illegal armed groups of the Popular Front”. However, both the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan and the one of Nakhchivan DENY anything happening on the area.

So, yes, Norwegian police has killed a woman of different ethnicity and religion and it’s bad. We can start talking about racism among Norwegian police, discuss the oppressions of muslim population in Europe, about the problems they face, but not about the ones they cause. Some of it will be true, some not, new laws will be implemented to make them feel comfortable, more population will be against these laws or visa versa. But the main thing we.. no, not we, THEY forget about is that while we fish facts of racist killings in Europe, people of our own ethnicity and religion are being beaten, humiliated, trapped or missing on our own territory by our own POLICE. And no, we don’t consider it a crime, we don’t talk or write about it. Even when we’re supposed to, as media.

No evil happens here. It simply doesn’t exist.

***

Iranian Television aired a documentary film, which tells the “real” story of Neda‘s death. According to the latest “research”, she was an agent of USA and Britain (apparently jointly organized espionage) and her death was faked. The blood on her face came from a bottle (!) she thoughtfully brought to the demonstration in order to organize this pre-planned show.

Yes, no evil happens in Iran either.

And this is the difference between Iran and the real world.

***

What is the difference between Azerbaijan and the real world?

Funny Parrots and Talking Lions or Why Far Far Away Is Better Than Here.

One of my favorite childhood books was the one in a green cover smelling like our old bookshelves left after my grandfather. It was Gianni Rodari’s Rome Fantasies. I remember the small funny parrot and the sun shining behind it, pictured on the cover, the feeling of happiness every time I opened it and the worlds it would take me to.

Yes, the worlds of fantasies and impossible events: a nose that left the face of a gentleman, a sleepy robot from 2222, a town made of chocolate and many others. These were my first travels – the ones to the land of Gianni Rodari and my imagination.

As I was growing up, the love for special worlds was growing with me. There was another favorite and scary book – C.S.Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, later came J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter and its revolutionary spirit, there were Aizek Azimov’s robots, Orwell’s 1984 and many many other worlds, these talented people allowed me to live in for a while.

And even yesterday I saw the world I have never thought of before – the one where LIE didn’t exist. At all. I’m talking about Ricky Gervais’s latest movie called The Invention of Lying – a brilliant idea in a probably a bit too simple performance. No lies, no religion, no expectations, no real politics or advertisement – pure world of bitter truth.

Unfortunately, there is one negative thing about the fiction – it ends. Whether it’s the last page of a book or final credits – you always get this feeling when you HAVE to go back to the real world and live your real life. Why is it unfortunate for me?

Well, because this real world has no robots to do your job, no magic wands to make your problems fade away, no talking lions to share the life wisdom, no absolute truth to ensure the present or future, no chocolate cities to eat it all and die of endorphine overdose.

No fairytales.

Just Orwell. And his 1984.

And this world is dark and scary and I don’t like it at all.

***

Happy 2010!

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