Man who believed in peace․ Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues commemorate Avaz Hasanov
Human rights activist Avaz Hasanov, head of the Center for Humanitarian Research, a person known in Azerbaijan and Armenia for his peacekeeping activities, has suddenly died in Azerbaijan at the age of 50.
Avaz was a native of Karabakh and was among the internally displaced persons after the first Karabakh war in the early 1990s. He was convinced that there was no alternative to peace, and that the pain was the same for everyone.
In 2000, human rights activist Hasanov began working with the International Working Group, which focused on the search for those who had gone missing in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 1992-1994 war.
Thanks to his work, Hasanov became one of the few Azerbaijanis who visited Karabakh after the conclusion of the treaty and the ceasefire (1994), met with hundreds of families looking for their relatives, listened to their stories and made friends with Armenian human rights defenders with whom he shared a common conviction in the value of every life.
Avaz is remembered by those who worked with him and were friends with him for many years in Baku and Yerevan.
Eldar Zeynalov, Baku: “He knew how to extinguish conflicts”
Eldar Zeynalov – Director of the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
“I remember how during the first Karabakh war Avaz, who miraculously travelled on foot through a mountain pass from the occupied Kalbajar region, reached Baku and came to the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party.
Around the same time, the governing democrats restored the political censorship that had been abolished earlier by the communists. Despite a bunch of refugee’s own problems, Avaz immediately and energetically responded to my call to fight censorship. In April 1993 he became one of the co-founders of the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan.
In the 1990s, many thought that human rights protection could be easily combined with politics, but this was an illusion. Today, many people fondly remember such features of Avaz as his courtesy in communication, ability to extinguish conflicts, find common ground and a reasonable compromise. But at that time such qualities were unpopular and condemned by the opposition. Verbal radicalism was considered the best qaulity back then.
Nevertheless, Avaz, after some hesitation, made a choice in favor of human rights protection. Even his work on the concept of youth policy as an expert at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Avaz considered in this vein.
A short experience of “walking into power” was enough for him to then try to keep equidistant from both the authorities and the opposition. That made him the most useful member of any team he was part of”.
Agunik Ghukasyan, Yerevan: “He knew that the pain is the same on both sides of the border”
Agunik Ghukasyan is the chairman of the ceasefire: the pain of loss of life public organization, which unites relatives of soldiers who died during peacetime service.
“Avaz was a very kind person and smiled a lot.
We first met at a memorial in Kosovo.
Upon learning that my son had died while serving in the army, he came up and hugged me. Avaz was convinced that the pain was the same on both sides of the border.
He knew this very well, because his nephew also died in the army.
When I stood in front of the wives and mothers of the dead Azerbaijanis and talked about my son, I felt bad. And then Avaz brought me water, stood next to me and was there until the end of the address.
Avaz was convinced that the war was the result of big politics, and not the desire of the people. He said that no mother should feel the pain of the loss that we experience. Avaz was very tactful, he believed that every life is important.
He was an Azerbaijani who loved his homeland, but never became our enemy.”
Shahin Rzayev, Baku: “In memory of a friend”
Shahin Rzayev is a freelance journalist and political columnist
“I really didn’t want to write an obituary for Avaz. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, I could not believe that he was dead. Young and healthy, how come he just died? I will be honest, I could not hold back my tears.
Secondly, I just don’t know how to write obituaries. After all, we don’t speak ill of the dead, but what if I sometimes criticized the deceased?
I thought and understood what was the difference between Avaz and the rest of us. He was truly a peacemaker unlike many of us.
What do some of us Caucasian peacekeepers say regularly? “We are for peace, and if you do not agree with us, then we will break your neck!”
Avaz was different. He listened, endured, persuaded, yielded. Sometimes he helped solve problems. He always looked for ways for reconciliation and compromise.
Avaz collaborated with the government. He did not deny it. He was the bridge between civil society and the presidential administration. Now we will miss such a bridge.
And at the end I will write about my personal impressions.
I appreciate the people with whom I was “behind the front lines”. I have known Avaz since 1993. With Avaz, I was repeatedly “behind the front line.” We did different projects with him, we were going to make a film but it never happened.
He lived as a lodger with us in Surakhani, because he was an internally displaced person from Kelbajar. His daughter’s name is the same as my daughter’s. His uncle still lives on our street, but that doesn’t matter.
The last impression. We were together at a European Union event in early November 2021. Avaz promised that he would invite me to Shusha to take part in the excursion of non-governmental organizations.
I replied: “thank you very much, but I will come to Shusha on my own to visit my friends”. He smiled.
Many colleagues know me. I am a rather conflicted person. I often argue with colleagues, even close friends. Sometimes they take offense at me. But for some reason I never quarreled with Avaz, although sometimes I provoked him.
He really was a man of peace. Because if you can’t find peace with your friends, how can you find peace with the other side?
I don’t know how to finish this. “Rest in peace”? There is no peace yet. I do not believe in Allah. I don’t know, Avaz, I hope this nightmare ends.”
Artak Kirakosyan, Yerevan: “He was looking for the truth”
Artak Kirakosyan is the Head of the Civil Society Institute NGO
“Me and Avaz met about 20 years ago. We have jointly implemented several peacekeeping programs, in the course of which we became friends.
Avaz was the most sensitive and subtle person I have ever known. I have never heard a single incorrect word from him, and it’s not just about our working contacts.
The projects we implemented were very complex and delicate. We made one of them with the parents of soldiers who died on both sides in peacetime, and the other with people living in border villages.
Prior to the April 2016 war, we recorded and publicized border clashes involving civilians.
This could only be possible under conditions of unconditional mutual trust – and Avaz deserved it. He was a man through whom many found out about Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
In December 2020, just a month after the end of the second Karabakh war, my Armenian colleagues and I held a discussion – can you imagine our state of mind in those days? But I suggested that Avaz also take part in this meeting. I said that you can be sure of it. He is a very smart person. He always has a lot of respect for his interlocutor and for him “this is right, and that is wrong” concept does not exist. He sought the truth in everyone and everywhere.
During the war, conversations with Avaz were difficult and sad, but one thing remained unchanged: belief in peace and the possibility of coexistence ․
Of course, we envisioned different models of it. I was in favor of Azerbaijanis residing in the territory of the Republic of Artsakh, he favored Armenians residing in Azerbaijan. But we did not argue much about this, because we were sure that peace is in the interests of both societies, and political decisions can be challenged.”
Huseyn Ismayilbeyli, Baku: “He was one of those who always wanted to help”
Huseyn Ismayilbeyli – JAMnews editor in Azerbaijan
“I first met Avaz in 1991. In a difficult time for the whole country and the region as a whole, we were in a youth organization. We were only 18-20 years old and we wanted to see Azerbaijan as a truly democratic country where all human rights are respected.
Even then, our Avaz was distinguished by his adherence to principles. He spoke directly, did not hide his thoughts, was always serious. Of course, he loved to joke aptly, like all intellectuals.
He was the kind of friend whom you do not see for many years, but you know for a fact: if you ask for help, he will immediately answer and will be there.
We will all miss him. We already do.”
Albert Voskanyan, Stepanakert (in Azerbaijan the city is called Khankendi): “Avaz was a decent person in life and work”
Albert Voskanyan – freelance journalist and publicist
“I met Hasanov about 20 years ago during joint activities in the International Working Group on Missing Persons.
The group’s work was also carried out in Nagorno-Karabakh. Avaz went there, visited the relatives of the prisoners and the missing persons.
The main thing that stood out was his purity and honesty. He was not afraid of work, he worked on each case, sparing no effort, with full responsibility. For him, the concept of “someone else’s pain” did not exist. Human life was the highest value for him.”
In 2009, the documentary “My Enemy, My Friend” was shot. It became a kind of film dialogue between Avaz Hasanov and Albert Voskanyan, people who found themselves on both sides of the border and dreamed of peace.
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