To tell the truth, before meeting an Armenian for the first time I couldn’t imagine them as human beings because my family has seen the war with their own eyes. They have seen Armenians killing. My grandmother’s family’s only relationship with Armenians had been their attacks on our neighbourhood in the 20th century. Since my family did not live in Armenian-inhabited areas neither they nor I had the chance to meet an Armenian who had not been involved in killing.
My father had only seen a dispute between an Armenian boy and girl, and my mother had witnessed uncouth behaviour from an Armenian who was my uncle’s neighbour in Baku. There were no positive stories to fall back on.
Then I went to Russia for travelling. On my journey I came across a number of Armenians. Some of them were wonderful people. One person would say yaxşı (“good” in Azerbaijani) in a joyful way to make me happy. One other man broke bread with me and we had a conversation as if we were old friends, but we did not touch upon Karabakh or politics. We were talking about other things that would bring us closer together. I shared food with a poor Armenian. He himself invited me to eat. In Azerbaijani we say çörək kəsmişik (“we broke bread”). I think that breaking bread with people makes you get closer to each other. I couldn’t see people I broke bread with as enemies anymore.
To be honest, I still feel a bit nervous and scared whenever I meet an Armenian because I am fearful of the mental or physical pain they may cause me. However, after making the initial pleasantries and bonding together, leaving our identities to the side, I part with that feeling of fear.
I believe that this feeling comes from only have heard negative things about a certain people. We know about the massacre committed by Armenians in Khojaly but we are not aware of the contributions Armenians made to theatre and architecture in Azerbaijan. This is just how people are: they remember more of the bad than the good.