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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Activist Works on Both Sides

Anahit Bayandour is a deputy of the Armenian parliament and, like many of her colleagues, is consumed with the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But Bayandour, 52, is fighting for the human rights of both sides.


Her project began in January 1991, when she gathered 14 Armenian and Azerbaijani intellectuals to discuss the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan populated mostly by Armenians where fighting has raged for five years.


"I felt there was a big wall between the Armenian and Azeri intelligentsia that made the conflict deeper", said Bayandour, a slight woman with jet black hair and blue-grey eyes.


Her efforts to create dialogue between the two warring nations won her the Olaf Palme Peace Prize in January, together with Azeri human rights activist Artsu Abdulayeva. The prize is named after the Swedish premier assassinated in 1986.


Today, Bayandour divides her time between educating the West about the conflict and initiating peace projects along the disputed borders of her country and Azerbaijan. This week, Bayandour will work with former U. S. President Jimmy Carter at his conflict management center in Atlanta, Georgia.


Bayandour, who was raised in a family of artists and writers, said she believes artists and intellectuals have a moral obligation, and the potential, to ease the conflict.


She has divided her time between Moscow and Yerevan since 1957. While she said she has always loved Moscow's "high spiritual life", she does not believe the Russian government is doing enough to help Armenians and Azerbaijanis, mainly because Russians are also going through their own crisis, she said. She praised, however, a program here that houses refugee children from Nagorno-Karabakh and Moldova.


Bayandour's next project, scheduled for March, is to spend ten days leading 17 international visitors through leading Armenian and Azeri cities to publicize their quest for peace in the hope that the international community will pressure both governments to begin discussions "to stop the shooting".


A skilled diplomat, Bayandour also said she does not know how the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute should be resolved. Perhaps, she suggests, through independence for the region.


"The principles of the European Community - self-government and unbreakable borders - are always confronting each other. It's the most difficult point", she said. "But we must find a compromise. There are wonderful minds that must work to find a solution. The first step is through discussion".