Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Poetry, Azeri IDP/refugee Women, and the Nagorno-Karabakh War

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Poetry, Azeri IDP/refugee Women, and the Nagorno-Karabakh War

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Azerbaijan and Armenia share a long and complex history of ethnic conflict dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s. This conflict escalated into a full-fledged war--the Nagorno-Karabakh War--in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulting in the forced displacement of an estimated one million Azeris, some of whom had been living in neighboring Armenia but the majority of whom had been living in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts within Azerbaijan. This displacement has had particularly severe consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Azeri women who were forced from their homes and who continue to live as IDPs [internally displaced persons] or as refugees.

In this paper, I examine Armenian-Azeri ethnic conflict and the plight of Azeri IDP/refugee women both in social historical context and through the on-going field research that I have been conducting in Azerbaijan. (1) In doing so, I focus in detail on Azeri IDP/refugee poetry as it is interwoven with Azeri IDP/refugee women's experiences with the tragedies of war and the realities of forced displacement.

This project is an extension of my previous research in Azerbaijan and focuses on how Azeri IDP/refugee women reflect on their experiences as refugees and internally displaced persons from the Nagorno-Karabakh War. It examines the state of being of Azeri IDP/refugee women--their own life experiences--as voiced by these women through their own narratives and oral histories. Furthermore, it highlights the significance of Azeri IDP/refugee poetry as the poetry echoes the experiences and emotions of Azeri IDPs/refugees through two decades of forced displacement. As such, my analysis does not focus on the styles and forms of poetry, but rather on the content and the roles that poetry plays and social functions that it serves in the lives of Azeri IDPs/refugees.

I have organized this paper into four sections. First, I provide a social historical context through an overview of Armenian-Azeri ethnic conflict with particular attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh War that began in the 1988 and that has been under ceasefire from 1994 to the present Second, I provide a social historical overview of the Azeri literary tradition exemplified by Azeri poets and of the importance of poetry as a key element within Azeri culture. Third, I elaborate details of my fieldwork methodology. Fourth, given the long-established history and tradition of poetry in Azerbaijan, I focus particularly on the experiences of Azeri IDP/refugee women and on the importance of Azeri IDP/refugee poetry as one medium for remembering and honoring their homelands of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts and for dealing with their prolonged pains and uncertainties of forced displacement. Therefore, in the fourth section of this paper, I utilize Azeri IDP/refugee women's narratives and oral histories from my ongoing qualitative field research in Azerbaijan to examine IDP/refugee women's experiences with the realities of war, including loss of life, displacement, uncertainty, hopelessness, and day-to-day challenges that these women have been facing for over two- decades. In turn, I utilize Azeri IDP/refugee poetry as a lens through which to view the social historical forces and consequences of ethnic conflict as well as the contemporary meaning of "forced displacement."

Before proceeding, it is important to note that to understand more fully the depth and dynamics of the lengthy conflicts centered on Nagorno-Karabakh, two social historical points must be emphasized. First, Armenian-Azeri conflicts have been-and have continued to be-ethnic-based and have revolved around territorial concerns, as well as political and nationalistic issues, rather than religious issues, even though the majority of Azeris have been Muslims and the majority of ethnic Armenians have been Christians. Second, Armenian-Azeri conflict has been-and has continued to be-characterized by deep-seated emotions and by long-standing cultural and historical claims. …

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