Mar 2013

Peacebuilding charity Conciliation Resources has released an innovative Turkish-Armenian-Azerbaijani documentary film exploring how violence in the past continues to cast long shadows over a divided region.

Memories Without Borders looks at the way recollections of recent and long-gone troubles transcend the closed borders dividing communities and lives today. 
Featuring perspectives from people living in four locations – Istanbul, the contested territory of Nagorny Karabakh, the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and southern Armenia – the film explores different personal experiences of exclusion and discrimination, family silences on ancestry, contesting official history and remembering violence. 
Running through all the stories told in Memories Without Borders are common threads of unresolved violence spanning generations. 
Turks and Armenians disagree over how episodes of violence and mass deportation in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire should be interpreted. In the early 1990s Armenians and Azeris went to war for control of contested lands in Nagorny Karabakh, depriving over a million people of their homes and leaving large swathes of Azerbaijani territory under Armenian occupation. 
Efforts to resolve conflict and open borders have ebbed and flowed: an initiative to reopen the Turkish–Armenian border stalled in 2010, while the Armenian–Azerbaijani peace process has rarely seemed so deadlocked. Yet life on each side of these closed borders continues, and what communities remember about those on the other side matters.      
Memories Without Borders is the result of a two-year collaboration between a group of Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani filmmakers, with support from Conciliation Resources. 
Given deep-rooted regional tensions, such a collaboration has never been possible before, making the resulting film a first of its kind. Dr Laurence Broers, Caucasus Projects Manager for Conciliation Resources, said: "This film was made across closed borders, without a common working language and with just two meetings of the production team at the beginning and end. Our experience shows that even when borders are closed and tensions are high, there are alternatives to accepting the status quo and monolithic understandings of conflict." 
Film can be a key tool in peacebuilding, helping communities who may only have heard one-sided accounts of history to be exposed to other accounts of conflict. 
“Reconciliation will only be possible if people have the chance to listen to each other and to share memories of the past,” said Nouneh Sargsyan, director of Internews Media Support, the key Armenian partner in the film. “Sharing these memories can positively impact conversations about the future, allowing them to become more open and trustful.”
“Armenians and Azerbaijanis are often thoroughly convinced of the cynicism of the other side. Initiatives like this offer an alternative to that. We need to confront the difficult issues if we are to move forward,” said Ilham Safarov, director of Internews Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani partner making the film.
Memories Without Borders has been shown at public screenings in Armenia, Azerbaijan, the contested territory of Nagorny Karabakh and Turkey, prompting impassioned and thought-provoking debate among all audiences.
From 19 March 2013, the film is being screened and discussed at meetings and events in Brussels, Paris and London.
“The stories told by the people in our film are about issues which are still affecting all of us today,” said Turkish director, Mehmet Binay. “Furthermore, the way we treat each other in our own regions affects how we deal with others nearby, including our European neighbours. It’s therefore crucial for a number of reasons that our stories are heard.” 
For more information, images, and interview requests for the week commencing 18 March, contact:
Sasha Arms, Communications Manager, Conciliation Resources
Email: | Telephone: +44 7436 102 524
Notes to editors:
Conciliation Resources has been working on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict for more than a decade. We are a founder member of the Consortium Initiative (2003-09) – a group of international organisations working to improve the prospects for peace in the region. In 2010 we joined the European Partnership for the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict over Nagorny Karabakh. The aim of our work in the region is to improve the prospects for peace. We do this by supporting local people working for change, connecting people across divides to create opportunities for dialogue, challenging prejudices and influencing peace-making strategies and policy. Find out more about our work in the South Caucasus.
Conciliation Resources is an independent, international peacebuilding organisation working with people in conflict to prevent violence and build peace. With 16 years’ experience of working internationally to prevent violent conflict, we make a commitment to be there for as long as we’re needed to provide advice, support and practical resources. We work with partners – local and international civil society organisations and governments - in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific. In addition, we take what we learn to government decision-makers and others working to end conflict. 
Conciliation Resources is funded through grants from governments, multilateral agencies, independent trusts and foundations. Conciliation Resources is a registered UK charity (1055436).