Since Sunday the 1st of March I have been giving trainings each day in different parts of Azerbaijan. It has been an amazing experience so far. Very time consuming and sleep depriving as well…
I particularly enjoyed the two three-day seminars that I’ve executed together with Rashad, interpreter-cum-social-activist (and earlier featuring in a Dutch post). The first one was in the place of Balakan, really far out in a beautiful part of Azerbaijan but which many of the young people would gladly replace for Baku or abroad. Most of the participants were non-affiliated – so no NGO or political party – young people (though some brought their mothers) and with an enormous eagerness to learn, from languages to the recipe of Dutch space cake.
The other one was in Nabran, at the sea side north of Baku, which brought together more experienced young people from a variety of NGOs and several from the Musavat party.
The general theme of both seminars – originally defined as ‘communication and campaigning tools for liberal youth organizations – quite quickly turned into ‘social change’, with Rashad leading some spectacular discussion sessions of which I couldn’t understand a word but which energy I sensed very well. I thought it was interesting to see how this theme, in combination with the open, non-formal training environment, got the whole group (or well, most of it) to become very deliberative. In a country where young people are bogged down by a political environment and history that looks down on individual initiative, it is actually such deliberation that is the start of changing social reality. You can’t start changing something until you name it.
Today I was in Lenkaran, close to the Iranian border. We saw some Iranians picknicking next to the road and talked a lot about Iran in the car. The more I hear about the domestic contradictions between the country’s religious piety and citizens’ pragmatism, the more I am looking forward to going there.