January 29, 2009

ARTICLES / PROJECTS: Armenia-Azerbaijan: Young Bloggers Bridge Geopolitical Divides

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Young Bloggers Bridge Geopolitical Divides

Nearly 15 years after a ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, a lasting peace remains elusive and few citizens of either country have the opportunity to meet or communicate with the other. That might all be set to change, however, with DOTCOM, a project funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by Project Harmony.

Bringing together 90 American, Armenian and Azerbaijani children aged 14-16, participants will use online tools such as blogs to “create socially conscious media that will impact communities across the U.S. and the Caucasus.” Global Voices Online briefly spoke to DOTCOM Program Director Elizabeth Metraux earlier today.

    "The hope for students in DOTCOM is that they’ll acquire the skills and confidence to engage in meaningful discourse about subjects that matter. Students have a lot to say about conflict and poverty and human rights and education. DOTCOM is designed to teach students how to use social media to inspire change on those critical issues."

With negative stereotypes of the other perpetuated by the national media in both countries, the task won’t be easy, but blogs by some of the children are already starting to appear online. Even if separated by closed borders and ceasefire lines, the children will at least be able to glimpse into each other’s lives albeit on the Internet until 10 of the children from each country will meet in the United States in July.

The blogs have only just been set up and the number of posts are presently at a minimum, but Global Voices Online wishes the project success and hopes to produce regular roundups of content as more entries appear. Meanwhile, although there might be many obstacles to overcome and some which might even prove insurmountable, 15-year-old Edita from Armenia offers a glimmer of hope.

    "Through DotCom, I would like to see a new project developed where we can discover the cross cultures and lifestyles of Americans and Azerbaijanis for Armenian young people. It gives an opportunity of cultural unification."

The full post where comments can be left is available on Global Voices Online.


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