Avaz Hasanov

Born in Kelbajar, Azerbaijan, in 1971 Avaz Hasanov was a humanitarian, human rights activist and peacebuilder who dedicated his life to addressing the consequences of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. Much of his early work was dedicated to immediate wartime and post-war concerns of missing persons and forced displacement. Avaz formed part of a Working Group on missing persons coordinated by Bernard Clasen, working to foster the necessary cross-divide cooperation to resolve missing persons cases and provide relief to their families.

In the late 1990s, Avaz established his own non-governmental organization, the Society for Humanitarian Research, that over time developed a formidable network across Azerbaijan among families of the missing, the forcibly displaced, border communities and those unable to access justice. Avaz was one of the first civic activists in Azerbaijan to listen to these voices and articulate their experiences for policy and international audiences.

Avaz first collaborated with Conciliation Resources in 2003 through the medium of film, appearing in a short film in a series called Dialogue Through Film telling the story of his joint work with Albert Voskanian on missing persons, My Enemy, My Friend. In 2005 Avaz co-authored with Armine Ishkanian an article on the roles of civil society in the issue of our Accord journal dedicated to the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process. For the launch of the Accord, we facilitated Avaz’s visit to Nagorny Karabakh in early 2006. For many of the young people he met on that visit, Avaz was the first Azerbaijani they had seen and met in the flesh. For years afterward Avaz would recount his experience of that encounter, how critical it was to meet face to face, to personally break down the enemy image through dialogue.

Avaz later undertook the Azerbaijani component of the outreach programme for the Dialogue Through Film series, travelling the length and breadth of Azerbaijan, tirelessly advocating to communities the necessity of dialogue and rehumanising the other. In 2011- 2016 Avaz played an instrumental role in the Parts of a Circle film series, acting as producer on the Azerbaijani team. This reflected his own passion for film, having worked as a scriptwriter and director of several films of his own and later establishing the Baku Film School as a forum for discussions of the transformative, rather than radicalising, potential of media. In working meetings of the Parts of a Circle teams in Tbilisi, Avaz always demonstrated delicacy, empathy and tact during discussions with Armenian partners on how to portray in a joint format the most painful episodes for each side in the first Karabakh war.

Possessing a keen awareness of policy, Avaz also participated in our Karabakh Contact Group format, discussing core peace process issues since 2010. He is the author of a wide variety of articles and books, most recently Nagorny Karabakh: The Difficult Path of Civil Diplomacy (Baku, 2019). Avaz was a pillar and mentor in the small world of peacebuilding in Azerbaijan, embodying a sense of hope in the potential for transformation in human relationships and a different future not condemned to repeat the past.