On November 14, 2022, DIASCON project member Vadim Romashov gave a public online-lecture on ethnographic peace research at the Carter School Methods Mondays. The lecture presented methodological insights from his ethnographic research on everyday practices and narratives of living together in Armenian-Azerbaijani villages in the southern borderland of Georgia

You can access the online lecture with the following link.

Written by Anush Petrosyan

Much academic discussion has centered on diasporas in the previous decades, as the interdisciplinary field of diaspora studies continues to develop. As Féron and Lefort write, “the study of the relations between diasporas and conflicts often follows a securitization trope… which is notably fed by, and feeds into, xenophobic discourses about migrants, in Europe and elsewhere” (2019). The consideration of diasporas as troublemakers, especially those that are believed to be conflict-generated within the frames of securitization or ethno-nationalist belonging is not only empirically, but also factually and ethically incorrect. It entails risks of misrepresenting and homogenizing a social group that is by nature heterogeneous.

The complexity and diversity of diasporic groups makes the study of diaspora-homeland relations complicated, as the standardizing approach leaves gaps open that could otherwise be filled with hope. While studying the more “mobilized” sections of the Armenian diaspora, Khachig Tölölyan argues that “this diaspora is neither a unified social formation nor a monolithic polity” (2007, 108), given that the Armenian diaspora, or the Armenian communities living outside of the borders of current-day Republic of Armenia came into existence in diverse timelines as a result of diverse reasons. Thus, the Armenian diaspora worldwide cannot be considered conflict-generated entirely and conflict alone cannot be considered as the only driving force for the transnational movement of Armenians, who as Tölölyan writes later in the chapter, “living outside Armenia are sometimes Armenian in name only; they are in fact assimilated people with vague memories of having an Armenian heritage… and Armenian identity is one of several identities that compete for their time and attention” (ibid, 109). In this sense, it would be naïve to imagine that there is one way through which the Armenian diaspora reacts and contributes to the discussions when it comes to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As Tölölyan writes regarding the influence of the Armenian diaspora on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict “neither the diaspora nor its major institutions have acted monolithically” (ibid, 114), especially considering the different agendas and ideological convictions each sub-category of the very diverse Armenian diaspora has.

While the collective diasporic actions of the mobilized Armenian communities or major institutions have been loud and more explored in academia, as well as more extensively covered by the media, the activism of the less mobilized groups of Armenians living outside Armenia has gone mostly unnoticed. People who have research or practice-oriented experience in the field of peacebuilding have attempted to put the word out for an all-inclusive peaceful solution of the conflict, especially when tensions occurred among diaspora groups both during July skirmishes as well as during the 44-day war in 2020, but these actions have remained mostly marginal and did not reach wider audiences.

One of these collective actions was the issuing of a statement under the hashtag of #WordsNotSwords during the July skirmishes in 2020 that within days had a spillover effect into the diaspora settings with violent tensions rising among Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Turks living outside of the physical borders of their respective countries. While the conflict transportation into the settings of the countries of residence received wide range of coverage[1], the statement remained trendy among small groups of people and media platforms that are engaging in cross-border coverage, intentionally searching for stories of co-created attempts of peace promotion in the region. The statement, which in the end received little attention, called for respecting the right to peaceful assembly. It was not only signed by members of the Armenian diaspora, but also co-created and co-signed with members of the Azerbaijani diaspora. As Arzu Geybullayeva writes, it was originally signed by six members of the Armenian and Azerbaijani diaspora communities on July 23 (2020). Within days, this campaign was joined by hundreds of Armenians and Azerbaijanis living in diasporic settings. The text said:

As members of the Armenian and Azerbaijani emigrant communities across the world, we condemn the ongoing acts of violence and bigotry perpetrated by individuals within our communities towards one another, in the name of patriotism.

While our societies have fundamental disagreements regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, fistfights in streets across the world do nothing to advance the cause of either side. Instead, they are an affront to basic safety and human dignity.

As fellow immigrants, we call upon all members in our Diaspora communities to engage in peaceful activism, to respect the rights of others to do the same, and to reject violence, dehumanisation, and discrimination. [2]

The call was one of a kind that made the less mobilized and peace-oriented community voice its disapproval with continued nationalistic manifestations and the depiction that there is one united diaspora with one agenda. It was an attempt to use the online space to break the silence and paint an alternative image of the Armenian and Azerbaijani diasporic groups. As Geybullayeva presents the testimonies of the original authors, it shows that individuals, at least, living outside the South Caucasus see an opportunity of engaging in dialogue where borders are not closed. They also notice that transporting violence into the host settings does not bring credibility to these communities. As Philip Gamaghelyan, assistant professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego and co-founder of Imagine Centre for Conflict Transformation, noted, “yet it harms the image of both communities and the South Caucasus in general in the eyes of the world, needlessly endangers the already difficult lives of migrants, and further shrinks the space for dialogue” (ibid.).

Although this statement generated some discussion among social media, mainly Twitter circles of Armenians and Azerbaijanis living outside their homelands, the discussions soon died down and could not spread roots long enough to counter a deadlier and more costly war in the autumn of 2020. Geybullayeva concluded her article saying, “It is too early to say whether with all the signatures collected #WordsNotSwords will change much of the negative rhetoric that continues to this day. But it is heartening to see that among the two communities there are at least 160 who condemn violence and respect people’s right to peaceful protest.” Indeed, breaking the silence for peace publicly at a time of high tensions was hope-inspiring for many, but the abyss of apathy and desperateness for co-beneficial peace is yet largely empty. It is important to mention though, considering the Lederachian approach to conflict transformation, that the low number of participants in such activities aiming at creating peace discourse in settings of deep distrust and high conflictual tensions is well-justified, as expecting change at once would mean believing in cheap hope. As Lederach writes, “Distrust assures us that we are not dipping into and promoting a cheap hope; it keeps us authentic” (2005, 60). Therefore, the low number of signatories of similar statements does not promote hopelessness, but on the contrary, it shows the possibility to transcend the space of enmity gradually. It also suggests that in peacemaking numbers should not be the indicators of an outcome, as the pinch of yeast promotes the rise of bread (referencing Lederach’s famous comparison of breadmaking and peacemaking).

Some Armenians and Azerbaijanis living outside and within the borders of their homelands put out another co-created statement during the 44-day war in 2020, that originated in the webpage of Caucasus Talks.[3] The platform has been transnationally created and managed, and it builds on a cooperation between people from the South Caucasus who live both within the borders of the region, and in diasporic settings. The new statement was signed by hundreds of people, by Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Armenia, Azerbaijan and outside of the borders of these states. It also called for a broader transnational attention involving non-Armenians and non-Azerbaijanis to spread the word for a peaceful settlement of the conflict highlighting the importance of international players in the region. The statement was a manifestation against war and militarist positions calling for the search of pathways for peace and advocating for “immediate ceasefire and inclusive negotiations encompassing all of the Armenian and Azerbaijani parties to the conflict[4].”

Although the statements alone have not had enough weight to change the situation on the ground, they have created virtual spaces for dialogue and discussion among transnational people, including but not limited to Armenian and Azerbaijani diasporic groups. The transnationality of the statements and the actions generated by informal networks and organizations of Armenian and Azerbaijani descent have added an extra level of security protecting those from crackdown, given that they are not under the threat of centralized governments in the homelands. Transnational spaces provide a chance for people otherwise locked within the borders of nation states in the South Caucasus to come together and learn about the stories of the other. The transnationality of diasporas is not only a source of conflict transportation or violent spillovers, it is also a space with vast transformative power, if intentionally noticed and supported as such.

In the conclusion of an article on the Caucasus Edition as a decentralized transnational network (2022), Gamaghelyan writes that,

With liberal democracy on the retreat and illiberal forces ascendant, decentralized and non-hierarchical transnational networks are emerging as a key structure that might sustain peacebuilding efforts in the short-term and pave a post-Westphalian pathway for grassroots political engagement in the long-term (14).

Given the growing physical and virtual transnational spaces, future research could consider further examining the transnationality of peacebuilding efforts that aim to transform protracted violence into dialogue based on mutual respect. Peace research especially has a duty to go beyond the accepted norms of considering diasporas as transporters of conflict, and on the contrary, look into the possibilities it entails for overcoming the closed borders of the South Caucasus.



Gamaghelyan, P. (2022). Caucasus edition: Decentralized transnational network as a pivotal structure for peacebuilding in non-democratic environments. Action Research0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/14767503211070513

Geybullayeva, A. (2020). As Armenians and Azerbaijanis clash worldwide, activists petition for peaceful dialogue. Global Voices. Retrieved from https://globalvoices.org/2020/08/03/as-armenians-and-azerbaijanis-clash-worldwide-activists-petition-for-peaceful-dialogue/

Féron, É., & Lefort, B. (2019). Diasporas and conflicts – understanding the nexus, Diaspora Studies12(1), 34-51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/09739572.2018.1538687

Lederach, J. P. (2005). The moral imagination: The art and soul of building peace. Oxford University Press, Incorporated.

Tölölyan, Kh. (2007) ‘The Armenian diaspora and the Karabagh conflict’, in Hazel Smith and Paul Stares (eds) Diasporas in conflict: peace-makers and peace-wreckers, Tokyo: United Nations University Press, pp. 106–28

OC Media (2020). Peace Statement. Retrieved from https://oc-media.org/peace-statement/  


[1] Fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis spills beyond Caucasus | Eurasianet

[2] As Armenians and Azerbaijanis clash worldwide, activists petition for peaceful dialogue · Global Voices

[3] About Us | Caucasus (caucasustalks.com)

[4] https://oc-media.org/peace-statement /  

THE 19th ETMU DAYS Photo Credits: ETMU ry Facebook page

On November 24-25, 2022, project members of DIASCON Vadim Romashov and Anush Petrosyan participated in the Conference “Mobile Lives, Glocal Complexities” organized by the Society of Ethnic Relations and International Migration (ETMU). Partaking in the workshop on Activist research in practice: Methodological and ethical conversations, Romashov and Petrosyan presented the abstract of an upcoming paper about peacebuilding in the South Caucasus after the devastating Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, the existential crisis faced by the peacebuilding community and the growing need of a joint research-inspired peace movement, which would help transform the state of violence in the region.

A blogpost will soon follow on our website with more details about the transnationality of the peace activism in South Caucasus and beyond.

You can read more about the workshop and the abstract presented by our project members here.


Photo Credits: ETMU ry Facebook page



Written by Zahra Edalati and Majid Imani 


The death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Zhina) Amini sparked mass protests in Iran that have persisted for about two months in different cities in Iran, as well as far from Iran’s borders. Mahsa was detained, beaten, and killed by Iran’s morality police for what they deemed an inappropriate dress style. Since then, thousands of Iranian women and Iranian people have continued protesting the compulsory veiling law and other humiliating laws in Iran.

Beyond the very progressive name of this movement which is “women-life-freedom”, this can be called a movement of symbols. Indeed, different symbols dialogue with each other in the streets in Tehran, Zahedan, Shiraz, Isfahan, and even in Berlin, Helsinki, and many other places across Europe. The dialogue of symbols in this movement is based on the veil issue, which can be symbolized by the colonial stereotypical image of the hijab as a symbol of Muslim women’s suppression (Mizel 2019, 211). However, this movement has been using the veil, not as a symbol of suppression but instead as a symbol of resistance. And the “veil” has become a peaceful weapon to make changes. Indeed, veiled women alongside many others have joined the movement and asked for freedom, freedom of lifestyle, and freedom of choice for all people. Mahsa’s death resonated with the very typical rights of Iranians. This movement gives visibility to the features of women’s life in Iran that have been usually silenced. Women’s visible bodies in the streets open the possibility of a new kind of resistance and dialogue with the patriarchal spatial settings in the streets, places where women have always been invisible and veiled.

To further explain the dialogue of symbols, a reference to the revolutionary song of this movement would be useful.  A few days after the launch of the women-life-freedom movement, people in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora started whispering the song of Shervin Hajipour, an Iranian singer and songwriter. He wrote the song based on the tweets of Iranian people in response to the question of ‘Why do they ask for change?’ and ‘why do they protest?’. These tweets start with the word “For” (Baraye).  Shervin published the song in September 2022 on his personal Instagram page, and it became known as the Iranian 2022 revolutionary movement anthem. This song reached 40 million views in two days after it was posted on Instagram (Mellor 2022).


“For dancing in the street

for my sister, your sister, our sister

for longing for a normal life,

for the corrupted economy,

for all students,

for the future,

for yearning to live life normally”

for a girl who wished she was a boy for the smiling face for woman, life, freedom[1]


As it might be clear in the song lyrics, Shervin refers to very basic rights that have been stolen from the everyday life of Iranians. This song is whispered by many Iranians in the diaspora to show their solidarity with protestors in Iran, however diasporic solidarity with the woman-life-freedom movement has been linked to different dynamics. The fragmentation in the Iranian diaspora (Khosravi 2018) complicates its analysis. For instance, one of the Iranian women who has been living in Germany since the Islamic revolution, and who calls herself an exiled Iranian woman, refers to those complexities with regards to one of the biggest protest strikes in solidarity with the Iranian people, which happened on the 22nd of October in Berlin. According to the media, about 80,000 to 100,000 people joined the demonstration to show their solidarity with protestors inside Iran (Malekian 2022).  Elnaz belongs to leftist parties and sent me the flyer about their contribution to the demonstration in Berlin a few days before it happened. In the flyer, it is said that: “the streets belong to all people. No need to meld our differences in the name of becoming one. As a feminist anti-racist leftists’ group, we participate in this demonstration as an independent bloc and invite all who favor our cause to join us”. A few days after the Berlin demonstration, I called Elnaz. She conveyed her observations and feelings about the current situation in the following statement:

Can you believe that these young protestors in Iran, who do not even know our stories, came to the streets to defend our rights?” (Skype interview on the first of November 2022).

However, in explaining what happened during the Berlin protest, her tone changed dramatically. Although Elnaz was very positive regarding the collective action that happened in Berlin, she argued critically that:

In Berlin, nobody referred to Iranian women’s rights in the demonstrations. Even women who got the tribune referred to their own stories and asked for justice regarding those. But they haven’t referred to women’s rights violations in Iran which have been the main aim of this movement” (Skype interview on the first of November 2022).

She was suspicious that diaspora activists were arguing for their organizational aims and objectives, which do not concern women’s rights. Another activist who is based in Sweden and who participated in the Berlin demonstrations explained how each opposition group tried to show its flag and chant its organizational slogan in Berlin. She shared her observations with me and said:

I felt the footprints of patriarchy in the name of nationalism in Berlin. I could not believe that the progressive slogan of Women -Life- Freedom was changed to the patriarchal slogan of ‘Man-Homeland- Prosperity’ as an excuse to support the monarchy and the Pahlavi king’s family” (skype Interview 7th of November 2022).

These kinds of arguments reflect the communal divisions existing among the Iranian community, as well as the flag debate that is a symbolic representation of Iranian group dynamics. Different versions of the Iranian flags and slogans symbolize and reflect diverse religious, gender, ethnic, and political hierarchies that exist in the Iranian diaspora community. Those hierarchies lead to fragmentation, differentiation, and segregation at different levels (See Khayambashi 2019). However, the complexity of the Iranian diaspora goes beyond symbols related to flags and slogans. Whilst one group of Iran’s government opposition in the diaspora asks the international community to put more sanctions on Iran, other groups insist that there is no “woman, life, and freedom” with sanctions (Shakhsari 2022). These opposite arguments have created a toxic fog of suppositions, insinuations, rumors, and hearsay, which continue to dominate in the diaspora community, as they accuse each other of supporting an autocratic theocracy and dictators.

However, the social media content – as the main source of information on Iran’s current protests – shows that these segmentations regarding the flag, etc. are not critical issues in Iran at this stage. As Féron (2017, 374) explains, language and ideas regarding the conflict in countries of origin might dramatically change and transform in the diaspora settings. However, it does not mean that diaspora communities are not conscious of the conflict in the country of origin. While analyzing conflict autonomization and reinvention process of conflict in diaspora settings, diaspora subjectivity as well as their experiences related to homeland issues should be analyzed through the historical longue durée. These analyses need to be built on a close examination, as well as on an un-homogenization of the Iranian diaspora. Various religious, ethnic, political, and social differences have influenced the Iranian diaspora’s attitudes and it is not possible to analyze it as a homogenized community. The politics of the locations that they reside in, and the time and reasons for leaving Iran are other important factors in this analysis.

Despite these experiences pointing to the segmentation of the Iranian diaspora, some Iranians demonstrate a willingness to look for unity and to save the women-life-freedom movement from being highjacked by patriarchy and political powers. Sara is a 32-year-old Iranian student in Finland. She shares her experience of being in the Iranian gathering in solidarity with Iranian protestors in Tampere-Finland. Sara expresses her deepest feelings about the capacity of uniting Iranians despite all their differences:

I hesitated to continue; I was thinking about how I can hold her hands. I started to look at our hands. she was asking me to hold her hands. It took me some seconds…but finally I touched her hand and warmed up. Tears of joy and of sadness shed on my face.  Her voice was the loudest in the crowd. “Woman- life-freedom”. I joined them vocally and started chanting. We were chanting together. For one goal. For an ideal utopia which became more accessible whilst we held our hands, even thousands of kilometers far from our country” (Interview on 15th of October 2022 in Tampere).



Feron, E. (2017) Transporting and re-inventing conflicts: Conflict-generated diasporas and conflict autonomisation. Cooperation and conflict. 52 (3), pp. 360–376.

Khayambashi, S. (2019) MY FLAG, MY IDENTITY:  FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES IN IRANIAN DIASPORA. PhD thesis, McMaster University.

Khosravi, S. (2018) A FRAGMENTED DIASPORA: Iranians in Sweden. Nordic Journal of Migration Research. 8 (2), pp. 73–81.

Malekian, S. (2022). Tens of thousands march in Berlin in solidarity with the Iran protests. (online). Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/International/tens-thousands-march-berlin-solidarity-iran-protests/story?id=91926288 [Accessed 10 November 2022].

Mellor, S. (2022). Musician’s song about young Iranians’ desire for ‘a normal life’ racked up 40 million views on his Instagram. It also earned him a week in prison. (online). Available at: https://fortune.com/2022/10/10/musician-shervin-hajipour-song-about-young-iranians-desire-for-normal-life-40-million-views-instagram-week-prison/ [Accessed 10 November 2022].

Mizel, O. (2019) MY HIJAB REFLECTS MY IDENTITY RATHER MY RELIGION. 3 (2), pp. 209-217.

Shakhsari, S. (2022). Without Ending Deadly Sanctions on Iran, There Can Be No “Woman, Life, Freedom”. (online). Available at: https://truthout.org/articles/without-ending-deadly-sanctions-on-iran-there-can-be-no-woman-life-freedom/ [Accessed 10 November 2022].

[1] Baraye song is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY_U5QfeQQc


Our very own Vadim Romashov defended his PhD in Peace and Conflict Research at Tampere University this fall! Vadim’s dissertation is an ethnographic story-based interpretation of everyday practices and narratives of living together in Armenian-Azerbaijani rural communities in Georgia.

At the center of his research, is a concern with how members of communities live together when group differences are presented as incompatible and opposing in prevailing ethno-nationalist narratives. Importantly, Vadim elaborates the concept of communal everday peace and proposes a shift from peacebuilding to peace-supporting that focuses on recreating infrastructures conducive to practices and narratives of living together with difference.

Read the full press release and find a link to the dissertation here

In a new blog titled “(Ukrainian) diasporas can play an important role during and after the conflict” on the site “Liikkeessä yli rajonen” (Moving across borders), Élise Féron and Mari Toivanen discuss the ways diasporas can contribute to reconstruction, solidarity-building and mobilization both during and after war. Read the full text here.

Great news! The DIASCON team will be hosting two panel sessions on “Diasporas and peace” at the 2022 European Peace Research Association (EuPRA) conference in Tampere from 1-4 June! The title of the conference is “Empowering Peace: The Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation” and we look forward to presenting our ongoing research and engaging in exciting discussions with the rest of the participants. Read more about EuPRA and the conference here, and stay tuned for the upcoming programme and additional details!


We are happy to share with you that the DIASCON handbook is now fully available online and can be found here: DIASCON HANDBOOK

The  handbook is a result of interviews, workshops and additional research conducted in the frame of the DIASCON project and is intended for practitioners working with diasporas and migrants, civil society organizations and policy makers. It deals with the challenges that diaspora groups originating from areas of conflict face in host country contexts, and further highlights transformative creative practices that can be developed by both diaspora groups and policy makers for overcoming these challenges.