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'There Is no Way to Peace; Peace Is the Way' - An Appeal to the Georgian Nation

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Why I Apologize To Abkhaz People (Part I)
Choice for Georgia: Georgian Chauvinism or Abkhazia?

Ucha Nanuashvili, Initiator of “Sorry” Campaign
Executive Director of the Human Rights Center

“Sorry” Campaign was launched in March of 2007. It is not easy to apologize as well as to accept an apology.

The aim of the Sorry Campaign is to change the dynamics and direction of the relationships that have been established between Georgians and Abkhazians during recent years. The “Sorry” Campaign is not in any way connected with politics; it is a movement against war, as we consider that there is no alternative to peaceful dialogue and mutual settlement of the conflict.

The Campaign envisages the reestablishment of confidence between Georgian and Abkhazian people and to break through the informational vacuum. We want to encourage people to think about the horrors of war and the mistakes we have made.

When you toss a pebble in the water, the circles are produced; we hope that the Sorry Campaign will serve as a pebble in solving the problem.

These words launch the website of the “Sorry” Campaign  www.apsni.org. Much was written and said on this topic particularly in internet and public discussions because leading media sources (among them so-called independent ones) systematically blocked information about this campaign. Not only the Campaign but even discussion of this idea had opponents. And yet, why do we apologize to Abkhaz people? I want to clarify this issue more in order to make everybody think about those mistakes that led us to the current conditions. We have not realized our mistakes yet and still continue living in the world of myths. Georgian people live with Georgian myths and Abkhazian people with Abkhaz myths.

Dialogue Which Does not Exist

Today, Georgian society lacks the opportunity to speak with Abkhaz people directly and vice versa.

For many years certain authorities have been leading Georgian society in the wrong way and they have constantly sought and continue to seek the avoidance of direct and open dialogues between the sides of the conflict. Consequently negotiations are being artificially hindered in the process. Shevardnadze was implementing similar politics during many years; after the Rose Revolution, particularly after 2005 – Saakashvili started it. Almost all leading political and public forces simplified this idea in Georgia.

Unfortunately, politicians do their job poorly or do not do at all. Extremely complicated situation is result of their poor work; the society sacrifices its life to these mistakes. It is natural to ask: Why should our people become victim of dirty games of our politicians?

Georgian and Abkhaz peoples need only peace and dialogue. Why cannot those powers realize it who dares to represent the will of the people? Everybody admits it superficially but what is happening in reality?

Whose orders do politicians obey?

Politicians are obliged to obey the orders of the people and do their utmost to offer the people the way which will lead everybody out of this deadlock and transfer Georgian-Abkhazian relationship into a new phase. Unfortunately, most part of politicians does not express public interest; though they have appropriated the right to speak in the name of people. As a rule, public opinion is neglected. Nobody has asked people whether they wanted to start war in Abkhazia 17 years ago. Those formations, which initially raided Samegrelo and then Abkhazia, were called Georgian armed formations and acted in the name of Georgian state. Number of incidents was provoked in the name of Georgian state.

Informational vacuum and media in escalation of the conflict

Today, we Georgian and Abkhaz peoples know much more about foreign countries, than about each other. Information war has been going against Georgian and Abkhaz peoples for many years already. Population receives extremely filtered information and in most cases it is disinformation. Every day, mass media releases false information and they create image of enemy of the opposite side. It continues endlessly.

People, who cannot get alternative information, unfortunately believe the disinformation. Only few people know that most of the released TV-items are either staged or only part of it is true. It will be nice if people will think seriously before they believe the information about conflict zone. We could check only small part of the information and it was enough to get convinced that the government successfully breeds false public opinion, manipulates with the information, and does not avoid fabrication of the facts and spreading of disinformation. All abovementioned activities impact escalation of the conflict. So-called journalists actively participate in this process who, because of their poor professionalism, spread impartial information and sometimes purposefully falsify the reality and feed people with disinformation as it is ordered by the government.

Today Georgian-Abkhazian politics relies on inter-accusations. Our government applies to this method mostly before the elections. Let us recall inspiration of Khurcha incident during parliamentary elections in 2008. It must be noted that the government of Georgia does not have copyright on this incident. In February of 2008, government of Armenia used the same method to cover the falsification of elections – intensive fight started in the districts bordering with Karabakh.

We received confrontation which resulted into the violation of the rights of peaceful population. Enemy image is getting stronger and ordinary criminal facts in conflict zone are qualified like incidents committed by “Abkhaz criminals”, “Abkhaz armed formations”, “Ossetian separatists,” etc. We know the facts when for false statements made in front of TV-cameras respondents were paid. Video-recordings made in Tsalenjikha and Zugdidi districts are declared to be recorded in Gali district.

We hope soon people will be suspicious about the facts and evaluations we have heard recently. We should respect and be more attentive to each other. Georgian and Abkhaz peoples living in the conflict zone have right on development and peaceful life. Does anybody remember these people? Do we remember tens thousands people who live in this atmosphere every day?

Who are Abkhaz people for Georgian people?

It is curious how sensitive is Georgian society about Abkhaz nation and how they respect them? Are we sincere in our statement – we want to live together with Abkhaz people when we cannot understand each other at all. If Abkhaz people are guests for us who “live on our holly land and should be grateful to us because they are alive and breath fresh air”, and translation of the Bible in Abkhaz language is unacceptable for many people and if we think that Abkhaz people are Georgians in fact and Abkhaz nation does not exist at all. Maybe we should find out who burnt state archive and scientific-research institute in Sokhumi during the war. Let us confess what we have done to save Abkhaz language and culture. How much lari we have spent on it? What have we done to resolve the conflict? What does it mean that 2007 budget of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia was 1, 494 billion GEL while the budget of the administration of the State Minister for Conflict Regulation was only 610 000 GEL (approximately similar figures were in the following years)? What do we do to make Abkhazia Abkhazian and to develop their language?

In the constitution Abkhaz language is state language in Abkhazia. However, how many books were published in Abkhaz language for the last 18 years in Tbilisi? Maybe we also benefit into the rusification of Abkhazia?

Why do Abkhaz people tend to Russia?

We will not go far in this discussion because it is still clear for readers how Soviet Union and later Russian Federation worked to escalate conflicts. Eventually, our society will learn how it works today and who supports Russia to take advantage of these conflicts on local level.

Role of Soviet KGB has not been evaluated in this process and in national movement yet as well as in armed coupin 1991-1992. Why did the leaders, who supported the dialogue and problem resolution, die in obscure situations?  Why did those powers develop who complicate already tense situation? There are many unanswered questions. Latest history has not been evaluated at all. Working on lustration law was suspiciously blocked and it was not accidental at all.

Maybe it is time for us to think why Abkhaz people are ready to urge Russia for help – the Russia which has fought with them in the 19th century severely and evicted most part of them and completely destroyed another part. Today, nobody speaks about the genocide of Abkhaz people by Russia in the 19th century. Why? Today, when we speak about repatriation of the deported Turkish-Meskhs, we do not remember about Abkhaz Muhajirs? If the society and the government states that Abkhazia is part of Georgia, why do not we act successively?
Return of Abkhaz Muhajirs and Georgian IDPs in Abkhazia

Georgian and Abkhaz peoples had collaborated for many centuries. Today, we do not give alternative way to Abkhaz people except Russia. Descendants of Muhajirs still live as refugees. Does anybody in Georgian society, Georgian politicians, remember those people? Which political or public group remembers them? I do not say anything about governmental officials or state agencies. Does the government want to learn about the problems of Muhajirs and start speaking about their repatriation? Who is ready for that? Are we ready for the return of Georgian IDPs? Do we really need it, or it is also component of political games and PR campaign which is promoted only when somebody needs it? Late in 1990s many residents of Gali district returned back to Abkhazia. This wave was so huge that the government of Georgia was really scared of it because it was losing tools to manage this problem and blocked the process again. Maybe we still need to have IDPs because it is easy to gain their votes by promises before elections. Does anybody remember to apologize to IDPs because the government failed to protect them? Just the opposite, the government have been degrading tens thousands of people for many years. When will Georgian state apologize to Abkhaz people and Georgian IDPs?

Working on the return of Georgian IDPs and Abkhaz Muhajirs shall start simultaneously. Percentage of Abkhaz people shall increase. IDPs shall return. Otherwise, Abkhazia will never look towards Europe. It is reality of the 21st century.

How Many Abkhazian Words Do We Know?

Does anybody remember in Tbilisi who are Abkhaz people and how many people know at least one Abkhaz word. Word “Hatamzaait” (Sorry) is the only Abkhazian word that is familiar to many Georgian people. Do we really need to settle our relationships with Abkhazia? Do we see our fault in what happened? Or only separatists and Russian occupants are guilty in everything? It is clear who is Russia and what it wants. Do we wonder about real interests of Abkhaz people, do we wonder what they think about? What are they worried about? Maybe they are right in something; it will be nice if we judge the situation from the side of Abkhaz people.

But no! Similar policy leads to a huge farce, which is called Russian scenario, and it is deadlock. Every authority of Georgia participated in the implementation of this farce reasonably or unreasonably. This policy has been working in our country for a long time against Georgian and Abkhaz peoples. It works by main characters, visible or invisible heroes. Who stood and who stands behind those people in fact? Which institution supported them? Most part of them feels comfortable and does not worry about their deeds.

September 27 – Day of Defeat of Sokhumi for Georgian People and Day of Liberation of Sokhumi for Abkhaz People

Do we ask mothers if they still want to send their sons to the war where brothers kill each other? The war, which will never have winner side, and everybody will be defeated in it. The war will be final collapse of Abkhaz people and final failure of Georgian state. Do we know that 5 % of Abkhaz people were killed in the war of 1992-1993? And if it happens again, the winner will be third party who will arrive and settle on the ruins of houses of Abkhaz and Georgian peoples. Many Abkhaz families lost at least one member in the war and you will see their photos in every family in Abkhazia. Who are those people for Georgia? For Georgians? Are they enemies? Both sides have their own heroes and enemies. What should most Georgians do in the place of Abkhaz people if armed gangs broke into their families? Should not they have taken weapon? Let us be sincere and understand each other. September 27 is the day of liberation of Sokhumi for Abkhaz people and for Georgians it is day when we lost Sokhumi. Children of both sides grow up with this mentality. Our wounds are still open and uncured. It is question do we really need to understand Abkhaz people? Shall we ever celebrate this day together?

Militarist Hysteria

War propaganda has occupied national TV-channels for last few years; they call for the war. Thousands of GEL is spent on propagandist video-rolls. “Hello, Abkhazia” without Abkhazians – “patriot” singers rush to be the first in empty Sokhumi (of course without President’s statement a song cannot be a song). 50 000 GEL was spent on low quality militarist hysteria on Psou River. We remember fascist propaganda on TV-Company “SakarTVelo”, which was funded by the Ministry of Defense – in summer of 2008 TV-programs were full of quotations from Hitler’s statements. ("It must be thoroughly understood that the lost land will never be won back by solemn appeals to the God, nor by hopes in any League of Nations, but only by the force of arms." Adolf Hitler, 1932) and it was funded from the taxes we paid to the budget.

Everybody knows what we have gained from this militarist policy and I will not go further. Unfortunately, we do not want to learn lessons on our past mistakes. We still go into the same water. The government continues old policy. Most part of the population has similar feeling. They want the same but under different leader and political team.

Who Wants War?

Those call for the war who does not know what the war is and cannot say whom we have to fight against and why. Why should we believe and follow the provocations of other power which supplied both Georgian and Abkhazian peoples with weapon in the past too and encouraged us to kill each other. They still supply us with weapon today. They have gained billions of dollars by weapon trafficking and neither Russian nor Georgian governmental officials cannot help this temptation.

We got used to false information reported on TV about each other; we have got used to live in constant tension, fear and terror. We have got used to terrorist acts and staged performances in conflict zone. We have got used to the situation of neither war nor peace.
 ... Part II

29 Jul. '10