The Little Fascist Republic North of Armenia


Team Keghart Editorial, 10 February 2010

“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”—Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces, 1983

It seems what Eitan had in mind for the Palestinians are being implemented against Javakhk Armenians by the dictatorial and ultra-nationalist regime of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvilli.

 
Since Georgia gained its independence, authorities in Tbilisi have made a covert and overt state policy to persecute non-Georgian minorities, including Armenians living in Tbilisi and in Javakhk.


Team Keghart Editorial, 10 February 2010

“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”—Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces, 1983

It seems what Eitan had in mind for the Palestinians are being implemented against Javakhk Armenians by the dictatorial and ultra-nationalist regime of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvilli.

 
Since Georgia gained its independence, authorities in Tbilisi have made a covert and overt state policy to persecute non-Georgian minorities, including Armenians living in Tbilisi and in Javakhk.

 
While Saakashvilli portrays his country as little David facing the Russian Goliath, it’s also true that he is running an imperialist-racist state when it comes to minority rights. We have already witnessed a number of ethnic groups (Abkhazians, South Ossetians, Ajarians) bridle at the ultra-nationalistic policies of Georgian authorities. It’s obvious the dream of the Tbilisi government is to create a 100% “pure” Georgian state– through harassment of non-ethnic Georgians, through assimilation and even good, old-fashioned racial persecution. Although Tbilisi claims that ethnic Georgians make up 83.3% of the 4.6 million population, it’s a fact that the percentage is highly inflated. After all, the republic has at least 10 minorities (Avars, Hamshen Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Laz, Bats, Kist, Lom, Mskhetian Turks, Udi, Ukrainians, and Urums) in addition to Armenians, Azeris, Russians, Ossetians, Abkhazians and Ajarians. While exaggerating the number of Georgians, Tbilisi falsely alleges that there are only 250,000 Armenians in Georgia, instead of 400,000.

In the past five years the Javakhk Armenians have become a target of the authorities in Tbilisi, especially after the Russian military evacuated their Javakhk bases.

According to Europe-based YERKIR NGO, “Everyday the Javakhketi Armenians are suffering from political, linguistic, cultural, educational, religious and socio-economic discrimination.” Although Georgia has ratified the various international documents for the protection of national minorities, Tbilisi gives lip service to these commitments.

Javakhk was part of Armenia Major as early as in 8th century B.C., during the reign of Argishty, king of Armenia . In the 16th century there were 200 Armenian villages in the region. The area, which reminds people of an unspoiled Switzerland, is jam-packed by Christian and pre-Christian Armenian buildings and monuments. The three main districts of Javakhk are Akhalkalak, Akhaltsekha, and Ninozminda. The first one has 63 villages; the second, 47 villages; and the third 32 villages. Javakhk covers an area of 850 square miles. While historically the population was more than 90% Armenian, there has been a decline in the 140,000 Armenian population in recent years due to emigration to Armenia and to Russia. While the Armenian percentage has shrunk, thanks to undemocratic and discriminatory Georgian policies, the percentage of Armenians is much higher than the 54% that Tbilisi claims. Most Armenians in the region are farmers. While Tbilisi Armenians are relatively in a better shape, they too complain about discrimination. Best chance of success in Tblisi is to change one’s name to shvili, dze, and ani, Armenians in the capital have told Diaspora Armenian journalists.

To say that the Javakhk region is the most underdeveloped and impoverished area of a backward Georgia says a great deal about the lot of Javakhk Armenians. The region has the highest rate of unemployment and lowest rate of state investment. There is no industry, while agriculture is Medieval. Javakhk is an economic, geographic and political desert island.

The complaints of Javakhk Armenians in particular and Georgia Armenians in general make a long and justified litany of maltreatment by Georgian authorities. Here’s a brief and incomplete summary of their complaints:
 

1. The local self-government bodies of Armenian-populated areas of Javakhk are denied the right to exercise the powers provided to them by law.
2. The internal socio-political and administrative life of Armenians is superseded by the heavy hand of Georgian police and security services.
3. The law requires mandatory and sole use of Georgian language in all spheres of public life in Armenian populated areas.
4. The Armenian Apostolic Church still has no legal status in Georgia. Churches confiscated during the Soviet era have not been returned to the Armenian Church. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 29 Armenian churches in Tbilisi. Now only two function. What the Georgians haven’t confiscated, they have destroyed. Demonstrating its naked animus towards Armenians, Georgia has not acknowledged the veracity of the Armenian Genocide.
5. Georgian authorities continue their campaign of changing place names from Armenian to Georgian.
6. Georgian border guards create artificial obstacles to the importation of Armenian books and periodicals.
7. After Javakhk Armenians demanded autonomy, similar to the ones enjoyed by a number of other ethnic groups, Georgian special troops conducted (July 15, 2008) terror operations to shut down all Armenian organizations. Several Armenian policemen were killed (Georgians said one of the policemen had committed suicide!), Armenians were beaten, a youth radio station was shut down and its equipment confiscated. They arrested Armenian community leaders and their family members. The Georgians jailed Vahakn Chakalyan, the head of United Javakhk Democratic Alliance, on trumped up charges. Due process was dismissed. Chakalyan, his father and brother are still in jail. Since the Georgian police action, a number of Armenian leaders have left the country to avoid further persecution. Several of these leaders were handed long-term sentences in absentia. Politicians and public figures in Armenia, who dare speak on behalf of Javakhk Armenians, are banned from entering Georgia.
8. In an attempt to artificially alter the demographics of the region, Georgian authorities have settled Georgians, Ajarians and Meskhet Turks in Javakhk.
9. The 400,000-strong Armenian community has only five seats in the 235-seat Parliament.

The United Nations Human rights Committee in its 91st session (Oct. 2007) called upon Georgian authorities to take steps to ensure to all citizens the equal enjoyment of the right of freedom of religion and asked Tbilisi to ensure that its legislation and practice conform fully to international standards and practice. Nice words which carry no weight for the reckless Saakishvilli regime.

A few weeks ago Javakhk, Armenia and Diaspora organizations founded the Coordinating Council for the Protection of the Rights of Javakhk Armenians to fight for Javakhk Armenian rights. The new organization, which includes the Compatriotic and charitable Javakhk NGO, the Analytical Center ‘Midk’, the political party ‘Virk’, the public movement ‘Javakhk’ and the Yerkir Union of NGOs for Repatriation and Settlement, will intensify the involvement of all Armenians in efforts to protect the rights of Javakhk Armenians. The new organization will campaign against the fascist policies of Georgia and demand that Tbilisi stop its anti-Armenian campaign.

In a Javakhk-Yerevan joint news release the Council said that it would demand that all political prisoners be set free, the rule of law be implemented, and the security of Armenians guaranteed. The Council will demand that Georgia recognize the Armenian Apostolic Church as a legal entity and return Church properties. It will also demand that legislation be enacted to allow the use of the Armenian language in all spheres of public life in local administrative areas where the Armenian population represents a majority.

Although according to the press in Armenia, Yerevan has tried to relieve the pressure on Javakhk Armenians, in the current political, economic and military climate Armenia finds its hands tied when it comes to condemning the fascist acts of Tbilisi. Polite demands by the UN do not worry seemingly bi-polar Saakashvilli, especially since he has become the regional poster boy of the United States.

The Javakhk crisis is another circumstance where the Diaspora can and should play an active part — pressure Georgia to come to its senses — since the leaders of the motherland find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

For more information about the Council and its activities, write to contact[at]yerkir.eu
or Robert Tatoyan at rob[at]yerkir.org or +374 (0) 94 36 17 23.

 

9 comments
  1. It’s about time

    It’s about time Armenian organizations got together and started to address this very serious issue. 

    The ironic part is that it’s Georgian policies above that led them to losel S. Ossetia and Abkhazia for good, and other regions will likely follow if the jingoistic tendencies of official Tiflis continue.

  2. Learning

     

    Thank you for such an informative article that opens our eyes to a new space of Armenianness. I confess that it’s the first time that I hear about Javakhk Armenians, and I read with big pain the new genocide that is perpetrated in Georgia – it’s not only cultural, but also against human beings.

    I don’t know why a supposedly Christian country like Georgia can’t respect human life. On the other hand experiences, like Serbians’, show that many a times faith is only a religious definition, not a style of life. Sometimes, under human skin, a wild animal lives that looks to devour "preys".

    I don’t know how I could help. I will distribute this article, but, of course, I think it isn’t enough.

    Did the United Nations take any action in defense of those minorities? What is the Armenian goverment doing for its own people in Georgia? Still, most importantly,  what can we do for them? Martin Luther King said "Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people, but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people". I don’t want to be a silent accomplice.

    Paraphrasing Jorge Luis Borges, being Armenian is not a place of birth, but is a destiny. Destiny in not written in stones. We write our own destiny with our thoughts, decisions, efforts and acts.

    Best regards.

    1. United Nations<==>Useless Nations

      United Nations <==> Useless Nations.  So far I haven’t seen them do anything for humans, either in Lebanon, Israel, Armenia and other countries. They have just been observers and haven’t defended any nation or stood-up for their rights.

      Examples: 
      1. Cyprus got invaded by Turks illegally and what did the UN do? – nothing!!
      2. Genocide is being committed against the Palestinians and UN is just ‘observing’ and in some instances becoming a victim itself !!…
      3. Border closing of a landlocked country is internationally condemned, yet Turks are getting away with it by blockading Armenia.

      Armenians should leave any country if we are being oppressed there (e.g. Georgia in this case) and the Armenian government should help those people get free homes, immediate jobs, food, transportation, etc.  We need to increase the population in Armenia and we can start by bringing people from those places where they are being oppressed.

      But of course the Armenian government is corrupt as the Mafia…oops!

      1.  I would like to dispute some of your claims
        I would like to dispute some of your claims.

        Turkish invasion of Cyprus was necessitated by the the atrocities of Greeks to exterminate the Turkish minority in the Island. Of course no need to repeat elected Cypriot President Makarios’s open policy statements to join Cyprus with Greece in his lifetime,  also Greek military junta’s continuous arming/militarizing the island in contravention of the treaties between Britain, Greece and Turkey.

        Turkey did everything diplomatically possible and only when the situation became even more dire used the military option.

        Border closing with Armenia happened  due to Armenian invasion of Nogorno Karabakh. Turkey could not tolerate aggressive military action near its borders, especially when it involved Azerbaijan, a Turkish kin and ally. However, other communication routes were not closed as there are flights between Yerevan and Istanbul twice a week. Turks and Armenians are free to travel, shop freely. Of course, this border closing hurt Armenians but also had major negative impact on local Turkish community as well. Recent moves are giving me hope that the border will again be opened soon.

        As far as genocide being committed against Palestinians, I agree with you to an extent.  There is no doubt Palestinians are suffering under Israeli occupation, but calling their suffering as genocide is wrong. When people start using these type of loaded legal terms to depict any human tragedy, solutions become impossible to achieve…

        UN is a body of nations causing problems and it is not in its charter to interfere aggressively in the affairs of nations. Having said that, their work goes on to minimize such problems and to ease the human suffering all over the world, albeit not in very noticeable and visible manner.

        There is no institution in the world to prevent or solve big problems we all encounter.

        1. Aydin Bey, You are lucky that
          Aydin Bey,

          You are lucky that you are in the USA. Maybe you are not aware of it but there is vast infomation on the world events in this country. I suggest you take advantage of that.

          You recognize the right of Turkey to invade Cyprus in order to save Turkish kinsmen and yet you deny those rights to Karabagh Armenians. Any reasonable person will call it HYPOCRISY..

          Obviously your knowledge of history is formed and manufactured by Azeri propaganda , not by facts.

          Facts # 1 Azerbaijan declared its independence from Soviet Union , according to Soviet constitution

          Fact # 2 Karabagh declared its independence from Azeri overlords by the same constituton.

          Fact #3 Upon this declaration Azeris started the Sumgait massacre of Armenians. ( Aydin Bey, do not believe me just  put  a search in Google and click Sumgait)

          Azeris could not swallow their misguided sense of pride and attacked Karabagh Armenians AND Armenians of Armenia went to the aid of their kinsmen. As they say in Turkish :" evdeki hesap carsiya uymadi" loosely translated " the results were not same as what they had hoped for " that is to say eradicating Armenians.

          Well, Aydin, can you see the parallel here?

          As they say, "Yalancinin mumu yatsiya kadar yanar". For those who do not know Turkish it means " the liar’s candle stays lit untill bed time"

  3. Should Armenia ever get an

     

    Should Armenia ever get an alternate route through Turkey with access to the outside world, Georgia will pay the price.

    The Georgian authorities jumped at the opportunity to build a rail line from Kars that would bypass Gyumri and further isolate Armenia. One should never forget that in 1915 the dominant nationality in Tiflis was Armenian. When the 1st First World War ended, Armenia was willing to pay for an access route to Batumi port and the Georgians refused.

    To my Georgian friends I say, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". 

  4. Վրաստանը եւ մենք

     
    Չմոռնանք որ Վրաստանը երկու անգամ կորսնցուցած է իր անկախութիւնը հայերուս մեղքով. 19րդ դարու սկզբին եւ 20րդ դարու սկզբին:

    Այսօր ալ Ջաւախքի հայ շարժումը մեծաւ մասամբ կը ծառայէ Մոսկուայի շահերուն: Աւելի քան բուն ջաւախահայութեան շահերուն:

    Անշուշտ չեմ արդարացներ Թիֆլիսի օտարատեցութիւնը, սակայն մոռնալու չէ, որ խնդիրը երկու երեսակ ունի:
     

     

  5. The serious situations in Javakh

    I spent two days in Javakh in September 2009.

    The government’s Anti-Armenian pressures were obvious and visible even to tourists.  I found that the Armenian communities, rather resiliently, stand by their principles and looking forward and hoping for some positive help from diaspora and specially from our snail pacing RA government.

    Zory Balayan made a world tour some eight years ago, pointing all those sufferings and difficulties, but who took notice of him?

  6. Great article

    Great article.

    The miserable status of only the Armenia churches in Tibilisi is cause for action against Georgia.  In fact more work in Washington DC and Europe should be done by the Armenian lobby against Georgia.

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