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#1 MosJan

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 12:02 PM

Another punishment? Beating of Armenian activist in Georgian prison raises questions and concerns
By Gayane Mkrtchyan
ArmeniaNow reporter
Published: 01 May, 2009

Several Armenian organizations in Armenia and abroad came up this week with statements on the fact of the beating of Vahagn Chakhalyan, the leader of the 'United Javakhk' Democratic Union who currently serves a lengthy term in Georgian capital Tbilisi's prison.

Chakhalyan, an activist for Armenian rights in Javakhk, an Armenian-populated province in Georgia, was detained last July in Javakhk (accused in espionage) and early in April was found guilty by a Georgian court on a string of charges relating to breaking public order. Chakhalyan was sentenced to ten years in prison, which sparked protests among Armenians in Georgia, Armenia and Diaspora.

The Coordination Council of the Armenian Organizations in France (CCAF) made an announcement saying that Chakhalyan was taken out of the cell and severely beaten by the employees of the prison.

Chakhalyan's beating in Georgian prison elicits strong reaction from Armenian groupsChakhalyan's lawyers (Patrick Arapyan, Stepan Voskanyan, Zurab Rostiashvili) assert in their statement that the beating was "a peculiar 'answer' from the Georgian authorities to the huge public protest wave against Chakhalyan's unjust verdict, and especially the demonstration in front of the Georgian Embassy in Paris on April 14 in his defense."

Sharing the viewpoint of Chakhalyan's lawyers, Armenian National Assembly member Shirak Torosyan, Chairman of the Javakhk Compatriotic Union, told ArmeniaNow that this way the Georgian authorities aim to suppress the public so that people do not keep on struggling.

"Otherwise they would continue committing violence against Chakhalyan. And his case is undoubtedly directed against all Armenians living in Javakhk. Its aim is to make Armenians abandon Javakhk and distort local Armenians' national identity," says Torosyan.

Currently compatriotic unions and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) very often raise the issues connected with Armenian-Georgian problems. But Torosyan believes that such type of problems should be settled at intergovernmental level.

"Armenia conductions a cautious policy in relations with Georgia simply because this country is our gateway to the rest of the world," he says, "Georgia, trying to take advantage of the situation, abuses its geopolitical position, and treats Armenians living in Javakhk impudently. Georgia persecutes national figures, commits violence against them, puts them into prison, and files illegal lawsuits against them."

Sevak Artsruni, head of the 'Yerkir' (Country) Union of Repatriation and Argumentation NGOs, states that most of Armenian activists of Javakhk either went into hiding or are in jail. He says that Georgian authorities constantly commit violence against Armenian activists.

"It is not only Vahagn Chakhalyan, who was sentenced; he is not the only person for whom the International Convention on Human Rights and the laws of Georgia have been violated. All those who stay in Javakhk should put up with the fact of the superiority of the Georgian ethnos," says Artsruni.

Yet in February, during his visit to Armenia, Georgian Foreign Minister Gregory Vashadze announced that there is no problem of Javakhk, there is only a social-economic problem in Javakhk, as well as in other regions of Georgia; and Georgia is in a heavy situation after Russia's aggression. If Armenia thinks that people live better in Kutaisi than in Samtskhe-Javakheti, it is deeply wrong, very often they live even in worse conditions, he said then.

"There is no other government that takes care of its national minorities as Georgia does since 2003. The problem is that Georgian-Armenians' integration into Georgia's public life is slower than the Armenian community of Georgia and the Georgian Government would like it to be. The aim of present and all future Governments of Georgia is the defense of human rights of all people living here," mentioned Vashadze.

Shirak Torosyan says that Georgia has many obligations to the Council of Europe (CE). In 2005, the Framework Convention for the Protection of CE National Minorities' human rights was ratified. It is mentioned there that all rights of national minorities must be protected.

"However, Georgia is violating that Convention a hundred times a day. This is what we mean, and not only against Armenians. This country adopted the approach of forceful and violent means of settlement of the issues connected with national minorities," says Torosyan.

During Vashadze's visit to Yerevan, at the joint press conference of the two foreign ministers, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan said that all issues that interest Georgian Armenians were always topics of honest and mutually interesting discussions in Armenian-Georgian relations.

"There are no problems that we cannot solve by means of cooperation," he said.

Torosyan says that according to the Armenian Constitution and the international norms on human rights, Armenia has the right to worry about its compatriots living in a foreign country.

"Javakhk is not Diaspora. If in other countries we have problems connected with preserving Armenian national identity, then in the case with Javakhk, it is something else. Here people live in their historical land; the majority of the population here is Armenian; they have problems connected with preserving the language, national identity and dignity," says Torosyan. "Armenia does not meddle in Georgia's domestic affairs, but Armenia should settle those problems during high-level meetings with that country."

On April 21, the conference of the Armenian United Council of the NGOs of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli took place in Akhaltsikhe, where a clear decision was made on the status of Javakhk.

"They believe that federalism is the best form of regional administrative structure for Georgia. In this case the Armenian regions (the populated territories of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli) will be viewed within the large federal unit," says Torosyan.

According to him, the proposal was submitted to the Georgian authorities, which, as Torosyan believes, will either remain unanswered or will be subjected to strong criticism.

#2 Javakhk

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 02:35 PM

A main point our Armenians need understand about Javakhk is that it is not only the problem of Javakhk Armenians, but it is a problem for whole Armenia.

Here is a simple example: Why need an average Armenian (in Armenia or in Diaspora) be interested in arrest of Chakhalyan? Although the average Armenian knows that Chakhalyan’s arrest is not fair, but… but are all arrests in Armenia, too, fair? Aren’t there unfair arrests in, say, Kapan?

So I may be not very much interested in the fact how fair are the arrests in Kapan. Why need an average Armenian be interested in Chakhalyan? I advisedly set the question in this form because many Armenians, I am sure, can view the problem this way.

The answer is this: I may ignore an arrest in Kapan, but I CANNOT ignore if, say, Turkey builds railroad via Kapan from Turkey to Azerbaijan. I CANNOT ignore if, say, Armenians leave Kapan, and Turkey have plans to bring there Turkish population. For, things like are problems not only for Kapan, but are huge danger for existence of ARMENIA, in general!

This is what happens in Javakhk.


#3 hosank

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 09:58 AM

well regardless, i think georgia has a big PR problem.

after two wars with their northern minorities, they still don't understand the main rule: if you poke at something relentlessly, it will poke back..and if you happen to be president of georgia, who's military my grandmother can defeat singlehandedly, i suggest a wiser approach.

armenians are not some sort of dangerous minority in georgia in the sense that they are coming in increasingly large waves of immigration or anything. the armenian population in georgia in general, and javakhk in particular have been quite stable, and lived in these lands for generations. as the article mentionned, javakhk is not diaspora: its not like the armenians recently immigrated there, or crossed the border, the border just crossed them. georgia's strategic position is also a hazard for its security, it, of all nations in the region, should be the n1 peacemaker, instead, it seems to be a magnet for war.

sakaashvili, or who ever will replace him after these protests, should understand that georgia should act somewhat as a federation, with at least some autonomy for its historic minorities (i.e. armenians)...and on the other hand, armenians must at least attempt to integrate, like, learn georgian and so on, so there is work to do on both sides.

i also strongly agree that if there is any progress to be made it will be through bilateral relations between armenia and georgia, the solution can only be found through mutual, peaceful cooperation and persuasion




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