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Public Reaction on “Sorry” Campaign

04.05.2007
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The name of the Campaign, initiated by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Centre, sounds very simple and peaceful -“Sorry”.  It is not time to claim that only people of dignity can bid an apology; that apology is a generous behavior, etc.

The aim of the campaign is one more attempt to bring Georgian and Abkhaz people closer. That innocent “Sorry” was followed with various reactions from both Georgian and Abkhazian society.

Although, on March 14, a press-conference was planned regarding the appeal, only a small part of media arrived at the Human Rights Centre; they were representatives of the printed media. There was one exception-a journalist for the Abkhazian News Program from the Public Broadcasting Company attended the press-conference. On that very day it became clear that the society had various reactions on the campaign. However, we were too surprised at indifference that media sources demonstrated regarding our appeal.

The appeal was immediately spread on internet. The “Sorry” Campaign became a topic for consideration on many forum sites. Georgian and Abkhaz people had chance to speak openly about the “illness”, which they have suffered from for fifteen years already.

Comments on the topic were so numerous that it is not reasonable to mention all of them here. It would be better if we draw reader’s attention to those comments that mainly expressed general attitude to the “Sorry” Campaign.

Part of Georgian society thinks that we have to apology, while another part thinks that it is too offensive.

“Who will apology the mothers of those boys who were buried alive?! Or to the relatives of burnt, raped and tortured people?! They want to be humanists!!!!” similar was the reaction of the most users of Georgian forums.
“Let only those people apology who unleashed the war; who persuaded our boys that in the war they would defend their country; who was signing criminal agreements and treaties and even now go on speaking in mentor manner and tries to teach us good lessons; those people who profited from the war and got rich at the expense of others’ disaster. Then they started to call marauders and bandits to those boys who died during the battles. ТОЖЕ МНЕ ГУМАНИСТЫ С ПАЦИФИСТАМИ НАШЛИСЬ (They want to pretend humanists and pacifists),” wrote an user of a Georgian forum.

However, “Sorry” Campaign has quite a lot of supporters too: “Instead of official confession of guiltiness”- who and why unleashed the war and other stupid things (that will never happen in fact), - we’d rather try to speak with Abkhazian people through public demonstrations. A little group of Abkhazian people might also start similar campaign there (I think at least we should try).  My initial reaction was typical: “What kind of “Sorry” are they speaking about?” but some minutes later I realized the situation and I appreciated it in both emotional and pragmatic sides,” said one of the users of the forum.ge.

“I cannot express everybody’s ideas but personally I prefer sensitive method to the material one, the latter is offered by the government. Only people of honor can take similar responsibility and apology. I will sign the appeal,” said one of the forum users.

“Yesterday I showed the appeal to my Abkhaz friend and he said that it was not easy for him to read the appeal because the words written in his native Abkhazian language glared at my eyes. Two more Abkhaz people appreciated the campaign without expressing any extra emotions. I would not say that the appeal will start a revolution in the Georgian-Abkhazian relationship but last evening showed me that sincerity is the only thing that might have positive result in peaceful resolution of the conflict. This letter is little but valuable example of it for me. I felt what the author was feeling when writing the appeal and I think the readers will also understand it. I have often been told similar words of apology and I know their influence,” was written on forum.

The appeal was followed with large number of comments on the forum http://www.mygagra.ru/ . Some of the users considered, it was a provocation; others thought it was already late to take similar steps. And there were people who stated that Abkhaz people have already decided to be independent despite their economical problems.

“It is strange but you, Georgian people, often say that you want to live in peace with us though Moscow does not allow you to. However, alongside those statements you call us separatists who committed genocide on Georgian people. We used to listen to those sweet songs on friendship and love in the past, we are listening to them now and we will hear it in future too. Both parties are guilty in the war. I do not think it is a crime to defend my house form attackers who bombed us from tanks and helicopters. The roots of hostility are too deep in the ground. Thus, this single apology will not make us start life from the very beginning. Our grandchildren might live together and friendly. Now, even my twelve-year-old brother knows that Georgian people are bad and we should not expect them to do any good to us. However, I should point out that we teach him to respect other nations and cultures too. You should initially reach agreements among your society and with your government. You are those people who elect such authority and then you say they never express your opinions,” said one of the members of http://www.mygagra.ru/  a resident of Abkhazia.

There was the following phrase on the forum: “Our (Abkhazian) position is known to everybody for a long time already. First of all we need freedom, then Sokhumi, the sea and your abandoned houses. Those people, who did not fight in the war, can return to their houses and live in peace. But those people, who were fighting in the war, cannot reach Abkhazia at all.”

“Unfortunately, those people, who are really guilty for the war, do not apology to us. If we do not accept the apology it will be unfair and cruelty. I want to listen to Shevardnadze, Kitovani, Karkarashvili, Saakashvili and Burjanadze. I wonder what they will say regarding the appeal. But I know that neither I nor my son and grandson will receive any replay from them. Thus I accept your apology and I underline once more-you need not say sorry to us. It is unfair that honest people have to dig the rubbish instead of guilty ones. One more thing, you call September 27 the day of Defeat of Sokhumi, and I celebrate the Capture of Sokhumi on that day. Our mentalities radically differ and I think it will last for several dozens of years,” said Abkhazian Dauri.

It should be pointed out that the chairman of the Abkhazian Supreme Council was the only governmental official who got in touch with the Human Rights Centre. Their reaction was negative on the appeal.

Yesterday, at the meeting with the students in front of the Chancellery, the Georgian president declared: “No apologizes, they should ask pardon to the Georgian people!”

As for printed media, an article was published in the newspaper “Sakartvelos Respublika” regarding the “Sorry” Campaign. The headline of the article was “I am very “Hatamzait” (sorry-in Abkhazian language) but have you hit anything with your head, my dear Ucha?” Thus, the title demonstrates the attitude of the author. Sandro Aleksidze, the author, wrote, “If you know that the government of the country, who does not take the public opinion in consideration, will never support your initiative and call it capitulate position, why are you taking such a great effort to bid “Hatamsait”?! And one more important question - do you consider you are Mosey to lead the nation to distant and strange life?”

Special table was dedicated to “Sorry” Campaign in the newspaper “24 Saati”.

“Apology is not a panacea at all. We should not gain the trust among Abkhazian people at the expense of Georgian people’s support. Our people will get irritated. Our activities must be reasonable. Christian humanism-love your enemy-means loyalty and it should not kindle the complex of guiltiness in the society. However, the appeal of the Human Rights Center looks like self-flagellation (Sorry for not having been able to resist the disaster that transpired. Sorry for not having done more for you when we could have). Ok, let us apology but for what? For the War? For which war? For the war that was inspirited by Russia and made Georgian people hit the Abkhaz people like bowling balls hit skittles. Ok, let’s apology but both sides must say sorry…”Everybody is guilty in the war, War means the defeat.” Let us remove all incorrect definitions from the appeal that might cause controversy between the generations of fathers and sons,” said journalist, Giorgi Kalatozishvili.

Various estimations were received from international society regarding the Sorry Campaign.

“I am very much attracted with the ‘Sorry campaign’. Asking for Sorry is the very brave step. I think you will find many supporters and other will join you soon as this is the only way for the peace reconciliation. You are brave and encourage you not to give up even if pressure comes upon you from anybody,” Denis Matveev, Peace Building Consultant, stated to the Human Rights Center.

“What impressed me much with your campaign is that you do not say, that we also hope to hear the same soon… that you just dared to do first steps. I am sure many people will join you in this generous activitiy,” said Helga Tempel, board member of Forum ZFD.

Bjorn Kunter, director of the Social Safety Federation (BSV, Germany) could not help tears when reading the appeal and said that “Reconciliation works through forgiveness. It is a precondition to sustainable peace. People who dare forgive and to ask for forgiveness, would always be treated as betrayers by their own people but I think on the other way round it’s the people who think it’s more important  to hate the others or wait for them to take first step are the betrayers of the both people. And if I am asking for forgiveness, it does not mean that I will be forgiven.”

On May 2, traditional Wednesday discussion at the Heinrich Boell’s Foundation was dedicated to the Sorry Campaign. The director of the foundation said that almost none of their meetings had so large audience before. The discussion was too boisterous. Both supporters and opponents of the campaign could express their opinions.

The argument still goes on regarding the campaign and if we are too optimistic, it will end when Abkhaz and Georgian people overcome their pride and give up considering each other enemies. It is the aim of “Sorry”.

Nino Tarkhnishvili

 

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