Ingilos from Dedoflistskaro will Boycot Presidential Elections
The Ingilos are a Georgian ethnic group, historically called the Herr, living in Saingilo, which is historically Georgian territory, but currently the border region of Azerbaijan. Recently the Ingilos, or the Herr, started to move to their relatives in Georgia and now live in villages close to the border with Azerbaijan in the village of Samtatskaro in the Dedoflistskaro disctrict, plan to boycot the presidential elections. The Herr stated that the reason for their boycott was the linking bridge between Georgian and Azerbaijan which was blocked on December 31, 2005 under a governmental order. The Herr from Samtatskaro have not been able to contact their relatives in Saingilo. Residents of neighboring villages might join their protest because of poor social conditions.
The Ingilos have held several protest demonstrations and demanded the government to open the bridge; but the police dispersed them. The Ingilos living in Samtatskaro petitioned the Georgian President, the chairwoman of the Georgian Parliament, the Parliamentary Committee Human Rights and Civil Integration, the leaders of political organizations, the Public Defender’s Office, etc. The Ingilos, living in the Azerbaijan border region of Kakhi, petitioned President Mikheil Saakashvili as well.
“We expected you to pay attention to proud Ingilo people who live in a Georgian border village in the poorest social conditions. We expected that after you became president of Georgia the Ingilos would also live in humane conditions and enjoy all their rights. But, on December 31, 2005 masked law enforcers, who were sent by the Kakheti Regional Administration, damaged the road to the bridge. Since that time, the Herr living in the village of Samtatskaro have been trying to find why they are in this situation. In response to their requests so far, they have only been insulted, disregarded and threatened by public officials. Although the Georgian government does not pay attention to us, we hope that in the near future you will draw your attention to us,’ stated the petition of the Ingilos.
Nobody from the government or opposition has responded to their petition so far.
With the support of a lawyer from the Human Rights Center, the Herr brought a suit to court. The Tbilisi Civil Court has been discussing their case for eight months already but a decision has yet to be made.
Having discussed the situation, the Administration of the Georgian President’s Representative to the Kakheti region stated that: “it is beyond the competence of the President’s representatives in the region to resolve the problem of blocking the linking bridge between the village of Samtatskaro and Saingilo. Consequently, we have not enacted any administrative document on it,” said Zurab Bezhanishvili, the Deputy Gubernator.
Nevertheless, Ingilos claim that the bridge was blocked under personal order of Petre Tsiskarishvili, the kakheti Regional Gubernator.
The Financial Police within the Georgian Ministry of Finance, categorically deny its interference with the blocking of the bridge. “The exploitation problems of the bridge over the Alazani River in the village of Samtatskaro are not within the competence of the Financial Police,” said Zaza Tomadze, Deputy Head of the Kakheti Division of the Financial Police Investigation Department.
The board of the Dedoflistskaro District Department of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Georgian Border Police categorically denied their connection to the blocking of the bridge. “The transport movement along the bridge linking Satatskaro and Mughanlo at the Georgian-Azerbaijan border was ceased on January 1, 2006 according to the verbal demand of the Customs Department and Financial Police within the Ministry of Finance. There is no other administrative or legal document on its closure. The reason was a technical flaw of the bridge. The Azeri side was not informed in a timely fashion about the situation and it caused an extreme reaction from their side - the bridge was locked for pedestrians as well.
The situation created big problems for the local population who had close relatives in Azerbaijan. A tense situation occurred more often. Since May 6, 2006, the Frontier Police allowed pedestrians to resume cross the bridge again,” explained Valeri Datunashvili, the head of the Border Security Department.
The Dedoflistskaro Police feel that their forcible efforts to disperse the demonstrating Ingilos are maintaining the public order.
As for the Customs Department, they also deny their connection to the problems relating to the bridge. The head of the Administrative Office of the Department, M. Iremashvili, stated that according to their correspondence with the Georgian Ministry of Economic Development, only pedestrians can travel along the bridge over the Alazani River. “Visual examination of the bridge showed that it is in danger of collapsing. As the bridge does not belong to the Georgian road network, the prohibition of transportation along it is within the competence of the local government,” said Giorgi Gasviani, lawyer for the Transport Department.
Officials from the Dedoflistskaro Municipality stated that they were not officially informed about the blocking of the bridge. “We do not know the exact reason for hindering the transportation on the bridge. They have not agreed it with us,” said the lawyer of the Dedoflistskaro District Administration.
Lia Khuroshvili, lawyer for the Human Rights Center, said that: “The Border Police is ready to let cars on the bridge if the they receive such an order from the Customs Department. The latter keeps silent for uncertain, bureaucratic reasons,’ said the lawyer.
Judge Inga Kvachantiradze made a decision on carrying out an inspection of the bridge. Strangely, the Ingilos are responsible for of the costs of the inspection that will amount to quite a large sum.
Of course, the Herr living in the Dedoflistskaro District cannot afford to pay the expenses for the inspection. Since the bridge was locked, not only their social conditions have worsened, but also their health conditions. “Samtatskaro is a long way from the district center; the road is in a very poor condition. In winter we are completely isolated from the surrounding area because it is impossible to travel due to snow and ice on the road. We managed to travel to Saingilo at least once a week. We use to receive our medical treatment there and in hard times our relatives supported us by giving us supplies. We could go to the churches in Saingilo but now we have lost everything. It takes two hours for the ambulance to get to our village from Dedoflistskaro. Many villagers have not been able to send their children to school because of the poor social conditions we live in. Most people have migrated to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and other countries where they do hard physical labor in order to be able to send money to their relatives here. Dozens of families have left the village for ever. Samtatskaro will soon be empty,” said Ingilos Mariam Sakanelashvili, Levan Papiashvili, Tamar Alikulashvili and others.
Because of the abovementioned situation the Ingilos decided to boycott the presidential elections. “We do not trust any political organizations; nobody cares about people,” said the Herr.
In protest the Herr are going to gather near the bridge at the border to Azerbaijan where they will light candles on the Eve of St. George’s Holiday. They still cannot travel to Saingilo.
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti
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