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Website in Four Languages: for Georgian and Abkhazian Users

22.04.2008
www.apsni.org already exists

Nona Suvariani, Tbilisi

“We must admit to our mistakes,” is the main message of the Sorry Campaign that has been initiated by the Human Rights Centre. On April 19 Georgian-Abkhazian website and a hard copy newspaper was presented at the gallery “Kopala” as PR for the peace and resolution initiative.  Although only a short time has passed since the presentation, it has already caused some serious outcome as the first reactions are being voiced.

www.apsni.org, the website, was created in Abkhazian, Georgian, Russian and English languages. The newspaper is published in two official state languages-Georgian and Abkhazian.

Rezo Bendeliani, the director of the Association for Mixed Georgian and Abkhazian Families, has been working on Abkhazian issues for a considerable amount of time already. He stated that Abkhazian people are in dire need to have access to more and more information. He considers that such initiatives will support the bringing of Georgians Abkhazians closer together.

“Abkhazian people suffer from a dearth of all sorts of information. When they arrive from Abkhazia and see what is going on here, their mentality goes about a change.  When one Abkhaz arrives here for the first time there is a second who is motivated to arrive next.”

Tea Topuria, the PR Manager of the Human Rights Centre speaks why the “Sorry” Campaign was initiated in the first place. “We wanted to reduce tensions in the fifteen-year-old conflict between Abkhazians and Georgians with the campaign. This campaign a two way street and is designed for both sides. Georgians should realize that neither one side nor the other is totally responsible for what has happened. Moreover, Abkhazians are not guilty for this conflict; the Abkhazians should also know that every Georgian does not think of taking out revenge over what transpired.”

Ucha Nanuashvili, the executive director of the Human Rights Centre, stated that according to the Georgian Constitution the Abkhazian language is also an official Georgian State Language. Consequently the state should work towards the development and popularization of the Abkhazian language. He added that Georgian-Abkhazian relationships will not be restored unless we assume responsible for being guilty and take into consideration current problems in working towards solutions.

“It is the first time where such website or newspaper was created in Abkhazian language. We must send positive messages from Tbilisi. The Abkhaz people should feel that there is not only an environment of aggression in Tbilisi. We need to get away from the image of an enemy and work towards friendship. The website was opened several days ago but several hundreds of people have already visited it. It does appear at first impression that the level of interest is great.”

However, the presentation of the initiative did not end without some problems.

“What and to who are apologizing? And why are you apologizing? Have you done any harm to the Abkhaz People? I have a list of executed Georgians! Are you apologizing to them for not killing all of us? Are you apologizing to them for those 300, 000 Georgians who were kicked out from Akhazia and are IDPs? And for our wish to go back to Abkhazia a place where we are not allowed to return? Why should we apologize? For having protected my family? Should we support the warriors to meet each other and negotiate? When they reconcile, both sides will apologize to each other. You think only about grants in order to carry out such demonstrations,” said Gocha Gvaramia, independent expert-editor of the “Gruzia on-line”.  His opinion was shared with others who did not support the campaign. They even went as far to suggest that the centre would be more effective in using its resources to buy guns with the money they had spent for the cake for the presentation.

Aleko Tskitishvili, representative of the Journalistic Centre-Discover Georgia: “There are lists of those that died on the Abkhazian side. Most of them were Russian, Chechens, Kazaks, and as for the death toll of the Abkhaz people, they lost only about 10% of the total. We want to apologize to Abkhaz people.” 

Irma Kintsurashvili, a representative of the Abkhazian group from Georgian Public Broadcasting, could not remain indifferent to the controversy. “You want Abkhazia without Abkhazians living there,” she replied to one of radical journalists, Giorgi Tsiklauri, who insisted that Abkhazian territory is most important for them.

She said “I think that a similar initiative should have started before as Abkhazians need to be able to obtain more information about Georgians. Moreover, the younger generation lacks information about all what happened. Abkhazian youth now know that Georgians are their enemies because they were taught this from childhood.  We should create new websites where people with different opinions will be able to discuss problems in order to avoid similar stereotypical opinions.  There are those who appreciate the idea and can agree that we should apologize. However, there are also many people who cannot accept the thought of apologizing. If Georgians think that they are elder brothers for Abkhaz people then they must take the first step and show them that they can be forgiven.”

Although General Lieutenant Giorgi Shervashidze, former Commander of the Georgian Armed Forces thinks there is a long way to go the stage of apology; he discusses the campaign as a shared common attitude to the problem.

“Bidding somebody an apology is not the main issue here. What is needed is to be able to share attitudes between one another. Let us apologize to each other if it is really necessary. We are ready to do it; I have understood that for sometime.”

The discussion of the campaign did not end with the argument in the Gallery “Kopala”. The discussion had a wider audience with various forums. Gocha Gvaramia did not finish his discourse during the presentation. He continued insulting the Human Rights Centre on Abkhazeti.ru too. He called the campaign an insulting name “Bodishvilebi” (bodishi-means “sorry” in Georgian and it is Georgian name of the campaign; bodishvili sounds like “a son of a bitch” in Georgian).

“The most important element in this campaign is the fact that people are actually participating in this campaign and they have never lived in Abkhazia; actually they might have never seen Abkhazian too.”

“These are people who do not know what war is about; what is the sorrow that resulted from the hostilities. Most of them are free from patriotism, even citizenship, as they sat in Europe when the war was going on here. Most of them were very young and under the age of five at that time.”

“These are people who never honored the Memorial to the Heroes who Died in the “War for Territorial Integrity. “

“These people cannot realize that with this campaign they insult even those people whom they are apologizing to. They also had people killed during the war.”

“These are people who, having lost the sense of what is an honorable war, widened the divide between Georgian and Abkhazian people because of their senseless activities.”

“They have forgotten one truth-if you do not respect yourself, nobody will trust you, and even if you claim that you respect the opponent!!!”

Here we want to give examples of the comments made by users on various Tbilisi forums:

“Most of them (Abkhazians) must be killed, we should leave only women and children, and we must then send them to Chakvi (a Georgian resort town on the seaside) as a step to reconciliation; they do not deserve more than that. “

“Most Georgians consider that we do not have anything to apologize to Abkhaz people for. When I hear about that campaign I always want to curse and use foul language.”…

“It does not mean that we should start war with them and kill all of the Abkhazians. However, there is nothing for us apologize to them about.”

“You should write that appeal on Abkhazian forums and we should see what they would reply. Just try…”

“Enter their sites and tell them…guys, we are brothers…let’s reconcile…we want to tell you –Sorry! Let’s live together in peace.”

“We must not apologize because we are from a holy land.”

“Why should we apologize? Do not they also have to apologize? Just remember, members of Republic Party were the first to make similar statements. I think it was Paata Zakareishvili, an expert in conflict resolution, who was the first who told that we should apologize to Abkhaz people. They have grabbed our land; our people froze on the Chuberi Road as they were escaping and we should apologize for that?!”

It is completely clear that these people are aggressive not only towards the Human Rights Centre but to the Abkhazian people in general. They can understand to restore territorial integrity and not resolve the conflict with the people because the second excludes the possibility of hostilities unlike the first account.

Tea Topuria shares some of her comments about the results and reactions that followed the “Sorry” Campaign:

“Many people reacted towards the campaign. Some of them did not like it; others became extremely irritated as a result. There are many people who think that Abkhaz people will not understand this initiative and consider that we are weak in comparison to them. Many of them asked why only we are apologizing and question as if they also should apologize. I want to clarify one thing: this appeal was not written in the name of the entire Georgian nation. Those who are willing to sign the appeal will the actual authors of the document. Besides that, when you are apologizing to somebody you cannot make him/her do the same. It is up to them to decide what to do. I think it was right on the part of Georgians to take the first step. We are greater in numbers and Abkhazia was part of Georgia and not vice versa. We had more a greater degree of responsibility and it will not do us any harm if we start living up to our mistakes.”

“I cannot see anything unacceptable if I apologize to an Abkhaz for not preventing the war that was directed against them. Many people understood the campaign as if we are apologizing to criminals, military offenders, or to Abkhazian de-facto authorities. That is not the case and is not right. We want to get in touch with just ordinary people. Today, Georgians are considered only as enemies for Abkhaz people who will return to their homeland and kill every member in their families. Until Abkhaz people believe that there can be another way, they will do everything to keep the bridge over the Enguri River blocked for Georgians. To tell the truth, their fear is real. Based on the reactions that followed the campaign, many Georgians still dream of the day of rushing into Abkhazia with guns. We are against this; we do not want to fall into the abyss of war. Such a hole we have already experienced and have not been able to escape its consequences for fifteen years and counting.

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