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How People from Gori Are Transported to Turkey to Get Jobs

March 10, 2008
Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori

“We were stuck in Istanbul for 24 days. I worked at one place for two or three days without pay. We were nearly ten people in total and we had only one meal a day. The meal was one loaf of bread divided among ten people. The boss would disappear throughout the day. Our passports were taken from us. Nino Gelashvili and one more woman named Lela threatened to tear up our passports if we decided to leave. Finally I called my family in Gori and asked them to send me money to arrive back. Otherwise they would have never seen me again.” These are the words of a distressed twenty-eight-year-old woman named Tamar Dzabakhidze. She is a resident of Gori who became a victim of human trafficking after being seduced by her neighbor and friend Nino Gelashvili. 

Tamar Dzabakhidze got in touch with the Human Rights Center’s Gori office and told them the details about her 24-day ordeal in Istanbul in the summer of 2007. Her husband Giorgi Kesauri was killed in Gori on September 21, 2006, and the widow has since been struggling to bring up a child alone. Due to her poor living conditions, Nino Gelashvili, an old friend and neighbor visited her one day and offered a chance to go to Turkey in order to find a job.

Tamar Dzabakhidze: “I became a trafficked victim as a result of slander with the effort of Nino Gelashvili my neighbor and old friend. In the middle of April of 2007, Nino Gelashvili, who had lived in Turkey for eight months, called me and asked me to meet her. Nino told me she was living and working in Turkey and had a good income. Since she knew how poor my living conditions were she offered to support me in finding a job. I told her I could not afford to travel to Turkey but she said she could pay the travel expenses. I had to find only 500 USD. After finding a job in Turkey I would pay her the debt from my wages.”

Nino Gelashvili requested that Tamar Dzabakhidze take her fourteen-year-old nephew, Giorgi Eristavi with her to Turkey. Giorgi’s mother had cirrhosis and the idea was that he could assist his mother with money earned while living in Turkey.

Consequently, Giorgi’s mother decided to take her three-month disability pension along with some additional borrowed money and gave it to her son. The total amount collected was 260 USD. Nino Gelashvili took the money on the same day and said she was going to transfer the money immediately.

Tamar Dzabakhidze: “Nino also told me that if somebody else from my relatives wanted to go to Turkey to work she could support them too. She also told me that she had earned 8,000 USD herself from Turkey and was very satisfied with her work there. My brother-in-law heard her speech too and he said. “Nino is so convincing that I have already started to think of selling my car and going to Turkey with you.”

In mid May 2007, Tamar Dzabakhidze visited the village of her late husband and informed relatives about her planned departure to Turkey. The family members allowed her to go but warned not to trust everybody.

While speaking with her parents-in-law, Tamar Kesauri, a relative of her husband and resident of Kaspi district, heard about the “prospects” in Turkey. She told Dsabakhidze that her son, Badri Sabiashvili and his friend, Sashka Kavtishvili planned to go to Cyprus for 2,800 USD and asked Dzabakhidze to talk with Nino about possibly taking the boys to Cyprus for less money.

Tamar Dzabakhidze: “I had just arrived from the village when Nino called me. I asked her if she could take my relatives to Cyprus for a cheaper price. She said it was not a problem for her. Nino was by car and could call me at my place. I had to introduce her to my relatives from Kaspi and she could negotiate with them. I do not know the details of their agreement but Nino Gelashvili and Sashka Kavtishvili signed a loan contract of 5,200 USD. I also took a loan from “Georgian Bank” because I also needed to take some money with me. I leased out my gold jewelry and finally I had 397 USD and 531 GEL (I can produce bank receipts)”.

On July 2 or 3 in 2007, Nino Gelashvili informed Tamar Dzabakhidze that there was a vacancy in Turkey and she had to get ready for departure. Nino Gelashvili took ten people: Tamar Dzabakhidze, her nephew, a certain Lali, sister of Nino Gelashvili’s aunt, a girl named Soso, etc. Badri Sabiashvili, Sashka and Shalva Kavtiashvili were in the group too.

The ten people first arrived in Batumi; they rented a flat from a man named Aslan. They spent nearly ten days in Batumi while Gelashvili tried to find tickets. (The people paid for rent and bought food themselves).

As for the boys, on the fifth day Nino Gelashvili told them to get ready to travel to Trapson. At the Trapson Airport they would be given tickets to Cyprus but in fact it was false; nobody gave tickets to them.

On July 7-9 the nephew called Tamar Dzabakhidze from Trapson and asked for help; he wanted money to get back to Batumi. On July 10 everybody gathered in Batumi and people arrived in Gori without anything. However, the whole adventure was only beginning. Soon Nino Gelashvili offered the deceived people to go to Turkey again. She promised similar problems would never occur again…

On July 20 Nino Gelashvili called Tamar Dzabakhidze again and warned her to get ready for departure. This time four people arrived in Istanbul on July 24.

Tamar Dzabakhidze: “My nephew, Lali, the sister of Gelashvili’s aunt, her neighbor Soso and I stayed in the Hotel “Gunai” in a small town called Aksarai near Istanbul. It was here that they took our passports and told us not to leave the hotel without paying the bill. We spent nearly one week there and we spent the whole time in the hotel room. Nino Gelashvili was leaving the building everyday and returned back late at night or sometimes not at all. She claimed she was looking for our jobs.”

In the street Nino Gelashvili met a woman, Lela, who was employing people; however later they found out that the woman was a prostitute. Lela advised Georgian people to move to the hotel of her friend; Lela paid the money for the first hotel herself and soon the group of Georgian was lodged at hotel “Naz Hotel”, which was two kilometers away from the previous one. Nino Gelashvili took their passports and left the documents with the hotel owner.

Tamar Dzabakhidze:

“After that they advised me to let my nephew leave the hotel because it was difficult to find a job for a boy. When I refused Nino Gelashvili told me she had found some jobs for us and Nino and Lela took my nephew and me to a factory located nearly 35 kilometers away from the hotel. Our job was to cut extra threads from clothes. They left us in the factory and Nino told us she intended to work with the factory owner in the administration. We were on the second floor of the factory. It was a closed space without windows. We had to work there from the early morning till midnight. We were not allowed to go out; at midnight we were taken to the cellar of the building next to the factory where we slept. It was an ordinary cellar with a stone floor and scattered clothes filled with boxes. We were sleeping on the floor. I worked nearly two or three days there without any payment. We were nearly ten people and the only food for us was a loaf of bread for ten people a day. The situation was unbearable. I asked the factory owner I wanted to speak with Nino. She arrived at approximately 3:00 PM. I demanded that she take us from the place immediately. She called a taxi and took us to the same hotel. We spent several days there and paid for the hotel bill and food ourselves. Afterwards, Nino told us she had found another job again and took me to a clothing saloon. I took my nephew with me but Nino complained about it. We met the director of the saloon who said the job was only for me. While speaking with us he called his wife and told her he was not going to go home that night. I realized what the purpose of me being there was. I immediately called my family and asked to send money to me to getback home. Nino stole the last 152 USD from my bag. My people sent money from Gori by a bus of the company “Mahmud Tour’, located in Ortachala in Tbilisi. I paid the bill of the hotel with the money. After having heard about my departure, Lela and Nino threatened me to tear my Passport if left the hotel. We had a big argument in the hotel. Soso, a man who arrived with us in Turkey, was with us at the moment. He explained the situation to the hotel owner in Russian and returned our passports for paying some extra money. Soso, Giorgi and I traveled back to Georgia. Giorgi and Soso were allowed to leave Turkey on the same day but I was not because I did not pay the bill from the first hotel even though Lela had paid the money. Consequently, I was forced to return the tickets to Georgia. They invited me to various directions but I did not accept their offers, and I was left in the street.”

Tamar Dzabakhidze found some Georgian people who were living in Turkey, some who happened to be from Gori. She spent one day with them. The next morning they bought tickets for her and she was off to Georgia.