Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti
The closer that parliamentary elections are approaching the supporters of the opposition political parties are being that much more threatened and abused, including family members. The district administration, municipality council, police department, prosecutor’s office, district offices of the leading party, as well as other governmental bodies have closed ranks being the ruling National Party. They are trying their best to win opposition activists over to their side by threatening and blackmailing. If the opposition activists refuse to come across to their side they are soon fired from their jobs or worst. There are even instances of where those without jobs are being threatened with the possibility of their relatives being set up and arrested for crimes they did not commit, which is another ploy to pressure them into changing their political loyalties.
Several teachers were fired from public schools of the Kakheti regions as of last week. Officially the reason for their dismissal was that their work load was not enough to justify remaining employed. Tamar Koroghlishvili, a School Organizer, was fired from her public school teaching job based on similar reason in the village of Gurjaani. However, as it was later found out the director had abolished only her position in the school and this done in agreement with the Board of Trustees at the school.
“My husband also worked at school Before Presidential Elections on January 5, 2008 he was fired from his job. I was the next target and tossed from my job as well. The reason for our dismissal was based on reductions in human resources at school. However, it was only my position that was terminated at my school. In reality, however, losing our jobs is based on the political activities of my brother-in-law. He worked in the district election HQ of Arkadi Patarkatsishvili, the former presidential candidate and now deceased famous businessperson. I understand that the head of the district organization of “United National Movement” personally gave the order to have me punished,” said Tamar Koroghlishvili.
Teachers were also fired in the public schools of Gurjaani, Telavi and Sighnaghi districts.
One of them, Tamar Charbodashvili said that before being fired officials from the district administration and prosecutor’s office sent relatives to her with the requirement that she not support the opposition in the upcoming elections. They promised that in the event that I did not support the opposition would instead stand in active support of the leading party that I would be given the position of deputy school director. However, I did not accept their offer. The reaction was swift: the police arrested my son and then threatened to send him to prison if I would not give in to their demands. Police officers claimed they could blame my son for at least unsolved robbery. I still did not object over them firing me from the job. My son was only released after I lost my job,” she said.
The heads of the Educational Resource Centers of the Ministry of Education and Science in those districts where Mikheil Saakashvili failed to gain a convincing victory during the recent presidential elections have all been ordered to write letters of resignation. Based on the latest information, the demand was made to Dali Mindiashvili, the head of Gurjaani District Educational Resource Centre. She was asked to submit a letter of resignation. However, in spite of their insistence, she did not give in to their demand. Zurab Kheviashvili, the head of the district organization of the National Movement and Giorgi Sibashvili, former district governor then directly threatened her: “If you do not resign on your own free will then we will have at least two people standup and blame you for being a bribe taker during the time when school directors were appointed.”
Dali Mindiashvili confirmed that she was actually requested to resign and then threatened. However she does not want to make official comments about her plight.
Zurab Kheviashvili denies the fact that he demanded teachers and heads of resource centers to resign. ”I have no idea why and who was fired. I will invited school directors and find out what is the situation,” said Kheviashvili. Representatives of the district organization of the National Movement pointed out that Dali Mindiashvili would rather go back to Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, as she is an IDP from the conflict zone.
Kakha Labuchidze, Gurjaani District Governor categorically denies the fact of harassing teachers. He stated that local government has always been unpopular among teachers, which is well demonstrated by the number of votes we received during the last presidential election. However, he never demanded to fire teachers for such a reason. Giorgi Sibashvili, de-facto governor of Gurjaani district, says the same thing.
Representatives of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Centre assess the situation as persecution of citizens having varying political opinions. Lia Khuroshvili, lawyer for the centre, stated that although Georgian Constitution prohibits persecuting a person regardless his/her opinion, faith or beliefs, those who have already been fired or those who will fired in the nearest are being persecuted on such grounds. “Breaching the equality between people because of their political or other beliefs, is a violation of basic human rights. Responsibility is provided under the Georgian Criminal Code, Article 142, which brings a three-year-imprisonment if a person is found guilty,” explained the lawyer.
Teachers urge the Georgian Public Defender, human rights organizations and media outlet for their immediate assistance.