In the far northwestern part of Georgia is what is now labeled the Autonomous Republic of Georgia. A law passed by the Georgian Parliament in January of last year formally recognized this former part of Georgia as an occupied territory. This perhaps can be seen as an official recognition of conflict that had been ongoing, resulting in large numbers of Georgians leaving or being forced to leave their homes, business, and places. Physical evidence of this can be seen at places like Tblisi Sea where huge high rise hotels have been established for IDPs as apartments. I saw these several days ago but took no pictures. We were bouncing over potholes and the like.
I met the minister of education and culture for the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. She uses the term Gali as her name for this region. I forgot to ask about this but will. Hopefully she and a group of IDP teens and some teens from Lincoln are going to have a skype exchange. So, if that works, I’ll have a chance to find out more.
If this all seems abstract, consider some of the documented evils just in education that are taking place in Gali:
1) Sept 2008: 26 Georgian teachers were fired in one town
A student, Levan Bagatelia and a primary teacher, Izeta Torua, were killed in a mine explosion;
Lado Shonia, another student, lost both leg in another explosion
2) In 2008 in another area the illegitmate government of Abkhazia forced the removal of all Georgian language materials from the curriculum.
3) In 2008 Russian troops took over a school to use as a military hospital.
4) In Oct of 2008 Georgian language courses were taken out of the educational program in the village of Okumi and Georgian language teachers were fired.
5) In January of 2009 a local village administrator demanded that teachers in Otobaia get Abkhazian passports or be fired.
6) In March Besik Arshba demands that persons with Georgian names change their names to their “historical names.” I don’t know what this means.
There are many other documented abuses.
There are some 31 schools in Gali that were heavily Georgian in recent times. Some 4500 students attend these schools. Many speak Georgian and no Russian. But the language of instruction is being changed from Georgian to Abhkazian and Russian. One can sense quickly that this is a matter of imperial conquest—to eradicate a people’s language has to be seen as an example of such. Or so I think.
Here I want to remind readers of this blog that nothing I say is intended to reflect the views of the US State Dept. I was asked to make that disclaimer if my written words strayed into politics. Done.
The proxy government in Gali seeks to make Abkhazian one of the two languages of instruction. But Abkhazian, according to those who know far more than I about linguistics, is a very limited language and simply has not the sophistication to allow its native speakers to function well in modern society. To force children to learn a language of instruction that can't be used after about sixth grade has to be a decision made only for political reasons and not educational ones.
If the idea of a child being blown up by a landmine seems improbable, this happens in part because some families want their kids to have an education and thus have them cross the border of Gali into Georgia to attend a Georgian school. They walk. Sometimes 2-3 kilometers. Everyday. Although this may come to an end as the proxy government is alleged to be tightening passage at the border.
My source of information for this post comes from a report prepared by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia entitled, Education in Emergency: Situation Report in the Occupied Region of Gali. and from a conversation with its Minister of Education. Georgia has appealed to the UN claiming that these events violate international humanitarian law. I think they have a point.