GEORGIA: ETHNIC ARMENIAN MP, NGO CONCERNED ABOUT TENSION IN SOUTHERN PROVINCE
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Imedi TV, (Georgian TV station)
Tbilisi 15 Mar 06

Hamlet Movsesyan, an ethnic Armenian member of the Georgian parliament, has expressed concern about recent tension in ethnic Armenian populated areas of the Samtskhe-Javakheti province in southern Georgia. He said that local people were worried about ethnic Armenian officials who do not speak Georgian being replaced by ethnic Georgians. The head of the Multiethnic Georgia non-governmental organization, Arnold Stepanyan, also an ethnic Armenian, has said that the teaching of Georgian has not been mandatory in ethnic Armenian areas for the past 15 years and it is "unreasonable" to require local people to speak the language. The following is the text of a report by Georgian Imedi TV on 15 March: [Presenter] Complaints by MPs in Armenia and ethnic Armenian MPs in the Georgian parliament are starting to resemble each other. Some want political autonomy while others want cultural autonomy for Samtskhe-Javakheti. What did the MP for Akhalkalaki [town in Samtskhe-Javakheti, scene of recent protests and riots] want to say to the president, why do Armenians not speak Georgian, and is the national minority being discriminated against because of that? [Uncaptioned ethnic Armenian protester in Akhalkalaki, in Russian] This happened before. You probably know that this already happened in 1991. Do they want a repetition of that? We can do that, no problem. [Correspondent] In 1991 [as heard] separatist statements were first made in public in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi. The conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have still not been resolved. The Javakhk organization does not rule out the possibility of history repeating itself in Samtskhe-Javakheti. Noyan Tapan news agency reported a statement by someone called Madoyan [Razdan Madoyan, member of the Javakhk council]. There are two ways events could develop: this could either become another Nagornyy-Karabakh or another Naxcivan, Madoyan says. Javakhk believes that, if necessary, Armenia should send troops to Javakheti. [Beso Jugheli, Georgian MP addressing parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze] Kalbatono [polite way of addressing a woman] Nino, have you spoken to Akhalkalaki constituency MP Hamlet Movsesyan? Hamlet Movsesyan is asking for a meeting with the president. [Correspondent] What did Hamlet Movsesyan want to say to the president? The Akhalkalaki MP feels that many problems have accumulated, the most important of which is that knowledge of the Georgian language is a requirement for appointment to official posts. The Akhalkalaki MP himself does not speak Georgian. Another thing that concerns people there is the appointment of Georgians in the region who do not speak Armenian. The local Armenians are angry not so much at not being able to communicate with them as the restriction of their rights. [Hamlet Movsesyan, in Russian] The local people still do not speak the state language, unfortunately. For that to happen needs time. Local people are, of course, worried about Armenians being dismissed and replaced with Georgians. [Correspondent] Today Armenian MP Albert Bazeyan told journalists in Yerevan that Javakheti should have cultural autonomy. Van Baiburt, [an ethnic Armenian] member of the Georgian parliamentary majority, says that Bazeyan's call for cultural autonomy is a mistake. He believes that Armenians in Georgia have had an unwritten cultural autonomy in Georgia for a long time. He has already apologized on behalf of Armenians for the riots in Javakheti [on 11 March]. He does not like the analogy between Nagornyy-Karabakh and Javakheti. [Baiburt] Comparisons between Javakheti and Nagornyy-Karabakh are completely without foundation. It is such a crude, crazy thing to say. These are not so much anti-Georgian statements as they are anti-Armenian and against Armenia. [Correspondent] The situation in Javakheti reminds the head of Multiethnic Georgia [NGO] of the American film Home Alone. That is how, in his opinion, Samtskhe-Javakheti was abandoned 15 years ago. [Arnold Stepanyan, captioned as head of Multiethnic Georgia] Fifteen years ago we forgot about one of our regions at home. Now we have suddenly realized that this child is there. We have forgotten, however, that this child has grown since then. Samtskhe-Javakheti has effectively been developing in autonomous mode. What did we expect when we were sacking judges in Samtskhe-Javakheti, what did we expect when we were sacking customs officials? [Correspondent] The main problem appears to be that they do not speak Georgian. The head of the NGO believes that it is unreasonable and illogical now to require the knowledge of something that has not been mandatory in education over the past 15 years. Movsesyan, Baiburt and Stepanyan today agree that it is not so much separatism as social problems that are behind the conflict in Javakheti.