State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Georgia
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||6 July 2011|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Georgia, 6 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e16d374b.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
Following the conflict between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, which broke out in the break-away republic of South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region and quickly spread to parts of the break-away republic of Abkhazia, both republics declared full independence. This move was only backed by Russia, and the two regions have had a Russian military presence ever since. The conflict, which lasted only a couple of days, has had long-lasting consequences for the civilian population in South Ossetia. As reported by MRG, the active hostilities caused a significant displacement of civilians, forcing a high number of people to flee their homes, including members of minority groups such as ethnic Armenians and Svans, a Georgian ethnic sub-group with their own distinct language, as well as ethnic Georgians.
According to the UNHCR Global Appeal 2011 update on the country, there are some 355,000 people in need of protection by the UN body, of whom 247,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). The situation of those who returned to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as to other parts of Georgia, following earlier civil conflict, is described as precarious, with many going as long as 16 years without adequate shelter. In a 2010 submission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Georgian government identified 131,169 IDPs and victims of ethnic cleansing after the 2008 conflict, many of whom are in the process of returning, but who are facing problems in accessing adequate housing and employment. There are also some 900 refugees from the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation, and 1,700 stateless people in the country. The UNHCR appeal refers to the lack of a strong asylum system (that would ensure the international legal principle of non-refoulement, namely that no person should be returned to a situation where her or his life or freedom is at serious risk) as a serious problem, as well as the fact that the country is neither a state party to the UN conventions on statelessness, nor to the European Convention on Nationality. Widespread gender-based and sexual violence, and a lack of effective protection for IDP women have also been reported.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its third report on the country in June 2010. ECRI's Chair, Nils Muiznieks, identified positive initiatives in fighting discrimination on the grounds of nationality or national or ethnic origin, race, colour, language and religion. Key positive developments concern the work of the Georgian Ombudsman, who is setting up various regional branches such as the Tolerance Centre, the Council of Ethnic Minorities and the Council of Religion, in order to reach persons in need of protection. The report also notes the adoption of the National Strategy for Tolerance and Civil Integration, which aims to preserve ethnic minorities' culture and identity, and promote equal opportunities and the effective participation of ethnic minorities in all fields. The report stipulates that, when implemented, the strategy could help to make the majority population aware of the problems faced by minorities. At the same time, contacts between the majority population and ethnic minorities are limited due to language barriers and infrastructure problems that contribute to the isolation of Armenians, Azerbaijanis and others in the south and south-east of Georgia. According to the report, the Roma minority, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims still face widespread prejudice, harassment and violations, and are not appropriately protected by the police.
The ECRI report highlights the particular situation of the Meskhetian Turks, a minority group deported in the 1940s by the Soviet authorities from the region of Meskhetia (now known as Samtskhe-Javakheti). National legislation in Georgia does not use the term Meskhetian Turks, as some of the persons concerned do not identify themselves as such. The law 'On forcefully deported persons from Georgia by the former USSR in the 1940s of the 20th century' in respect of the entire group was adopted in 2007, and ECRI refers to the recommendations of the 2009 Opinion of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) on easing administrative burdens related to the repatriation process for formerly deported persons who would like to return.
The Swedish Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation has supported women's organizations in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia since 2002 and advocates on behalf of the rights of women in the South Caucasus. According to their findings, the difficult period that followed independence from the Soviet Union has had a particularly detrimental impact on women's access to their social and economic rights, as well as to basic medical care and health services. Denial of sexual and reproductive rights has led to a high abortion rate and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as high rates of child mortality and miscarriages. Bride kidnapping also occurs in certain rural communities in the region, and violence against women is widespread. In an interview for a regional information portal Leila Suleimanova, the director of the NGO Association of Azeri Women in Georgia, which has been active in speaking for the rights of Azeri and ethnic Georgian women in Kvemo Kartli, listed some of the many problems ethnic minority women face in Georgia, including early marriages, lack of education and violence in the family. 'We think that the stereotype, banning involvement of women and limiting our rights, which is considered to be cited from Koran and Islam, actually is not and things are not like that', she added.