Tension runs high in Georgia’s Armenian-populated district

Tension runs high in Georgia’s Armenian-populated district

Imedi TV, Tbilisi
11 Mar 06

[Presenter] A rally organized by ethnic Armenian action groups in
Akhalkalaki [southern Georgia] continued for about an hour. After the
rally, protesters tried to storm and loot several buildings. First,
the protesters stormed the Akhalkalaki court building. They are angry
because ethnic Armenian judges failed to pass attestation and were
suspended. The action group is demanding that an ethnic Armenian judge
be appointed along with the Georgian judge and that court proceedings
be carried out in the Armenian language.

>From the court building the protesters moved to the Akhalkalaki
branch of the [Tbilisi State] University. Crime Police officers tried
to stop them, but the protesters managed to break into the building
and loot some rooms.

However, they left the building when told so by the organizers. The
Armenian action groups are demanding that the Georgian university
should be closed unless Armenian-language classes are
introduced. [Video shows a crowd breaking into a building and smashing
a door]

[Nodar Gvaramadze, Georgian judge] I had no idea that this rally was
planned. When these people came here, they entered the building and
told me to leave. When I asked why, they told me that they wanted to
board up the door. I told them that I was there to perform my duties
and they could only make me leave by force. They said I had better
leave. In the end, in order to avoid escalation and damage to the
building, I decided that it was better to leave.

[Young man, no caption, in Russian] Recently, [ethnic] Armenian judges
from Akhalkalaki, Kalbatono [Georgian polite form of addressing a
woman] Susana and judge Ararat Chobanyan, were sacked because they do
not speak Georgian.

That’s what the problem is. The people rebelled. They [judges] should
speak an understandable language.

[Albert Maranjyan, in Russian] This [university branch] should be
either closed or a joint facility should be opened, so that our people
could also study here. Our people cannot study here because they do
not speak Georgian, they are educated in Armenian. How can they study
in this institute? Only one or two students from the entire
Akhalkalaki study here, and even they were admitted in exchange for
money. All others [students] are not locals.

[Reporter] What are your plans?

[Maranjyan] Plans? These studies here should be shut down. If they
want to open something, it should have an Armenian component, so that
Armenians could study here too.

[Presenter] A short while ago, the situation in Akhalkalaki
escalated. After sacking the court and university buildings, the
protesters moved to the building of the Kumurdo-Akhalkalaki eparchy
[of the Georgian Orthodox Church].

They tried to break into the building too. The protesters were
claiming that arms were hidden in the eparchy, so they wanted to check
the premises. After the negotiations with the police and a telephone
conversation with Father Nikoloz, several protesters were allowed to
enter the building and check the premises. After finding no arms, they
left the eparchy. At the moment, the rally is slowly coming to an end.

[Albert Maranjyan, in Russian] No, nothing of the sort. We simply met
and talked with employees [of the eparchy]. We saw how they live, and
we left, nothing else.

[Sister Mariam] They came here and I was among those who met them. I
asked them what they wanted. They said that the building was a
kindergarten and that we should vacate it. They wanted to break into
the building. Another sister managed to shut the door, and we stood
there. Then all these people were pushing the door and telling us
that unless we left this building – stressing that it was a
kindergarten – they would storm it.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress