JAVAKHK (A-Info.)—Georgian authorities reportedly undermined a community gathering where Artak Gabrielyan—the coordinator of the Council of Armenian Organizations (NGOs) of Javakhk and director of the A-Info news agency—was scheduled to brief the Armenian community about his meetings with European officials in Brussels earlier this month.
The organizers had invited leaders, media, and representatives of human rights, political, cultural and educational organizations from throughout Javakhk, including Akhalkalak, Nino-Dzminda, Akhalktskha, and Dzalka, to the community forum.
However, according to the organizers, hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin, members of organizations began calling to say they had received calls from “above” dissuading them from attending the gathering. The organizers were also prohibited from using a municipal hall for the gathering.
Gabrielyan, during his meetings in Brussels, had introduced the plight of the Armenian community in Javakhk, while highlighting the need for the visit, as Georgian authorities refused to meet with representatives of the Javakhk Armenian community.
According to Gabrielyan, the move to impede participation of the community forum demonstrates its importance and signals a direct involvement by the power structures—the Prosecutor’s Office, Internal Ministry, and Armed Forces—which is a serious concern for the Armenian of Javakhk.
The gathering was instead held at the offices of the Council of Armenian Organizations (NGOs) with only 30 participants, who were briefed about the meetings and a Memorandum to the European Parliament, which details the issues facing Javakhk and highlights demands that have been put forth by the Council of Armenian Organizations of Samtskhe-Javakhk.
The demands include:
1. Granting of autonomous territorial status (with its own directly elected assembly) to Samtskhe-Javakheti and the adjacent Armenian-majority Tsalka district within a federal Georgia;
2. Allowing the use of the Armenian language in public administration in those municipalities―such as Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda―where Armenians make up a majority; an unfulfilled accession commitment Georgia undertook when it joined the Council of Europe in 1999, namely the signing of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages;
3. Social and economic development projects for the region to bring it up to the same level as the rest of the country;
4. Improved Armenian representation in local and state institutions;
5. An end to social engineering by the settlement of ethnic non-Armenians from other parts of the country in Samtskhe-Javakheti.
In addressing the authorities’ efforts to undermine the gathering, Gabrielyan said he was disappointed that community members were deprived of the opportunity to hear, first hand, about his meeting in Brussels, and will have to now get their information from second-hand, and possibly unreliable, sources.
Gabrielyan also reiterated the position that Georgia must become a federated state, a concept that, he said, was echoed by many of the European officials he met in Brussels. He stressed that he views Javakhk’s future as an autonomous entity within the proposed federated Georgia.