What of the Rights of Javakhk-Armenians?

While we are well aware that the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is the international law under which we seek justice for the Armenian Genocide, and we know that the right to self-determination of Karabagh-Armenians is protected under Article VIII of the Helsinki Final Act, what of the rights of Javakhk Armenians?

An Armenian school in Javakhk

As a member of the Council of Europe, Georgia signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) in 2005, which states that a “genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve, and develop this identity.” Yet, Georgia fails to respect the letter and spirit of the rights afforded to the Javakhk-Armenians under this charter.

During a recent visit to the historic Armenian region lying north of the present-day Armenian Republic, I lay witness to the religious and cultural discrimination against which the Armenians of Javakhk struggle on a daily basis.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is denied the right to register as a religious entity and instead operates as an NGO. The Georgian Orthodox Church is elevated above all other religious institutions including the Armenian Apostolic Church. Georgian authorities continue to appropriate ancient Armenian churches in Javakhk. Armenian parishioners are prevented from visiting these Armenian churches and other places of religious and historic significance.

The policy of discrimination against Javakhk-Armenians is further perpetuated by Georgian limitations on the use of the Armenian language in schools, the conversion of Armenian schools in Javakhk into Georgian state schools, and the dismissal of Armenian teachers who have protested against the discrimination. Armenian students in Javakhk receive less face-to-face Armenian instruction today than they did during the Soviet era.

The St. Mesrop Mashtots statue Akhalkalak, one of the few remaining Armenian symbols of Javakhk.

These policies subject the Armenians in Javakhk to religious and cultural discrimination in direct breach of Article V of the FCNM, which states: “The Parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions, and cultural heritage.”

They are also in violation of Article XIV of the FCNM, which makes direct reference to the right to education of Javakhk-Armenians: “In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible and within the framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to those minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.”

It should be noted that the Georgian government’s denial of the rights of Armenians in Javakhk additionally defies a multitude of international laws and conventions, many of which have been signed by Georgia and not adhered to, and others simply not signed at all.

Thus far, Georgia has failed to sign and ratify the Council of Europe European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML).

Designed to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of national minorities, ECRML affords national minorities the right to use their language beyond the educational system. In Javakhk, this translates into the right to use Armenian in Javakhk public life.

Given Tbilisi’s disregard for the basic rights of Javakhk-Armenians, it is no wonder that outspoken Armenian community leaders have been persecuted by the Georgian authorities. Also, the few appeals made by both the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church for an improvement of the religious and linguistic rights of Javakhk Armenians have been dismissed.

While the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church must defend the rights of Javakhk-Armenians with greater vigour, the Armenian Diaspora also has an immediate political duty towards Javakhk.

We must more actively voice our concerns regarding the rights of Javakhk-Armenians to those individuals who represent us in legislative bodies throughout the world. The positions of elected officials on the rights afforded to Javakhk-Armenians under various international agreements should play a role in our decisions to support them, just as their positions on the issues of Nagorno-Karabagh and the Armenian Genocide already do.

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Varant Meguerditchian

Varant Meguerditchian is the former executive director and president of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Australia. He currently works as a government relations professional in Sydney. He holds a master’s degree in management from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and a master’s in international relations from Griffith University.

15 Comments

  1. I am glad I did enter into this Thread and how. Well everyone knows that it ws a very bad blow to the Georgians when they attacked the South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2009 and these two non-Georgian peoples, ethnic and indigenous fought alongside invading Russian troops and liberated their states and became independent. A thron ,rather two thorns in obth sides of the Georgians.
    Well there was this Conference, organized and sponsored by the French Embassy in RA.the AGBU and attended by representatives of the following countries>/Two from Iran, Six *the main ones to take centre stage-two from Turkey and indeed an Englishman who conducted the Conference*part of it,an U.S. Air force retired high ranking officer and many locals.Only two of us as from Diaspora Armenians, self and Ms. Vartanian of the Armenian Assembly-their representative in Yerevan-The Georgians were there simply to shout at the top of their voices and protest against Russian incursion into above two Areas-which they considered as Georgian. Not even one single non Georgian interdevned.Well let me say it,in such situations when i have to say something ,i say it without any fear.I raised my hand and ..-BTW, only English and russian were spoken,rest had earphones and listened to the ongoing in their respective languages,translated.
    I said in English and I quote” and how about you Georgians putting so much pressure on our brothers and sisters in Javakheti and chaning names of our churches in Tbilisi”. To which, the Georgian speaker-one that was the most prominent one started to reply chewing the words that there must ahve been some misunderstandins and this and that…coming to half admit finishing that we shlal see to it that these are solved.
    Upon leaving the hall I came across Ms. Vartanin, beaming at me and I asked her “How was I_ shse replied very good and she offered to take me in her car to Hrabarag,wher she had offcie in one of the Gov. bldgs and I had to get off and walk a bit to my brother’s .
    Let me also remember another incident since during those two days of attendance, I had met prof. Vahagn Dadrian around my brother’s where he was stranded and wishe d to know how to get to his hotel whichj I saluted him and mentioned that we had met before in 1979 at the Nikko Hotel First Armenian World Congress..then he asked me up to his room where we discussed Armenian Affairs and he signed a small recent book of his.Anyhow another was that on the 2nd day of the above Conference, at lucnh break.Oh yes we were served luch two days there. I sat with afew Yerevanites and Ms. Vartanian was at another table with others etc., then I suddenly ask the Georgian sitting across from me ” you know that there are 365 Days in the year..all others were aghast, thinking I was uttering completely out of place things…then I pressed on…well for the info of you and others here, I say there are that many Georgians at present in Yerevan,Armenia!!!!
    I really hope I drove home what I wished to convey,that while armenians had since beginning of last century enriched the Georgians capital with culture ,crafts, professions and built houses ,churches etc., there coming to count near 400,000 souls…
    Now then admittedly Yerevan at the time was a large village,or a very small provintial town…BUT HOW ABOUT NOW THAT YEREVAN WAS QUITE A CITY AND BLOOMING WITH NEW BUILDINGS PARKS CAFES RESTAURANTS, EMBASSIES OVER 20 AND MANY MANY STORES OF RENOWN..HOW COME THE GEORGIANS DID NOT COME TO LIVE AND WORK WITH US.WHAT THEY THINK WE ARE INFERIOR TO THEM..
    i BELIEVE THERE IS A HIDDEN GEORGIAN ATTITUDE TOWARDS US SHORT OF LATTER…but then we should not worry.What we ought to do and i told this to the editor of the only Armenian daily in Tbilis at the Hrabarag where we met per chance*Vrastan daily editor,” that you should HOROTRREL *Prompt Armenians to by and by move south to Javakhk Akhal ka;lak and even furthere south to Yerevan.If not all -now shrunk to some 200/250,000 souls,at least half of them and set themselves up on Fatherland soil….
    I ASK MYSELF HAVE THEY..or do they still prefer to sip GAKHETI wine,admire the more green around Tbilis and then some…
    Armenians must by and by from all around countreis such as Iraq,Iran,.syria, Georgia begin their exodus towards armenia .At least those who are well todo and can come and start life anew there.Forget about my GRANDIOSE PROJECTED REPATRIATION FOR A WHILE ,UNTILL THE DIASPORA IS REORGANIZED AND BUILT UP A NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND/PLEASE ENTER AND RAD MY ARTICLES IN THE ONLY PRESS-WEBSIDE,SHALL WE SAY….www.armeniannews.info……
    Thanks for being patient with me…

    • Mr. Palandjian

      When Javakhk and Batumi will be taken over by Turks, Georgians will cry a river.
      Turks are actively buying houses and properties in Batumi and Javakht. Let’s see how long we should wait until Batumi becomes second Northern Cyprus.

    • Not too long, Sella. Georgians like to think that the reason they didn’t face the same destiny as Armenians in the hands of Turks is because they were smarter or better. They also act as if Armenians and Russians are their biggest enemies. How naive. Ajara is a desitable place for Turks and they are going to get it. While, I wouldn’t want them to expand even further and get closer to us than they already are, Georgians deserve the slap. No question about it.

    • ofcourse they would. The Azeris need reassurance to believe they can pull off an attack on Karabakh, The Turks want to show their nasty presence to send us a message, and Georgians need a friend who is the enemy or rival of Russians.

      Georgians need to make their Azeri and Trkish minorities happy, why wouldn’t they. Combined Turkey and Azerbaijan have Oil, gas, black sea, Caspian sea, and Turkey has growing economy.

      But, military exercises won’t guarantee anything since it will draw others into the war if it takes place.

  2. It seems the Georgians are more inclined to take the side of the Muslim Turks and their US neo-cons masters. They of anyone should understand that their association with these entities did nothing to come to their aid when they were at war against Russian troops a few years back. I remember George W. could do nothing but sit back and watch his Georgian lacky and their military get shellacked..

    As long as Armenia is aligned with Russia, understand that the Georgians will be our enemies as well..

  3. If it wasn’t for Armenians, Georgians wouldn’t of been Christians. The country of Staline’s birth sure has history behind it and still reveres the man as a hero. Despite his crimes in soviet time.

    Georgians are too errigant to believe they are not above all others. Their European wana be national approach is clearly representative of their assumptions they are just different from their neighbors.

    It’s hard to see Georgians accept Armenians as ancient and deserving nation. Since they see themselves above all as greate. Georia has a large Azeribaijani minority which medels into everything they do on behalf of their government. This along with Georgian greatness theory play a major role in their anti-Armenian approach. After all we are historically very influencial on them and they don’t want to admit it.

    In addition, the Armenian/Russian alliance gives them the final excuse to bare on Armenians with the hope they can force us to vanish.

    Azerbaijan and Turkey are allies of Georgia and most likely they commit some portion of their anti-Armenian budget to desperate Georgians who think they own the whole caucases.

    But yet, Georgia is not 100% agreeing with the Turks and Azeris over land disputes either.

    In reality Armenians and Georgians have parallel history with significant overlap. If their freshly hatched neighbors pull the two appart it would be a shame. The two must learn about eachother and admit to their significance to the caucases’ history.

  4. Dear Sella,
    Thanks for your info and hope it comes from reliable sources…
    you see the Turks alsointentionally disseminate fake and non -confirmed news and try to fish in murky waters. However,it is quite possible that they may have purchased properties in Batumi an import sea port on the Black Sea.
    This actually is what Armenians should do,since great Turkey does have a few such seaports on Black Sea.Whereas Armenia lacks one.POTI,another Georgian port could be a very good candidate for Armenians to move into…
    BUT I AM SURPRISED THAT NO ONE ON THIS FORUM COMMENTS ON MY WRITS .NO.NOT HERE,which i do not expect much,but on my slowly -without haste written ones on:- http://www.armeniannews.info…...(Subscriber submitted articles at top part of their page.BTW, it is a very good source of News!!!

  5. Regarding the Georgians, I have often felt troubled by their attitude and arrogance. Looking into our history, in the past couple centuries at least, they have made it clear that they are no friends of Armenians, and in fact quite the contrary.

    During the Soviet takeover, their betrayal was extensive and they caused great harm to Armenia which is felt to this day (especially with the backing of papa Stalin). And while I do not advocate war as any solution, my view is that it is too bad Armenia did not return the favor to Georgia and act on the opportunity in the 2008 Russian war. I truly believe that Georgia and Turkey must not have a common border. This may be ambitious thinking, but Georgia and Turkey having a common border is unnatural and at the expense of Armenia, not to mention having reinforced the lousy attitude of the Georgians towards Armenians.

    And I believe Sella about the Turkish plan, because these genocidal Turks have figured out long ago that as long as they bite off more than they can chew in acquiring land, and as long as they keep Armenia blockaded, they are that much closer in realizing their dream of creating a new Turkish empire stretching to Central Asia. This reinforces my above view about Georgia.

  6. O.K. Then so much more reason why we should not get going too.
    No,Not necessarily as they do but ,as an example(this before reorganizing the Diaspora,as per my Projections…):- Discussion is on-Sassounian participating too-that the Turco-azeris have started a campaign of smearing Armenian personalitites such as Mark Hoplamazian CEO of Hyatt Hotles…
    Someone-or a group of some few-should approach latter to start opening Hyatts in Yerevan and POTI.There are ,like the Marriot in Yerevan,ex soviet hotles or buildings suitable to be converted into one,that can be acquired by Hyatt and run by Armenians .I just read a bit on Hoplamazian on another link,not all are owned by Hyatt.Some are like Franchised to others using Hyatt as provider of Hostelry know how etc. Armenian entrepreneurs can then move into POTI buying prime properties etc.
    Question is WHY NOT DO IT through an organized effort…say a National investment Trust Fund.Yeah I don´t give up,because I know THAT IS WHERE OUR SLUMBERING GIANT IS LOCATED.We have to act NOW,or it will be too late. Individual investment or small group investments cannot accomplish what a HUGE National Investment Fund can….

  7. Dear Gina,
    Alas….we passed up one such occasion when -as I have described above-the Russians entered Abkhazia and N.ossetia.it has been said the Armenian brain acts late..HAYUN KHELK OUSH GOUKA..Yes ,we should have first declared JVAKHK AS AN AUTONOMOUS REGION within Georgia and aawaited latter´s change of attitude towardds our brethren/sisters in Javakhk..it they kept on their disdainfull attitude,thenDECLARE IT AS THE OLD ARMENIAN PROVINCE NOW BEING ADJOINED WITH REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA.
    Yes, we react VERY VERY SLOWLY AND LATE. or even…DO NOT Re- ACT AT ALL!!!!
    0nly WAY OUT IS TO GET RID OF OUR AGES OLD TRAITS:-
    1.bEING jEALUS,RATHER OVER JEALOUS TOWARDS EA OTHER.
    2.BEGIN TO LEARN TO …….C O OPERATE

  8. Myself I believe that Armenia must never settle for anything less than the treaty of Sevres and that means the border is between Turkey and Armenia – not Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia.

    We don’t want war with Georgia, but I agree with Gaytzag, that at the very least if the Georgians make it a point to oppress Javakhk Armenians and treat them like second class citizens, then they have no business ruling over them and thus Javakhk should claim autonomy as a starter.

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