The decision of Russian-backed authorities in Abkhazia to grant the “citizenship passports” to those ethnic Georgians, who would be willing to change their ethnic identity from Georgian to Abkhaz, “is a discrimination, is totally unacceptable and goes against the civil and humane principles,” Georgia’s State Minister for Reconciliation Ketevan Tsikhelashvili told Civil.ge on August 4.
“Human rights have been severely violated in Gali District for years – with restrictions on freedom of movement, rights of property, education in native language and employment,” the Minister noted, adding that the calls of Sokhumi authorities on changing the family names and identity of local Georgians are taken “as an additional instrument of pressure.”
Minister Tsikhelashvili also underlined that “Gali residents live in unbearably hard conditions,” and stressed that they have a right to live safely in their own homes, while “such approach [by Sokhumi leadership] only increases confrontation and additionally worsens the situation on the ground.”
Ketevan Tsikhelashvili added that the international community had been informed about the development, “which assesses such policy in Abkhazia as discriminatory.” She also pledged that the government would continue using “all [discussion] formats” for protecting the rights of ethnic Georgians of Abkhazia.
The Minister also pointed out that “just like the Abkhaz identity is precious for the Abkhaz, so is the Georgian identity for Gali Georgians.” “The Government of Georgia values the ethnic groups and their identity; Abkhaz language, culture and identity is of special priority for the country, with the Abkhaz language protected by the Constitution along with the Georgian language,” she also noted.