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Meskhetians to move back to Georgia2009-08-31 21:40
Over 17 thousand Meskhetian Turks will move back to Georgia from Azerbaijan in 2010. Repatriation of these people is a painful issue for Georgia that committed to return Meskhetian Turks that had been displaced in 1944 to their historical motherland in 1999 at the time of accession to the Council of Europe. Already some well-minded politicians believed this problem would grow into a real headache for Georgia. In the meantime the return of Meskhetian Turks seems to get rolling.
Chairman of Vatan Society of Meskhetian Turks Ibrahim Burkhanov reported on the return of 17 thousand Meskhetian Turks to Georgia early next year. According to him this will be the time when all repatriate status applications of Meskhetian Turks will be considered, ARMENIA Today writes. Ibrahim Burkhanov also stated that in May 2010 he would leave Azerbaijan and continue his activities in Georgia. There are a total of 70 thousand Meskhetian Turks living in Azerbaijan now. After the collapse of the USSR, in the early 1990s many of them settled down in Azerbaijani districts (mainly in Saatly and Sabirabad).
Remarkably, in summer 2007 the Georgian parliament adopted the law "On repatriation of persons forcedly displaced from the Georgian SSR in the 1940s". Initially admission of applications from those who want to come back to Georgia was planned to continue till January 1 2009 but now the filing of applications is prolonged till January 1 2010.
Many experts were critical about the law. As newscaucasus.com reports in summer Tbilisi welcomed a round table on repatriation of Meskhetian population (Meskhetian Turks). Russian and Georgian rights defenders took part in the discussion. There were two issues on the agenda: resettlement of Meskhetian Turks that live in the Krasnodar Territory (Russia) and in the USA and the law on repatriation of the deportees. Solution to both problems is unsatisfactory as the rights defenders believe.
A few thousand Meskhetian Turks live in the territory of Russia. They had citizenship issues. The Rights defenders even filed a claim to the Strasbourg Court. The Court recalled the claim indicating these issues were beyond its competence. In 2004 the US Government implemented a program on voluntary resettlement of Meskhetian Turks to the USA. Many Meskhetians decided to try their luck overseas. As for their return to Georgia, the participants of the round table remarked: the adopted law doesn't stipulate any damage compensation, material support of potential repatriates or mechanism of their integration into the Georgian society.
Any national issue (with a long tail of historical problems) is never easy to solve. Historians are still arguing about the origin of Meskhetian Turks. There is a version that since the 17th century Meskhetia had been exposed to more frequent raids of the Ottomans willing to islamize the region. In order to save their families Meskhetians had to become Muslims. As a result an ambiguous term emerged: Meskhetian Turks. Declared "public enemies" by Stalin they were instantly ousted to the Central Asia. The repatriates were controlled up to April 1956. In May 1968 all Turks born in Georgia were allowed to live in all the territory of the USSR but had no right to come back to their native land. The ban was lifted in 1974.
But at the time of the rise of socialism the Georgian leadership did all their best to stop that. The homes of evicted Meskhetian Turks had long been inhabited by orthodox Armenians. And the repatriation of Meskhetian Turks could lead to an inter-confessional conflict.