Abkhazia: passions over citizenship06.08.2009 | 23:16
Abkhaz opposition has achieved reconsideration of the law on citizenship in fear of "creeping annexation" of the freshly recognized republic by Georgia. In the run-up to the anniversary of Georgian aggression in South Ossetia the tough measures against suspected Tbilisi sympathizers are favored by Abkhazians. The president will sign the law after the ad-hoc political and legal assessment committee makes due corrections. Today an emergency parliamentary session is being held.
Political opponents of Abkhaz President Sergey Bagapsh fear local Georgians will rush for Abkhaz passports if they are allowed to maintain double citizenship with Georgia. This is exactly what amendments to the law on citizenship allegedly stipulate, as the opposition (mistakenly!) thinks.
Considering there are 70 thousand Georgians in Gali district plus 10 thousand Russians living in other districts, their legalization might turn Georgians into the ethnic majority of the new republic. Officially there are 100-110 thousand Abkhazians living here.
A few days earlier the opposition criticized the draft law on privatization of republican and municipal property that would authorize transactions with non-citizens. Ex deputies of parliament asserted that Georgia was looking forward to it in order to buy up property lost in civil wars.
But the most frightening thing for those who speak on behalf of 100% patriots is not the demographic distortion but an ethic dilemma. How can Caucasians allow the return of Georgians that fought against Abkhazians with weapons, to their lands? Relatives of Georgian soldiers and militia men are also subject to vendetta. "We have no right to overstep 3 thousand war victims for somebody's vested interests", - Daur Arshba, an opposition deputy says.
What Georgians did in the 90s will not be soon forgotten in Abkhazia. All the more Mikheil Saakashvili refreshed the memory by the Kodory gorge operation in 2006 and finally lost trust of neighboring nations by the Georgian assault on sleeping Tskhinval.
Tbilisi fends off the accusations reminding of atrocious Abkhaz and Chechen militants juggling with the heads of killed Georgian soldiers and insidious Ossetians armed with Russian weapons. But it was not Abkhazians and Ossetians who rolled up to Georgia in order to subjugate it. It was Georgians who came to Abkhazia and Ossetia bearing their own ambitions. That's why part of Abkhaz society is so implacable toward the bellicose ethnos. Though of course further alienation of two neighboring nations will lead to nowhere.
Abkhaz government sticks to a more balanced and constructive position. On July 31 People's Assembly sanctioned amendments to the law on citizenship stipulating that all residents of Gali districts shall be recognized as citizens of the republic. The president was supposed to adopt them within 10 days.
It made the opposition launch an information campaign against amendments indicating that "the overwhelming majority of Gali residents are citizens of Georgia. They were recognized as citizens of Abkhazia preserving their Georgian citizenship while Georgia remains a hostile state to us". Yesterday supporters of Forum of Abkhaz People's Unity (FAPU), Aruaa - a public organization of the veterans of the National war of Abkhaz people and Akhatsa public movement gathered at a rally in the center of Sukhum. Over 300 people backed the protest against amendments to the law, standing in the park near Abkhaz State Philharmonic Hall, posters in hand.
According to Daur Arshba, a parliamentary and FAPU co-chairman "the law was inspired neither by the People's Assembly nor by the supreme authorities". The authorities ignored proposals of some deputies, Apsnypress reports. "Adoption of the law will lead to the return of refugees. With the corruption flourishing in the country, issuance of passports to Gali residents will be massive. Passports will be sold" - he cautions.
The demonstrators delegated the seniors to the president calling to avoid signing the law "On amendments to the law of the republic of Abkhazia "On citizenship in the republic of Abkhazia" and take it down to parliament. Sergey Bagapsh couldn't offer any reply: he was on the way to South Ossetia intending to take part in the events dedicated to the anniversary of last year's tragedy. Speaker of Parliament Nugzar Ashuba made a clear statement for the opposition and press that he didn't mind against amendments to the law. According to him interpretation of the amendments devoid of any sensations by the opposition is incorrect.
As Ashuba reminded, Gali residents that were returned home by the republican authorities have always been considered citizens of Abkhazia under the law adopted in 1993. "They took part in all political activities of our society: 1999 referendum, 1999 and 2004 presidential elections, 1996 and 2002 parliamentary elections, local elections". Now what? Are we supposed to invalidate all these elections? Including the decision on proclamation of independence?
Ashuba specified that the law did not abolish the norm on rejection of Georgian citizenship for obtainment of Abkhaz citizenship.