July 7th, 2007 by jibs
On June 13th, a draft law on the Meskhetian Turk repatriation was proposed by the ruling party (National Movement) in the Georgian parliament. The idea of possible return of 300,000 non-Georgians alarms a big part of society. This is mainly because of Georgia’s experience with its other minorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the ethnic conflict escalated into open warfare and resulted in thousands dead, hundreds of thousand internally displaced Georgians and de facto fragmentation of Georgia. Many Georgians apprehend a similar scenario with respect to the Meskhetians. Others think it is Georgia’s duty to return those people so as to undo Stalin’s crimes.
Here are pro- and anti- arguments found in the rhetoric of the opponents and proponents of the Meskhetian repatriation.
The pro-repatriation position (acting Georgian government and selected opposition leaders):
* Individuals can be guilty of crimes, nations cannot.
* Georgia was accepted to the Council of Europe with a condition to repatriate the Meskhetians by 2011. It’s our obligation.
* There are around 300,000 Meskhetians, but it is far from clear how many would be willing to return to Georgia. And even if a lot are willing to do so, only a limited number of families per year will be allowed to settle down.
* It is a matter of historical justice to undo Stalin’s crimes.
* No need to fear “provocations” from the Meskhetians, as Georgia is strong enough to protect itself from separatism.
* Meskhetians reflect the problems the Georgian identity faces today. The repatriation of the Meskhetians is thus a measure of how ready the Georgian society is to accommodate the Abkhaz and the Ossetians in a renewed, tolerant and democratic Georgia.
The Anti-repatriation position (mostly opposition):
* Meskhetians are a threat to Georgia’s territorial integrity.
* Those Meskhetians who claim they are Turks should go to Turkey, as Turkey is their homeland.
* Georgia was accepted to Council of Europe with many other conditions which it doesn’t satisfy. Thus, the Meskhetian repatriation can wait.
* Georgia has over 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP’s) from the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. When they return back to their homes, we can talk about Meskhetians.
* They are not Georgians, so why bother return them?
* Russia is a legal successor to the Soviet Union, thus Russia, and not Georgia, should undo the crimes committed by the Soviet Union.
* Meskhetians drank the Georgians’ blood every time they had the opportunity and history will repeat itself.
* By 2050, the number of ethnic Georgians will be equal to the number of minorities living in Georgia. If we repatriate the Meskhetians, this will happen much earlier. This will result in loss of Georgian dominance within its own territory.
* France has not signed the convention on minorities’ rights and claims it does not have minorities, why should we be the cosmopolitans?
* Many Meskhetians don’t have citizenship, so what to do if we want to get rid of them?
* Only Russia and Turkey are truly interested in repatriation of the Meskhetians. Russia wants to get rid of the Meskhetians they have on their territory, while Turkey has its own plans - they pursue their national interest on Georgia’s expense.
* Georgian government is motivated by $100 million that the Council of Europe is supposedly ready to donate for the Meskhetian repatriation. Historical justice is not the motivation here - it would be more historically just to return to Georgia its centuries lost territories from Turkey and other neighbors.