Tolerance and Diversity Institute

Equality Coalition on Irakli Okruashvili's Discriminatory Statement

Equality Coalition echoes the April 25 and 30 statements of the former Minister of Defense of Georgia Irakli Okruashvili with regard to the recent developments in Davit Gareji Monastery. His statements contribute to political instrumentalization and marginalization of ethnic Azerbaijani community of Georgia. Although political and social influences of Irakli Okruashvili are weak today, his rhetoric against ethnic minorities demonstrates dominant policy and discourse with regard to ethnic minority citizens in Georgia. This discourse contributes to their marginalization, social segregation and geo-politicization of their community. 

Namely, on April 25, Irakli Okruashvili wrote on his Facebook page that in 2005, he managed to resolve one of the political disagreements with the Government of Azerbaijan with threatening the Minister of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan to send “500 000 refugee Azerbaijani citizens from Georgia to Azerbaijani border” unless he resolved the problem. This statement of Okruashvili was followed by logic protest in one part of the society, particularly in ethnic Azerbaijani population. In response to that, Okruashvili made next statement on April 30, where he imposed responsibility for the recent developments in Davit Gareji Monastery on Azerbaijani population of Georgia because they never supported positive changes in Georgia, never raised voices to defend interests of Georgia and were good tool for the Azerbaijani authority in the play against Georgia. Okruashvili underlined that Georgia “does not owe anything to them”, just the opposite. Moreover, his next public post insulted and degraded Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia, “who could not learn Georgian language in 21st century.” 

Both statements of Irakli Okruashvili demonstrate years-long dominant policy, which associates ethnic Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia with the State of Azerbaijan and often uses them as the tool of political negotiations with other country. It is noteworthy that several months ago MP Mariam Jashi made similar statement. Of course, Azerbaijan is the neighbor country of Georgia and our cooperation with them is very important but it cannot influence our position to accept the Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia as valuable members of our society and work on their integration. 

Years-long ineffective integration policy and isolation of ethnic minorities and mistrust-based political views and rhetoric caused marginalization of ethnic minorities. Political groups often unfairly perceive them as diasporas of foreign countries, who carry out the policy of those countries that is often connected with state security. It is unjustified and discriminative to marginalize and segregate our citizens. It contradicts the Constitution of Georgia, international conventions, including the European Convention on the Protection of National Minorities and the state strategy on civil equality and integration. Ethnic minorities face multiple systemic challenges in Georgia in the field of education, political participation, human rights, social or economic rights and instead promoting equality, inclusive citizenship, the politicians marginalize them. 

It is worth to mention that Azerbaijani community of Georgia is in the process of self-determination which is characterized with deep self-identification with the State of Georgia and their engagement in ongoing political and social processes. Unfortunately, political groups have superficial knowledge about ethnic minorities that is the reason of non-democratic and marginalizing political views. 

Equality Coalition condemns using similar rhetoric and language with regard to ethnic minority groups and calls on the political groups to be aware of their responsibilities in the construction of democratic and just society and avoid cultivation of the ideas, which may alienate ethnic minorities.