What of the Rights of Javakhk-Armenians?

An Armenian school in Javakhk

BY VARANT MEGUERDITCHIAN

While we are well aware that the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is the international law under which we seek justice for the Armenian Genocide, and we know that the right to self-determination of Karabakh-Armenians is protected under Article VIII of the Helsinki Final Act, what of the rights of Javakhk Armenians?

As a member of the Council of Europe, Georgia signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) in 2005, which states that a “genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve, and develop this identity.” Yet, Georgia fails to respect the letter and spirit of the rights afforded to the Javakhk-Armenians under this charter.

During a recent visit to the historic Armenian region lying north of the present-day Armenian Republic, I lay witness to the religious and cultural discrimination against which the Armenians of Javakhk struggle on a daily basis.

The St. Mesrop Mashtots statue Akhalkalak, one of the few remaining Armenian symbols of Javakhk

The Armenian Apostolic Church is denied the right to register as a religious entity and instead operates as an NGO. The Georgian Orthodox Church is elevated above all other religious institutions including the Armenian Apostolic Church. Georgian authorities continue to appropriate ancient Armenian churches in Javakhk. Armenian parishioners are prevented from visiting these Armenian churches and other places of religious and historic significance.

The policy of discrimination against Javakhk-Armenians is further perpetuated by Georgian limitations on the use of the Armenian language in schools, the conversion of Armenian schools in Javakhk into Georgian state schools, and the dismissal of Armenian teachers who have protested against the discrimination. Armenian students in Javakhk receive less face-to-face Armenian instruction today than they did during the Soviet era.

These policies subject the Armenians in Javakhk to religious and cultural discrimination in direct breach of Article V of the FCNM, which states: “The Parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions, and cultural heritage.”

They are also in violation of Article XIV of the FCNM, which makes direct reference to the right to education of Javakhk-Armenians: “In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible and within the framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to those minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.”

It should be noted that the Georgian government’s denial of the rights of Armenians in Javakhk additionally defies a multitude of international laws and conventions, many of which have been signed by Georgia and not adhered to, and others simply not signed at all.

Thus far, Georgia has failed to sign and ratify the Council of Europe European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML).

Designed to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of national minorities, ECRML affords national minorities the right to use their language beyond the educational system. In Javakhk, this translates into the right to use Armenian in Javakhk public life.

Given Tbilisi’s disregard for the basic rights of Javakhk-Armenians, it is no wonder that outspoken Armenian community leaders have been persecuted by the Georgian authorities. Also, the few appeals made by both the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church for an improvement of the religious and linguistic rights of Javakhk Armenians have been dismissed.

While the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church must defend the rights of Javakhk-Armenians with greater vigour, the Armenian Diaspora also has an immediate political duty towards Javakhk.

We must more actively voice our concerns regarding the rights of Javakhk-Armenians to those individuals who represent us in legislative bodies throughout the world. The positions of elected officials on the rights afforded to Javakhk-Armenians under various international agreements should play a role in our decisions to support them, just as their positions on the issues of Nagorno-Karabagh and the Armenian Genocide already do.

Varant Meguerditchian is the former executive director and president of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Australia. He currently works as a government relations professional in Sydney. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in politics and business administration and is currently completing his second master’s degree in international relations.

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9 Comments

  1. George said:

    The only way to guarantee the Rights of Javakhki-Armenians is to declare independence and with the help of Russia connect: South Ossetia to Javakh and to Armenia. This can also solve the problem of Azerbaijan’s blunt hegemony in the area, put Georgia in check, and establish directly connection from Russia to the waters of the Gulf, Russia, S.Ossetia, Armenia, and Iran, DREAM COME TRUE for RUSSIA

    • ash said:

      ill be there to liberate our land..i was to young during karabag..not this time :)

  2. peter said:

    mr george i love that dream but what youre doing is splitting georgia into 2 nations.. if armenia were to attack on georgia and russians from sth ossetia , georgia will see a easy defeat against them .. but do the armenians want more land , or do they want sea ? we can get javakh very easily , but then we have artsakh and javakh problem , and people will question , what do these armenians want .. they claim lands from everyone . the only time i see armenia going all out is when theres a world war .. where people are too busy to care about others problems , but themselves.. but we need a coast .. and we have armenians in th black sea region .. they are muslims but still armenians .. conversion under the sword , or lets just say the third choice .. anyways black sea has always been historically armenians . with kars ardahan in the picture ..

  3. Samuel said:

    No doubt, Armenians all over the world should receive our help at time of need. At no time will this help be denied. In saying that, I think our energy is best spent on away from antagonizing Georgia at the moment, as the difficult situation Armenia as a nation is in, it is not in a position to even for one moment make Georgia feel that there is inkling of animosity towards them. Our energy should be directed towards objectives such as a mutual relationship with the Kurds, a common goal in which we can bring Turkey to justice rather than perpetuate this feeling of grievance that can slowly boil into another enemy for the Armenians. The Tashnag parties assistance to the Javack Armenians should continue at all costs, though more care should be given to its lobbying techniques as it could hamper the frosty relationship that the Armenian government tries to maintain with its Georgian counterpart. Our supply lines to Batumi, our Holiday destinations for Yerevantsi’s to Kabuleti and the coast is our only hope of some connection to the outside world. And this connection for the moment is one of our major factor’s in which the Armenian population can move forward. Georgia is not far of Europe, in many ways, this would call for another write up, but for this short response we need to understand that this bridge to Georgia is very important in many ways for Armenia and that this game could be played much better…

  4. Edward Demian said:

    To do that, you would have to Dismantle Georgia. Look at the map. Tiflis is right in the middle between Javack and South Ossetia. Than what of the access to the Black sea? Than you would have to deal with Ajaria. No. I don’t think so. We need the Georgians as a buffer between us and others. The Georgians are reacting to what they fear is Armenian expansionism. Whether justified or not, we need to convince the Georgians that we are both best served by trust and friendship. It is in our best interest to havs a strong friendly Georgia at our back. If you want land, there is plenty of land west of us. All of Azerbaijian used to be Armenian. And there is oil there too. Why bother striving for rocky mountainous lands with no infrastructure or natural resources, when we coud do much better taking Azerbaijian apart, keeping choice real estate, and setting up Alania, Talishistan, and other small aspiring nations in a confederation friendly to us.

  5. Pingback: What of the Rights of Javakhk-Armenians? - News | Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

  6. Reject of the Sword said:

    Bravo George,

    Unfortunately, when the historic opportunity arose to separate Javakhk from Georgia during the Gerogian – Russian war, what did the Armenian government do? They spit in Russia’s face by inviting Sakashvili to Armenia and awarding him Armenia’s highest civilian medal. With that kind of typical political ineptitude, there really is no hope for us.

  7. John said:

    Georgia is too stupid to understand that it is a chess piece in the grand chessgame between the West and Russia. Georgia is led by a bunch of idiots who sold their soul to fake promises by the US and EU. Economic cooperation and joint projects are a far better idea to improve relations and the economies of both countries.

  8. Edward Demian said:

    Saakashvilli is not a lifetime dictator. they have elections there. Perhaps the next government will see differently.

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