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Armenian genocide debate prompts heated argument in Parliament

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, April 25
Parliamentary Speaker Davit Bakradze has asked MPs not to play a game that "can benefit Georgia’s enemies", in reference to a suggestion made by the leader of Georgian Troupe, Jondi Bagaturia, who demanded recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Saying that he was against the recognition of Chechen genocide, Bagaturia wondered what the government would tell the Armenian people “working and fighting” with Georgians if Parliament does not recognize their history. Armenians living in Georgia have asked him to support the recognition of genocide. “So it’s your responsibility,” Bagaturia told MPs.

Georgia’s Armenian community appeals to the Parliament requesting recognition of the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide almost every year in April, but the issue remains unheeded by the lawmakers.

Ethnically Azeri MP Azer Suleimanov was irritated with Bagaturia’s speech, and called him by an Armenian name, “Bagaturiani”, and tried to throw a glass at him. “I will deal with you when I leave the tribune,” Bagaturia said, in an attempt to continue his speech.

Suleimanov recalled the events of 1918, saying that over 60 000 Azeris were killed by Armenians in different parts of the country. Their verbal confrontation grew into a five minute struggle. An ethnically-Armenian MP wanted to reply to Suleimanov, but was asked to refrain from comment on the issue to avoid further confrontation.

Having returned to the session, MPs criticized “provocative” statements on an ethnic basis. The Parliamentary Speaker encouraged MPs to refrain from discussing issues of ethnicity, as Armenia and Azerbaijan share “the tragic history” with Georgia. He said every person living in Georgia is a citizen of this country despite his or her origin.

“Jondi Bagaturia is a classic example of a provoker who tries everything to cause problems for Georgia with its friends,” United National Movement member Akaki Bobokhidze said, confident that Parliament would manage to overcome this problem.

National Democratic Movement member Guram Chakhvadze called Bagaturia’s statement a “provocative step” against Georgian statehood and its national interests.

Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democratic Movement, also emphasized the “sensitivity” of the topic, saying that this Parliament is an example of how Georgians, Armenians and Azeris cooperate with one another and are friendly, despite party allegiance.

Parliamentary discussions around ethnicity also irritated Azeri students who protested against Bagaturia in front of Parliament after viewing television footage of the debate.