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Georgian FM: ‘Religious Rights of People in Georgia’s Occupied Lands Blatantly Violated’

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 30
The Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani told the US top officials and more than 40 foreign ministers worldwide in Washington last week that religious rights of the Georgian citizens who live in the country’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) regions, under the Russian occupation, are blatantly violated.

Religious rights of Georgian citizens have been blatantly violated by Russia in Georgia’s occupied regions since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war. Representatives of the Georgian church are unable to conduct services in the churches under the Russian control,” Zalkaliani said.

“Georgian citizens are illegally deprived of their rights to visit cemeteries of their ancestors on religious holidays,” Zalkaliani added.

Zalkaliani stated that Georgia has always been distinguished by its tolerance to religious minorities in the country.

He called upon the international community to adequately respond to Russia’s grave violations of human rights in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

“Ensuring religious freedom is one of the priorities of the Georgian government,” Zalkaliani said.

He said that the government of Georgia will continue on its path as a tolerant country and will serve as a bridge between different religious groups.

The War in Abkhazia from 1992 to 1993 was fought between Georgian government forces for the most part, and Abkhaz separatist forces, Russian armed forces and North Caucasian militants. The separatists received support from thousands of North Caucasus and Cossack militants and from the Russian forces stationed in and near Abkhazia.

Between 13,000 to 20,000 ethnic Georgians and approximately 3,000 Abkhaz have been reported killed, more than 250,000 Georgians became internally displaced or refugees and about 2,000 are considered missing.

About 1,500 ethnic Georgians, up to 200 ethnic Abkhazians and about 100 ethnic Ossetians are missing.

101 bodies have been identified and transported to Georgia in recent years.

The Russia-Georgia 2008 War was a war between Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The war displaced 192,000 people and while many returned to their homes after the war, 20,272 people, mostly ethnic Georgians, remained displaced.

35 Georgians and 6 Ossetians remain missing since the war.