Opposition party, National Forum, has called for a large-scale, one-day protest march on September 27 to demonstrate, that the Georgian people “will not tolerate anti-Georgian policies” of the authorities.
The party said that the date has been selected to coincide with, as it put it, “the day of great Georgian catastrophe.”
Eighteen years ago on September 27 Abkhaz forces, backed by their allies from Russia, captured Sokhumi after almost two weeks of siege. In Abkhazia September 27 is celebrated as “the day of liberation of Sokhumi”, while in Tbilisi this day, known as “the fall of Sokhumi”, is usually marked with wreath laying ceremonies at the memorial of Georgian fallen soldiers.
Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum said on September 20, that planned march next Tuesday should turn into “a serious declaration of the Georgian people that we, as a nation, continue to exist, that we are the nation which marks its day of catastrophe, but at the same it is oriented towards the future.”
“The goal [of the march] is to demonstrate both within the country and to the outside world, that we will not tolerate a situation in which our homeland is now, to demonstrate that both Sokhumi and Tskhinvali will be in Georgia’s fold; to demonstrate that the Georgian people will not tolerate the government’s program of Georgia’s Singaporization,” Sanikidze said at a news conference.
He said that the participants of the march would gather on the Rose Square, formerly the Republic Square at 4pm on September 27 and then march through the Rustaveli Avenue towards the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where a religious service in memory of those who have died eighteen years ago in Sokhumi will be conducted.
National Forum first announced about the intention to hold the protest march on September 12, but other opposition parties have not showed much enthusiasm towards the initiative. Gubaz Sanikidze said that his party held no consultations over the initiative beforehand with partners from the group of six opposition parties.
He suggested that there was no need for such consultations in advance because it was not a formal coalition-type of union and the grouping was focusing on cooperation on electoral issues only. In July the six opposition parties – National Forum; Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD); Conservative Party; Republican Party; Georgia’s Way and Party of People – signaled intention to further broaden cooperation and not to limit alliance with only electoral-related issues. National Forum’s initiative, which was not prior agreed with others from the group of six, immediately triggered speculation in the press that the grouping was if not collapsing, at least failing to cooperate on broad range of issues beyond of electoral ones.
Speaking at a news conference on September 12, when the initiative was first announced, Gubaz Sanikidze outlined number of reasons why he thought that such “March of Georgians” was required now. He slammed President Saakashvili’s policies both internal and foreign one, saying that it was directed against the Georgian interests. He also slammed, what he called, a policy of downgrading importance of the Georgian language, which he said was now “humiliated.”
“If we give way to this logic, according to which the English language is needed and there is no need for the Georgian language, in fifteen or twenty years when we arrive in Javakheti [predominantly ethnic Armenian populated region] we will have to speak with local Armenians in English and in Marneuli [predominantly ethnic Azerbaijani populated district] we will have to speak with local Azerbaijanis in English,” Sanikidze said.
He also spoke strongly against of ratifying of European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages by Georgia. The Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe April, 2011 resolution on Georgia expresses “regret” that Georgia has not yet honored its commitment and called for signing and ratifying this Charter “without further delay.”
“Today Georgia has authorities which are anti-Georgian and anti-people; Saakashvili’s government is against Georgian values, the Georgian way of life,” Gubaz Sanikidze said.
National Forum said that the planned march would not be “a narrow party event” and there would not even be party flags and symbols.