Georgia is one of the top recipients of American aid.
I remember growing up in the Soviet Empire and my father always warning me not to talk too much against the authorities on the phone. “They are constantly listening to us and we may be arrested” – he used to tell me and we would cover our phones with the pillows before talking about politics. Many people were arrested, jailed or killed because they have said ‘unpatriotic things’ during their private conversations. This was the reason that people in the Soviet Empire were afraid to talk, because Soviet “Big Brother” was always watching. We were always reminded that the “Enemies of the Soviet State” are always waiting to come over and kill all of us. So if we wanted national security, we needed to endure Soviet State terror.
What has changed in contemporary Georgia? State surveillance programs are as obvious as they were during the Soviet regime. Contemporary Georgian authorities do not even hide that they are conducting policies of State Surveillance on their political opponents. During the arrests of popular TV host Shalva Ramishvili and dissident Philosopher Irakli Batiashvili, the State displayed their recorded conversations within hours of their arrest on National TV. Opponents of the current regime, like TV star, Beso Sarjveladze are jailed on TV for different ‘Offenses’ that are pre-recorded and then displayed on national TV. State Surveillance is not just conducted by the Saakashvili regime, but even used for propaganda reasons. Several leaders of the opposition like Koko Gamsakhurdia, Goga Khaindrava, Levan Berdzenishvili and Shalva Natelashvili were charged with ‘collaborating with the enemy’ in November, 2007. A TV show was made displaying their ‘collaboration’ with Russians, but in the end the government had dropped charges, since there was no evidence.
More recently, a new wave of arrests and political persecution has started. Members of the opposition movement Mamuka Tsereteli, Kahka Tabatadze, Nodar Kedelidze, David Chkhaidze and dozens of others were charged with different crimes, mostly unsubstantiated arms and drugs charges and put in prison. Members of the opposition Republican Party of Georgia Tamaz Tlashadze, Mikheil Gabunia and Zaal Gudadze were also victims of political persecution. Former General in Georgian Army, Koba Kobaladze was charged with organizing mutiny with no evidence, except fabricated recordings that were aired on Government-run TV stations.
Publisher Merab Katamadze was arrested and charged with arms possession. This list goes on and on.
Government has also maintained the policy of “Death Squads” that are run by high officials in the Interior Ministry, Vasil Sanodze and Data Akhalaia. Many young people were killed by these semi-official paramilitary units. Young Banker Sandro Girgvliani, Student Buta Robakidze and many others fell victim of the Death Squads in Georgia.
Stalinist practices are not challenged in contemporary Georgia. People are still under constant surveillance – many are arrested or even killed.
Unfortunately, taking Stalin’s statue down, which was a long overdue gesture of Georgian authorities does not mark a real change in Georgian politics. Real de-Stalinization needs to start in the society – when government is not using surveillance, arrests and death squads as its main tool of operation, that is when we can talk about the process of de-Stalinization of the country.
Now Saakashvili calls his people “Savage N-----s” meanwhile degrading Afro-Georgians and all people who are descended from Africa.
Since then Saakashvili has never apologized for his remarks, even though Georgian civil society representatives have demanded that he did. Ucha Nanuashvili from the Georgian Human Rights Information and Documentation Center has done this with the support of different human rights organizations in Georgia.
This is the new element of Neo-Stalinist Racist propaganda. I hope this is not going to go unnoticed by the international community. The Georgian regime is using all means to suppress its people. Now this is an openly racist country.
In the meantime lobbyists for the Georgian government are actively promoting the idea that the US is operating an arms embargo. The firm the Georgian regime hired to lobby for arms sales - Orion Strategies - is owned by a former advisor to failed Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Randy Scheunemann. Scheunemann is now advising Sarah Palin - the so-called Momma Grizzly of US Republican politics who is expected to seek that party's nomination for the 2012 presidential race.
Through McCain and Orion the Georgian government appears to be fighting a war of words with the Obama administration: wit McCain recently claiming the US was failing to give proper support to Georgian troops in Afghanistan.
Georgia is one of the top recipients of US aid. But instead of this aid going to military and police state, it will be great to help civil society to grow. A civil society that will never allow presidents to say such things will be the best 'protection' for countries like Georgia.