The Unpromised Land is finally out and available online. The photo portrayals of Meskhetian life serve the purpose of making aware of one of Georgia’s returning populations.
The Unpromised Land and the photos comprised in it, are a milestone for the European Centre for Minority Issues Caucasus. The photos are taken and gathered in a period from 2010-2011 in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan.
Photographer Temo Bardzimashvili’s ethnic portray has already been travelling all regions of Georgia as part of an awareness making exhibition and project.
Temo Bardzimashvili’s photos and the accompanying text by Negin Angoshtari are now ready for one more round of enhancing knowledge about the Meskhetians – among Georgians and beyond. The Unpromised Land includes an introduction by ECMI Project Manager Jana Sommerlund.
Background: Facilitating the return of deported people
Since 2010, ECMI Caucasus has implemented a large scale programme to support the repatriation of people deported from Georgia during the Stalin era. The project deals mainly with the indigenous Turkish speaking population of Samtskhe-Javakheti called the Meskhetians.
Since the government of Georgia has no experience in managing repatriation of deported people, the support of ECMI is playing an important role in the overall facilitation of the process.
An international expert seconded by the ECMI to the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia (MRA) ensures that the repatriation process is being implemented in accordance with the established international standards.
In order to coordinate the repatriation process between a range of governmental agencies the government of Georgia has, with the support of the programme, created an Interagency Governmental Council on the Repatriation of Forcefully Deported Persons from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia During the 40s of XX Century by Former USSR and a Working Group. ECMI is closely cooperating with both bodies, especially with regard to the drafting of a repatriation strategy.
The Unpromised Land as part of a larger societal awareness rising project
Apart from supporting the government structures in advancing the repatriation process, ECMI has implemented various activities to prepare the Georgian society for the return of Meskhetian repatriates.
These activities include trainings for regional authorities on diversity management, implemented in partnership with the Georgian ALPE Foundation, public lectures and seminars, winter schools for university students, cultural festivals, publication of information material, launch of an informational website, and finally the upon mentioned photo exhibition that now transformed into The Unpromised Land.
Sponsors and partners
The programme Supporting the Repatriation of Persons Deported from Georgia in the 1940s and their Descendants is funded by the European Union (EU) under the Instrument for Stability and is implemented by Action Against Hunger (ACF) and the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) Caucasus from 2010 through 2012. The almost completed programme consisted of four components and ECMI was responsible for two of them: (1) encompassing support for the government of Georgia in drafting, and (2) implementing its repatriation strategy through enhancing awareness on minority issues and the deported populations.
The programme sought to reach out to a broader public while also targeting particular groups, such as institutions of regional and local self-governance, civil society, public servants, academics and students in Georgia.
The programme has been coordinated by Jana Sommerlund. The partners’ endeavors towards Meskhetians are expected to continue also in the coming years.
The Unpromised Land is made available at the http://www.repatriation.ge/. This website serves the purpose of awareness-raising in the Georgian society regarding the deported populations and their repatriation. It also provides Meskhetians with an important source of information on the repatriation process.
The website is maintained in three languages: English, Georgian and Russian. It contains a legal section, where all relevant legislative acts can be found as well as information on procedures for repatriation. Information on Meskhetian organizations is also provided, as well as a collection of informative articles and useful links.
Watch also: Meskhetian photo slideshow.