Sokhumi-appointed head of Gali district, Konstantin Pilia said it is a “disaster” that the absolute majority of the overwhelmingly ethnic-Georgian district does not hold Abkhaz passports.
“Anyone who sincerely wants to be a citizen, a patriot of Abkhazia, should be given a chance,” Pilia asserted, marking a stark contrast to the previous Abkhaz administration that favored stricter regime for Gali Georgians.
“We are creating an Achilles’ heel, and I don’t know why we are doing it,” Pilia told Sputnik Abkhazia, Russian news agency, in an August 20 interview, asked to comment on only a thousand of about 30,000 Gali residents holding Abkhaz passports.
Pilia said while he agrees that Georgian passport holders should not be entitled to the Abkhaz “citizenship,” the problem arises as the central Georgian government does not allow Gali residents to give up their passports for Abkhaz citizenship, as the region is unrecognized.
The district head argued that Gali chool graduates are unable to continue their studies at Abkhaz State University in the abscence of Abkhaz documentation, adding that only 17 from a total of 233 graduates enrolled this year in Abkhazia-based universities.
“More than half of the [district] budget is spent on education,” he went on, adding that “we teach children, [and] in the end we do not give them any document… This is not right.”
Noting that the issue “is being politicized,” and the opposition in the occupied region have “tough” stance on the issue, Pilia called on all political forces to come up with a solution.
Sokhumi deprived the majority of Gali residents of the so-called Abkhaz citizenship in 2014 and 2017, and started issuing residence permits instead. This documentation deprives them of their political rights, including in participating in the non-recognized elections of the region.
The last year, influential group of war veterans – Aruaa – threatened the current Abkhaz administration with protests if they issue Abkhaz passports to Georgian nationals in Gali. They then reminded current PM Alexander Ankvab, that issuance of Abkhaz passports to Georgians led to his ousting from the presidential office back in 2014.
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