A Decade After August War, Refugees Still in Distress

In South Ossetia, an 84-year-old man looks to the horizon, his eyes reflecting sadness. His mouth, set in bitterness, finally opens: “It’s like living in a prison, here”.

Dato Vanishvili is a farmer who decided to stay in the breakaway Georgian region after the August 2008 war. However, some natives would like him to leave.

For 10 years, there has been ethnic cleansing: 81 Georgian families lived there, but Dato and his grandson are the last "survivors." All the others fled. In addition, according to Tbilisi officials, 126 Georgian civilians were arrested last year. In February, Archil Tatounachvili, a former soldier, was tortured to death in a Tskhinvali prison.

After the withdrawal of Georgian soldiers in 2008, the Tskinvali militia destroyed and looted property belonging to Georgian civilians and beat any citizens they found, says Human Rights Watch. Yet Russia still accuses Georgia of having caused the post-war events by planning to conduct a genocide in the region.  

Five years ago, Russian soldiers set up a barbed-wire boundary line separating the so-called Republic of South Ossetia from Georgia. Since 2008, Dato has been living in a territory controlled by separatists, and since they set up the barrier in 2013, he has been refused permission to cross the "border."

In 2016, the International Criminal Court began an investigation into war crimes committed by each side. 18,500 Georgians were forced to flee, hosted in refugee camps such as Khourvaleti.  “Russia invaded Georgia to prevent us from becoming a member of the European Union and NATO, to keep the Caucasus in its claws,” says 54-year-old refugee Gennady Zaridze.

By Antoine Dewaest

Photo : AFP

06 August 2018 14:45