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People Power in the Caucasus

For the past month, women in Georgia who were displaced from Abkhazia during the 1993 conflict have witnessed history moving backwards; everything they lived through 15 years ago is repeating itself. These women are now hosting a new flood of displaced civilians from Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia’s aggression in those regions, as well as within the Georgian territories that Russian forces have occupied since the invasion. In Tbilisi alone, there are more than 500 camps for internally displaced people, many of them women and children living with shortages of food and medical supplies.

Georgians today hardly feel supportive of their president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who, in a foolish attempt to regain control over South Ossetia, provoked Russia to drop its peacekeeping mission in the region and turn its full military might to pushing Georgian troops out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and then to occupying much of Georgia. The Russians bombed numerous strategic and civilian targets in Georgia, destroying infrastructure and producing growing shortages of food, fuel, and medicine.

People are in despair; they are angry at Russia for its aggression and at their own government for provoking this uneven conflict. People of different nationalities and ethnicities have been living in this region side by side for centuries, sharing customs, traditions, bread and wine, and mutual respect for each another’s cultures and languages. But, going back to the Russian, British, and Ottoman Empires that once battled here, they have been continually exploited by politicians and generals.

Women and children suffer the most in times of conflict. Add to this centuries-old patriarchal traditions, 15-year-old post-war traumas, a 20-year economic crisis, and current Russian aggression, and you may begin to grasp what women in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Georgia are enduring these days.