“The Way to Combat Domestic Violence is via Education”

In Georgia, a large-scale social campaign, titled Strength for Trust is under way, directed against domestic violence.

In Georgia, a large-scale social campaign, titled Strength for Trust is under way, directed against domestic violence.

In a media briefing, the head of the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), Giorgi Mgebrishvili, noted that this problem remains one of the main priorities of his office. He called for victims and witnesses of domestic violence to not be afraid and go to the police for help. “In order to resolve this serious problem, in order that the police be able to fulfill their duties, we must have the assistance, cooperation and support of the victims and witnesses of abuse themselves”, noted the minister.

Official statistics

According to data from the Georgian MVD, as of September 19, 982 instances of domestic violence have been recorded since the beginning of 2016, 13 of which had lethal consequences. For comparison, in 2015 eight women died as a result of domestic quarrels, and a total of 901 cases were recorded. Human rights defenders believe that the reason for the growth in this number is that people are more actively turning to law-enforcement agencies for protection from their abuser.

It should be noted that many women, especially those in villages, hide domestic violence from law-enforcement personnel, and in doing so, do nothing to prevent it being repeated. One region where this is characteristic is Kvemo Kartli, where a large part of the population consists of Azerbaijanis.

The organization UN Women conducted a survey in the above-mentioned region, attempting to discern “why women don’t want to go to the police when they are victims of domestic violence”.

The figures showed the following:

43.6% of surveyed women don’t trust the police;

38.3% believe that domestic issues should be resolved without the police getting involved;

47% are against separation from a husband, even in the case that he is the abuser in the family.

Abuse has no nationality

In order to talk about the situation with women’s rights in the Kvemo Kartli region, and about the motives and factors that enable abuse, I turned to the Association of Active Azerbaijani Women of Georgia, whose slogan is “Women can do anything!”

This non-governmental organization was founded relatively recently. On December 1 it will mark one year since the day of its registration. But, despite such a young age, it has gathered fairly extensive information connected with the defense of women’s rights in the Kvemo Kartli region and in other places densely settled by ethnic Azerbaijanis. The association’s goal is to “galvanize” the Azerbaijani women of Georgia, to secure a more active role for them in society, and to help them showcase their talents.

“Abuse has no nationality, but, when we speak of the reasons that give rise to it, we cannot forget about the particularities of individual communities’ lifeways. The root of this evil is hidden in false stereotypes that have taken shape, and without uncovering and acknowledging them, we can do nothing against such a pernicious phenomenon as domestic violence”, believes the association’s founder and chairwoman, Gultekin Mustafayeva. According to her, in many Azerbaijani villages, a wife is considered to be her husband’s property.

Лейла Амрахова и Гюльтакин Мустафаева
Leyla Amrakhova and Gultekin Mustafayeva

Is a wife her husband’s property?

My neighbor says that when she got married, her spouse forbade her to work in an official capacity. As such, instead of working according to her specialty, she began to get involved in societal affairs and charity. True, he later changed his position and did everything he could to ensure that his daughter received an education and began to work. But unfortunately this is a rare instance.

As in the past, Azerbaijani families hold to old traditions, according to which a woman should only be engaged in homemaking, serve her husband and care for her children. As an example, Gultekin presented her mother’s story about how, long ago, in the Soviet era, when her father was appointed chairman of the kolkhoz in the village Abdalo, Bolnisi district, she had to constantly accompany her spouse. Otherwise, husbands wouldn’t have let their wives go to work.

In this sphere, the situation has remained practically unchanged in the villages of the Kvemo Kartli region, where representatives of the Association of Active Azerbaijani Women of Georgia travel regularly to do educational work among the local population.

Leyla Amrakhova, an active member of this organization, joins the conversation, “Unfortunately, in many Azerbaijani families the woman doesn’t have the right to a voice, her husband doesn’t listen to her opinions”.

She is from Baku, lives in Tbilisi, five years ago got married to a local Azerbaijani, and teaches at Javakhishvili State University in the Institute of Caucasology.

Leyla presents typical situations in which fathers personally chose suitors for their daughters, not asking their opinions, and if the mother objected, then they would beat her. “This is a holdover of the feudal past, which negatively affects the psyche of girls who become hostages at a young age”, she notes.

Early marriages

The problem of early marriages is a severe problem in the Kvemo Kartli region. In response to my question about why parents try to marry off their underage daughters, Gultekin Mustafayeva replied: “If a girl is born into a family, then the parents don’t consider her their own. She must be married and belong to someone else. This is our misfortune. The mothers and fathers of these girls, being poorly educated, don’t understand, and often don’t want to understand, that in marrying away their underage daughter, they are denying her the opportunity to study, to have a specialization, to have the opportunity for self-development. I came to the decision to work with girls in the older classes at school, and I went to the village. But it turned out that these sorts of girls simply don’t exist. All the girls got married after 9


grade. Then I tried to work with couples. I debate with them, I explain, but from them I get only distrust and lack of understanding. After this I understood that the root of the evil is hiding in the families themselves, where the old, feudal order lives on to this day. One more serious problem is marriages between relatives, which is widespread in this region”.

Встреча с жителями села Джандара Гардабанского муниципалитета
Meeting with residents of the village of Jandara of Gardabani Municipality

Beneficial initiatives

In Georgia there are four shelters for women that have suffered from domestic abuse: in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Gori and Sighnaghi. The Association of Active Azerbaijani Women of Georgia is bringing forth an initiative to open yet another shelter in one of the regions of Kvemo Kartli. However, they haven’t yet received support from the government.

Yet another of the Association’s initiatives is to constantly organize trips for Azerbaijani school children to various places in Georgia. Thing is, the many villages of the Marneuli, Bolnisi, Gardabani and Dmanisi municipalities have turned into their own variety of marginal societies. “Teenagers almost never leave the confines of their home village, in their families they repeatedly hear talk of dowries and marriages. They can’t even imagine that there might be something in life other than marriage. Because they don’t know the state language, people haven’t got a clue about what happens in the rest of Georgia, women don’t have any sort of information about their rights, they are cut off from everything. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but the majority of the population in these villages is living in precisely this way”, sadly noted Gultekin. According to her, this initiative received support from Guseyn Yusupov, the chairman of the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Georgia.

После встречи со школьницами средних классов села Иормуганло Сагареджойского муниципалитета
After the meeting with elementary school – girls from the village of Yormuganlo of Sagareji Municipality

“Women have a great role in Islam. In terms of their rights and responsibilities, they are completely equal with men. A woman is a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife”, said Leyla Amrakhova. The Association of Active Azerbaijani Women of Georgia recently organized a discussion on the topic “Woman in Islam”, which took place in Javakhishvili State University. Tbilisi community representatives took place in the event, among whom there were Azerbaijani students.

In the present day, more than two thousand ethnic Azerbaijanis, the majority of them from the Kvemo Kartli region, are studying in various universities of Georgia. The state oil company, SOCAR, deserves great credit here, as it is paying for their education. “It is in educated youth that I see the flame of hope. Just one educated girl is already an entire, educated family. Enlightenment carries with it a light that breaks the traditions and old ways of life that have long outlived their time”, declared Gultekin Mustafayeva.

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