Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Georgia: Veterans of Past Georgian Conflicts Feel Ignored

This article originally appeared in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting,
Veterans of Past Georgian Conflicts Feel Ignored 

By Heather Yundt, IWPR Georgia - Caucasus

Listen on IWPR Radio

Ex-combatants in Georgia who fought in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts of the early 1990s, and in the August 2008 war with Russia, receive little state support and struggle to make ends meet.

In a major new study, researchers found that 64 per cent of these war veterans said they were unemployed – more than four times the national average. The government pays only a small monthly benefit to ex-combatants.

“Almost everyone [from this group] suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. What is more, there are no state-funded programmes to help these veterans integrate,” said Major-General Koba Kobaladze, head of the Generals’ Club, which conducted the research in conjunction with the IB Euro-Caucasian University.

Above all, former combatants feel unwanted and ignored by the country they fought for.

Maj-Gen Kobaladze says that issues of rights, benefits and assistance programmes have been muddied by politics, as national leaders favour allies and sympathisers over opponents.

“All veterans should be treated with respect despite their political affiliations. They fought for their country,” he said.

The current government seems to be moving forward. In January, it set up a separate department to look after service veterans’ affairs. But Tamaz Imnaishvili of the Generals’ Club says staff at the department are not ex-military and have little idea of the needs on the ground.

Heather Yundt produced this edition of Behind the Headlines, a radio programme made by IWPR Georgia.

The programme is part of IWPR’s Building Bridges/Building Capacity in the South Caucasus programme, funded by the Norwegian foreign ministry. The contents of the programme do not reflect the views of the funder.