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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08TBILISI516 2008-03-26 14:08:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi
Cable title:  

MEETING WITH UNION OF KURDS OF GEORGIA

Tags:   PGOV PHUM KDEM GG 
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1. (SBU) On 25 March 2008, Poloff met with Vitali Nabiev
(Anqosi), chairman of the NGO Union of Kurds of Georgia.
Nabiev's organization represents the Georgian Kurdish
Diaspora in Tbilisi (about 30,000 people mainly in the
capital whom he described as Yesids) and Iraqi Kurds in
Kurdistan. His purpose in meeting U.S. Embassy contacts was
to thank them for assistance to Kurds in Iraq and to promote
more dialogue and interaction with younger Kurds who have a
positive impression of the West, but so far have knowledge
only of the East (Russia.) He voiced few concerns, although
religious freedom and updating the national registry to
include traditional Kurdish family names were discussed. End
Summary.



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Union of Kurds of Georgia


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Nabiev's organization, which was formed about a
year ago, is one of approximately eight organizations in
Georgia which represent Kurd interests. The Kurdish have
been present in Georgia for centuries, many of them
emigrating from Georgia to Russia in the last years for
employment reasons. The Kurdish Diaspora primarily live in
Tbilisi (90%), with the remainder sprinkled liberally
throughout Georgia in lesser numbers. Nabiev said his
organization, which employs five people (men and women),
represents many younger Kurds. His primary goal in
establishing contact is to expand dialogue with the West, as
many Kurds have positive impressions of the U.S., but have
traditionally only known the East (Russia). In his opinion,
there is no dialogue currently between the U.S. Embassy and
the Kurdish community. Nabiev described his organization as
active, sitting on committees for minorities and religious
freedom within the Public Defender's Office, and working
positively to represent its constituents. Nabiev said that
he firmly believed that he needs to work with the authorities
to resolve issues, before bringing them to the attention of
the international community.



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What are the Kurds' concerns?


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Nabiev seemed reluctant to delve into too much
detail about concerns, only mentioning the first and second
items from the list below. According to the Public
Defender's website, Kurds' principal concerns are:

-- Adequate allocation of broadcasting time for Kurdish
programming on television and radio
-- Registration of Kurds traditional surnames in the public
registry
-- Problem of learning the mother tongue
-- Preservation of Kurdish culture, language, and religion



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Yesid Faith


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Nabiev said that there is no temple outside of
Iraqi Kurdistan for those of the Yesid faith to pray.
(Comment: Yesid is a religion closely associated with the
Zoroastrian faith.) His organization had recently met with
the mayor of Tbilisi about finding an acceptable location to
build such a structure, but no solution had resulted.
According to the Public Defender's web site, the Kurd
Diaspora has applied to the state several times for land upon
which to construct a religious building. The Head of
Property Management Service of Tbilisi, Pikria Ugrekhelidze,
has promised the Kurds to help find a location which would be
appropriate. Nabiev added that the Kurd community is "trying
to be careful not to irritate the Mayor of Tbilisi" and has
assured local officials that practitioners of the Yesid faith
would not be proselytizing in order to allay any perception
that the religion is threatening to the prevailing Georgian
Orthodox religion.



--------------------------


Kurdish Names in the Registry


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Members of the Kurd Diaspora met with
representatives of the Civil Registry Office (Ministry of
Justice) about updating registry records to permit the return
of historical Kurd surnames. (Comment: Nabiev's historical
Kurdish surname is Anqosi.) Nabiev gave two reasons for
wanting the updates. First, it is important to regain family
names, but secondly, there are practical implications. For
example, some Kurds have Armenian sounding names, which
prevent them traveling easily to Azerbaijan and other areas
for work. Previously the process for changing a name in the
public registry required a certificate from the Special
Commission of Ethnography which did a family genealogical
search to verify lineage. This commission no longer exists.
Therefore, no names can be updated in the registry.
According to Nabiev a special law is necessary to address the
issue. The Public Defender has promised to find a solution
to the issue through cooperation with the Ethnographic
Institute.



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Mass Media


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Nabiev, a journalist and native Georgian speaker,
did not seem overly concerned about lack of media coverage in
the Kurdish language. He said that currently public radio
carries 10 minutes of Kurdish language programming a week,
and until recently he himself helped publish a newspaper in
Russian, Georgian and Kurdish. Nabiev plans to resume this
service again soon. He was hopeful that the pending
appointment of a new director of public television would soon
permit more frequent Kurdish language programming.



--------------------------


Other Contacts


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Nabiev has well-entrenched contacts with the
Russian Embassy. He explained many Kurds currently reside in
Russia and experience difficulties after communications and
travel links between Georgia and Russia were severed. Nabiev
has lobbied on behalf of these Kurds to the Russian Embassy.
Nabiev planned to establish contact with the British Embassy
to thank them for their assistance in Iraq and expressed
regret that there is no South Korean Embassy in Tbilisi so he
could do the same. (Comment: The Republic of Korea Zaytun
Peace and Reconstruction Division has been present in Erbil,
Kurdistan, since 2004. According to recent survey results
listed on the Kurdistan Regional Government web site more
than 80% of the people in Erbil would like the Koreans to
extend their stay. End comment.)



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





8. (C) Nabiev was quick to establish up front that he was
not meeting with Poloff to air a list of concerns or ask for
grants. His primary reason was to establish more regular
contact and dialogue. Poloff agreed to put him in contact
with the Embassy's Public Affairs Section to get information
on cultural and educational opportunities, offered to meet
with representatives from the Kurdish Diaspora to learn of
religious or minority discrimination issues, and welcomed
meetings with members of the Kurdish community in outlying
regions when Embassy officers are traveling in Georgia.
PERRY