EKHO KAVKAZA — Yesterday, a press conference was convened in Sukhum by three members of the Abkhaz diaspora residing in Türkiye. Having arrived a day prior from the Turkish Republic, they announced their intention to join the protest against the enactment of the apartment law in Abkhazia. However, today, the Federation of Cultural Centers of Abkhazia (ABHAZ-FED) conveyed that these individuals do not represent the views of the entire diaspora.
During the press conference, the attendees stated that they are part of the initiative group "Abkhazia," which opposes allowing foreign citizens the right to acquire residential property within Abkhazia. They also disclosed that they had orchestrated a public campaign within the diaspora, advocating for the withdrawal of the bill from parliament. In the initial stage, the activists gathered 1864 signatures—a symbolic number, alluding to the year marking the end of the Russo-Caucasian War. The signature sheets were subsequently presented to the Speaker of the People's Assembly, Lasha Ashuba.
However, on the same day, a statement from Murat Makharia, the head of the Federation of Abkhaz Cultural Centers of Türkiye, surfaced in the Abkhaz media:
"Dear compatriots, I extend fraternal greetings on behalf of the Federation of Abkhaz Cultural Centers of Türkiye and congratulate you on the forthcoming grand Victory holiday! I deem the behaviour of representatives of the Abkhaz diaspora, currently in Abkhazia, expressing their views on the 'Apartment Law' as representing the entire diaspora, to be inappropriate. The Federation of Cultural Centers of Abkhazia, the largest association of Abkhazians in Türkiye, did not delegate anyone for this purpose to Abkhazia; they are not affiliated with the federation, which was not even informed of their visit."
Ibrahim Avidzba, the authorised representative of Abkhazia in Türkiye, stated, as reported by the press service of the president of the republic:
“The authorised representation of the Republic of Abkhazia lacks information regarding anyone being delegated on behalf of the public associations of the Abkhaz diaspora in Türkiye to voice opinions for the entire diaspora. I find the actions of individual diaspora representatives, who assume the authority to speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Abkhazians living in Türkiye, to be inappropriate."
Later in the evening, Astamur Logua, a member of the Public Chamber of Abkhazia and a deputy of the past convocation of the Abkhazian parliament, addressed the situation on Facebook. The beginning of his post reads:
“I came across several statements today from representatives of our diaspora in Türkiye. I am somewhat versed in this topic. Today, representatives of a few cultural centres in Türkiye (I don’t want to misstate the number) held a press conference and criticised the draft law on apartments. Everything is transparent; people even brought signatures from Türkiye. Personally, I didn’t find anything new. It is evident that some citizens of Abkhazia living in Türkiye oppose it. This is completely normal as citizens of Abkhazia, regardless of their residence, have the full right to express their opinion. In the evening, I also read other statements claiming that the Federation of Cultural Centers does not support the ideas of those who came here and that one should not speak for the entire diaspora. I did not attend today’s meeting, but I doubt that anyone there claimed representation of all organisations…”
We contacted Astamur Logua today, and here’s what he further added on this topic:
“What can I say… The issues we face within Abkhazia, which, by the way, are not exclusive to the current government but have persisted for a long time, are the same problems we transfer to our diaspora. It appears that people there are divided as well… The problems are, of course, much more extensive, affecting not only the Abkhazians but our entire fraternal Circassian world. We are divided in Türkiye too. The arrival and expression of opinions by representatives of certain organisations yesterday is neither terrible nor critical because any citizen of Abkhazia, wherever they may be, certainly holds the right to express their opinion on any aspect of the country’s life. And that’s what they did. Honestly, I haven’t seen the video footage from this press conference, but for some reason, I find it hard to believe that anyone there claimed to represent the opinion of the entire diaspora. I think the stance of the entire diaspora remains a mystery to all, as unfortunately, there are many Abkhazians living in Türkiye who don’t even frequent the cultural centres - derneks [associations -ed]. I personally know such individuals. Firstly, if such claims were made, they are incorrect…”
“They didn’t state it that way. They mentioned that some derneks were supportive, while others weren’t…”
“Well, in that case, it’s a normal process. Some organisations were supportive, and others were not. There’s nothing unusual about this; people expressed their opinions. I generally believe that we don’t involve representatives of our diaspora enough and don’t seek their counsel on a number of issues. If we briefly recall the inception of this entire campaign on apartments, you might remember that a meeting was held between the Abkhaz leadership and representatives of our Abkhaz business community living in Russia. Many businessmen supported the draft law on apartments during the meeting with the president. Thus, I think it would be prudent to invite Abkhaz business representatives from around the world to such meetings. I am fully convinced that there is a significant difference between people who have always lived in a capitalist world… They likely understand business as well as we do, if not better than our businessmen living in Russia. However, for some reason, this isn’t practised, and it frankly disheartens me, considering the vast potential of the global Abkhaz business community. This applies to many other issues as well. Generally speaking, I sense inklings of political speculation that might arise surrounding the arrival of diaspora representatives. This is highly unfortunate. We shouldn’t allow political issues to divide our diaspora. I believe that Abkhazia could accomplish more by strategically engaging with our extensive diaspora in Türkiye. When I refer to the diaspora, I encompass the entire Circassian world, which undoubtedly includes no fewer than five million people worldwide. We are approaching major holidays, and Abkhazia will welcome many guests, representatives of our diaspora. I sincerely hope that these matters will be addressed, potentially during official meetings, and, God willing, will foster the development of our relations and statehood.”
This article was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.