The needs of the population living near the occupation line (Avlevi, Atotsi, Abano, Tamarasheni, Ghogheti)
In February 2022, representatives of the Democracy Research Institute visited the villages located along the occupation line in the Shida Kartli region.
The village of Avlevi in the Kareli municipality is located at 750 meters above sea level. According to the 2014 data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, 750 people live in the village; Atotsi - located at 900 meters above sea level, 239 inhabitants; Abano - located at 720 meters above sea level, 368 people lived in the village according to the 2002 census and 239 people live in the village according to the 2014 data; Tamarasheni - located at 710 meters above sea level, 401 people live in the village according to the 2014 census; Ghogheti - 179 people lived in the village according to the 2002 census and 122 people live there according to the 2014 data.
In order to enter the village, it is necessary to pass two police checkpoints. Unemployment and poverty are the main problems for the locals. They have to go to Kareli and Khashuri for medicines. The village has no highland status unlike the neighboring village of Knolevi. Locals received GEL 200 voucher for gas bills only once this winter. Earlier they received the voucher three times - GEL 600 in total.
Forests, rural lands and pastures are now on the occupied side, so locals cannot cut firewood or use pastures. If their cattle move to the other side, they are taken away and their owners are also arrested by the Russian military. Locals demand an allocation of a tractor or voucher in order to be able to cultivate the land. The village is half empty and there are few young people remaining.
400 families used to live in the village, but only 80 households are left now. Locals named the lack of transport as the main problem, as the road was not cleared of snow and people were unable to move across the village all winter. There is no grocery store in the village. Locals cannot even raise cattle as the village no longer has pastures. Seed sowing is also a problem due to the high cost of fertilizers and fuel. Locals have to go to another village for pharmacy and food.
Abano borders an area that is currently controlled by Russian border guards. Due to security measures, access to this place is possible only by passing 3 Georgian police checkpoints. Due to unemployment and lack of appropriate conditions, the local population is gradually leaving the village. They named transport as one of the problems. They are asking for help because of unemployment and economic hardship.
The village road is damaged and not even graveled. Some sections of the road are icy. The village does not have the status of a highland settlement. Access to pharmacy and outpatient facility is problematic. Locals have to go to Agara to buy food. Part of the locals, who were affected by the earthquake and still live in the damaged building of former factory apartments, do not have any property registered. For medical needs, a doctor is often brought from Agara at their own expenses. The 9-grade school has a total of 60 students and the local population demands a 12-grade school.
The road and irrigation water remain problematic in the village. The road is halfway built. There is no doctor or outpatient clinic in the village. A doctor periodically arrives from the village of Ptsa. Tamarasheni does not have the status of a highland settlement, despite the fact that the neighboring village of Ghogheti has such a status. Economic hardship was named as the main problem in the village.
The village lost its pastures after the 2008 war. Lands near barbed wire cannot be cultivated due to the lack of security guarantees. There are frequent cases of illegal borderization and kidnapping. Due to the occupation, the village is divided into two parts, leaving part of the rural population on the occupied side. Locals have to abandon the village due to poverty and lack of services.
The village does not have a medical facility and locals request that the ritual hall be converted for medical purposes. Most of the residents of the village have emigrated to work abroad. The village has the status of a highland settlement, but locals indicate an unequal distribution of benefits, unlike other villages with a high mountain status. As a result of the war, 7 houses were burnt down and appropriate compensations have been received.