In the latest development in the ongoing battle by residents of the Armenian populated village of Tabatzghour (in the Samtskhe-Javakhk region of Georgia) to regain fishing rights in a lake now leased to Vardan Ayvazyan (an MP in Armenia’s National Assembly), Ayvazyan has suggested that the two sides create a cooperative to farm potatoes.
Tabatzghour resident Ashot Iritsyan gibes the idea a thumbs-down.
“Ayvazyan wants us to farm the potatoes so that he can sell them at a high price. But our village doesn’t have the necessary condition. There is no irrigation water and the village freezes over starting after September. He plans to get the seeds from Holland. We’d only get paid for growing the potatoes if there’s any profit left over,” said Iritsyan.
Villagers have petitioned the Georgian courts to regain their rights to fish the lake, their prime source of revenue. There have even been run-ins with the police.
Last July, the Tbilisi Municipal Court refused to hear a suit filed by Tabatzghour residents demanding that the Georgian government’s lease agreement signed with Ayvazyan’s company be abrogated and for the lake to be handed over to the state.
The dispute dates to 2010 when Vardan Ayvazyan’s company Ldjer Ltd. obtained the right to use a lake in the village to farm fish. He banned locals from catching fish in the lake.
Ashot Iritsyan has mostly contempt for Ayvazyan in the ongoing dispute.
“The lake is encircled in red and we don’t have the right to fish. Vardan’s finger is dirty in all this. We’ve heard that he will place security around the lake in the spring. Those who try to enter will be caught and fined. We’re in a pickle of a situation. They promised to give the lake back to us but haven’t.”
As a last resort, residents have sent an appeal to former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to intervene on their behalf.
Residents say they will again stage protests outside the government building and parliament. They will also target foreign embassies this time.
They threaten to leave the village if their demands aren’t met.
“We have stated either us or Vardan. Either give us the lake so that we can live, or give it to Vardan and we will leave the village,” said Ashot.
Photo: Vardan Ayvazyan, Bidzina Ivanishvili