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Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

Dali Shonia, left, and Tariel Kolbaia were among the half-dozen protesters asking for new houses. Kolbaia threatened to light himself on fire if the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons did not address the protesters’ demands. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

The local press had stopped by, as had politicians from both major parties. But the protest’s target audience the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees had yet to make an appearance, and the protesters were growing impatient. One of them declared that if the government continued to ignore them, he would set himself on fire in front of the ministry.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

Protesters, including Nani Shonia (left, no relation to Dali) sewed their lips together to get the attention of the Georgian ministry. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR

Internally displaced people, or IDPs, have fled war and violence but unlike refugees, they have not crossed international borders to reach safety. In Georgia, there are more than 250,000 IDPs, displaced by multiple conflicts in the country’s brief post-Soviet history. As is the case for IDPs everywhere, they are dependent on their own government, not the international community, for assistance. But for Georgia’s government, figuring out how to help, and for how long, has proved complicated.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

Following wars in the early 1990s, the government’s main response to the sudden influx of displaced people was to open up public buildings as temporary shelters. It was a stopgap solution, implemented without a long-term strategy, but as the years ticked by, it became the system. Then, in 2007, Georgia finally adopted its first official policy for addressing the needs of IDPs, which called for moving people out of those temporary shelters into more permanent housing. A decade later, that plan is still very much in progress. Shonia fled her home in the Black Sea region of Abkhazia in the early 1990s, after Russian-backed separatists took control there during a 1992-1993 war. More than two decades later, she is still living in what was supposed to be a temporary shelter, despite new government programs to give new housing to displaced people.

She explained that water ran down the walls of her room when it rained how could the government not see she was desperate for a new house?

“It is unfair that they give apartments to people who don’t deserve it and they don’t give apartments to us,” Shonia said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

The buildings of this former hospital complex are now home to dozens of internally displaced families. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

From across the tent, another woman offered to take me on a tour of a temporary shelter a former hospital complex turned IDP housing just behind the protest camp. Rain splashed through the hospital’s doorless entryway and into the first-floor corridor, where an old woman was chopping wood. Just inside, my tour guide pointed up at the ceiling, to a gaping hole extending all the way to the second floor. It turned out to be one of many holes throughout the building some of them inside people’s makeshift apartments, others in the hallways.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

People heat their rooms in the former hospital buildings with woodstoves. In all of the buildings, there are huge holes in the floors and parts of the ceiling have collapsed. (Top) Claire Harbage/NPR; (Bottom) Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption (Top) Claire Harbage/NPR; (Bottom) Stephanie Joyce/NPR

It was undeniable that the building was falling apart and unsafe. So why weren’t the people living there a higher priority for new housing? I headed over to the regional office of the Ministry of Internally Displaced People to find out. Inside a drab, white-walled waiting room, a dozen people sat in rows of plastic chairs underneath an electronic ticker displaying which number was up next. A sign announced visiting hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with a lunch break from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Everyone was silent until my translator, Mariam Aduashvili, told the security guard I was an American journalist there to speak with the deputy minister. Then the room erupted with people shouting at me in Georgian. They were annoyed, Aduashvili explained, that I was speaking to officials at the ministry.

“You should go to the settlements and talk to the IDPs, rather than come and talk to the representatives of the ministry they are not going to tell you the truth,” she paraphrased.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

People crowd the waiting room at the Zugdidi regional office of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR

After a long wait, we were ushered in back to the office of the deputy minister, Manuchar Chilachava, who sat behind his desk, flanked by staffers. Yes, he was aware of the protest, he said. No, he did not have plans to go visit the protesters.

“Bad living conditions are bad living conditions,” he said. “We get it.”

But, he repeatedly explained, the ministry has rules it must follow Resolution 320.

“If they have really horrible living conditions, that … is included in the points,” Chilachava said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

A tree recently fell on the hospital outbuilding where Rita Jomidava, 39, lives with her children, denting the roof and collapsing part of the building. Residents of the hospital complex chopped it up for firewood. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Resolution 320, a decree adopted in 2013, lays out a point system for ranking people’s suffering to determine who gets an apartment first: Three points for those living in “particularly harsh” conditions such as “a garage, staircase of a building, watchman’s booth, self-constructed wooden/plank building, dug-out.” Three points if a family member died in the war. Three points for a family member with a disability.

“We have to follow the law,” Chilachava said. But how did Georgia end up in a situation where a law designed to help displaced people had resulted in them sewing their lips shut and threatening to set themselves on fire? I decided to go to the top the minister himself.

On the day I met Sozar Subari at the agency’s headquarters in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, the commission that decides who gets apartments was meeting. Inside a conference room, 20 or so people sat around a table with huge reams of paper in front of them lists of the 4,000 applicants for just 144 newly built apartments in Zugdidi.

Projected at the front of the room were photos of the inside of an IDP applicant’s house. Subari explained they were verifying that people’s living conditions were in fact as they said they were a process he readily admitted was flawed.

“To say who is living in the worst conditions is impossible because there is no clear border between them,” Subari said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

Some IDP families have been living in the former hospital buildings for more than 20 years, even as they have fallen into increasing disrepair. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

He professed no illusions about the problematic reality of ranking people’s suffering: “We have criteria,” he said, “but the criteria are not always fair.”

Nevertheless, he defended the system as the best way to help displaced people short of them being allowed to return to their homes in the disputed regions. By giving IDPs property, Subari argued, the government was providing the essential pre-condition for them to reintegrate into Georgian society and live as any other citizens.

“They can start businesses and become millionaires, or they can go gamble the whole thing and lose it all in the hour they can do whatever they want” with their new property, he said. “But once the government has given them accommodation, the government’s responsibility is done.”

Uprooted By Conflict, Stuck In Limbo, Yearning For A Place To Call Home

A broken pipe gushes water on the grounds of the hospital complex. Residents say there is only water in the building for a few hours a day. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

His vision is that once all displaced people have been given new housing, the ministry will no longer be necessary. He’ll put himself out of a job, and IDPs will be treated like any other Georgians.

“They are now ordinary citizens,” he said. “If they lost, they lost.”

Stephanie Joyce reported in Georgia as NPR’s Above the Fray fellow. The fellowship is sponsored by the John Alexander Project, which supports foreign reporting in undercovered parts of the world. This story was produced with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
[1][2]

References

  1. ^ Above the Fray (www.npr.org)
  2. ^ John Alexander Project (www.thejohnalexanderproject.org)

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia …

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

Dali Shonia, left, and Tariel Kolbaia were among the half-dozen protesters asking for new houses. Kolbaia threatened to light himself on fire if the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons did not address the protesters’ demands. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

The local press had stopped by, as had politicians from both major parties. But the protest’s target audience the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees had yet to make an appearance, and the protesters were growing impatient. One of them declared that if the government continued to ignore them, he would set himself on fire in front of the ministry.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

Protesters, including Nani Shonia (left, no relation to Dali) sewed their lips together to get the attention of the Georgian ministry. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR

Internally displaced people, or IDPs, have fled war and violence but unlike refugees, they have not crossed international borders to reach safety. In Georgia, there are more than 250,000 IDPs, displaced by multiple conflicts in the country’s brief post-Soviet history. As is the case for IDPs everywhere, they are dependent on their own government, not the international community, for assistance. But for Georgia’s government, figuring out how to help, and for how long, has proved complicated.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

Following wars in the early 1990s, the government’s main response to the sudden influx of displaced people was to open up public buildings as temporary shelters. It was a stopgap solution, implemented without a long-term strategy, but as the years ticked by, it became the system. Then, in 2007, Georgia finally adopted its first official policy for addressing the needs of IDPs, which called for moving people out of those temporary shelters into more permanent housing. A decade later, that plan is still very much in progress. Shonia fled her home in the Black Sea region of Abkhazia in the early 1990s, after Russian-backed separatists took control there during a 1992-1993 war. More than two decades later, she is still living in what was supposed to be a temporary shelter, despite new government programs to give new housing to displaced people.

She explained that water ran down the walls of her room when it rained how could the government not see she was desperate for a new house?

“It is unfair that they give apartments to people who don’t deserve it and they don’t give apartments to us,” Shonia said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

The buildings of this former hospital complex are now home to dozens of internally displaced families. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

From across the tent, another woman offered to take me on a tour of a temporary shelter a former hospital complex turned IDP housing just behind the protest camp. Rain splashed through the hospital’s doorless entryway and into the first-floor corridor, where an old woman was chopping wood. Just inside, my tour guide pointed up at the ceiling, to a gaping hole extending all the way to the second floor. It turned out to be one of many holes throughout the building some of them inside people’s makeshift apartments, others in the hallways.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

People heat their rooms in the former hospital buildings with woodstoves. In all of the buildings, there are huge holes in the floors and parts of the ceiling have collapsed. (Top) Claire Harbage/NPR; (Bottom) Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption (Top) Claire Harbage/NPR; (Bottom) Stephanie Joyce/NPR

It was undeniable that the building was falling apart and unsafe. So why weren’t the people living there a higher priority for new housing? I headed over to the regional office of the Ministry of Internally Displaced People to find out. Inside a drab, white-walled waiting room, a dozen people sat in rows of plastic chairs underneath an electronic ticker displaying which number was up next. A sign announced visiting hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with a lunch break from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Everyone was silent until my translator, Mariam Aduashvili, told the security guard I was an American journalist there to speak with the deputy minister. Then the room erupted with people shouting at me in Georgian. They were annoyed, Aduashvili explained, that I was speaking to officials at the ministry.

“You should go to the settlements and talk to the IDPs, rather than come and talk to the representatives of the ministry they are not going to tell you the truth,” she paraphrased.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

People crowd the waiting room at the Zugdidi regional office of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons. Stephanie Joyce/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Stephanie Joyce/NPR

After a long wait, we were ushered in back to the office of the deputy minister, Manuchar Chilachava, who sat behind his desk, flanked by staffers. Yes, he was aware of the protest, he said. No, he did not have plans to go visit the protesters.

“Bad living conditions are bad living conditions,” he said. “We get it.”

But, he repeatedly explained, the ministry has rules it must follow Resolution 320.

“If they have really horrible living conditions, that … is included in the points,” Chilachava said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

A tree recently fell on the hospital outbuilding where Rita Jomidava, 39, lives with her children, denting the roof and collapsing part of the building. Residents of the hospital complex chopped it up for firewood. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Resolution 320, a decree adopted in 2013, lays out a point system for ranking people’s suffering to determine who gets an apartment first: Three points for those living in “particularly harsh” conditions such as “a garage, staircase of a building, watchman’s booth, self-constructed wooden/plank building, dug-out.” Three points if a family member died in the war. Three points for a family member with a disability.

“We have to follow the law,” Chilachava said. But how did Georgia end up in a situation where a law designed to help displaced people had resulted in them sewing their lips shut and threatening to set themselves on fire? I decided to go to the top the minister himself.

On the day I met Sozar Subari at the agency’s headquarters in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, the commission that decides who gets apartments was meeting. Inside a conference room, 20 or so people sat around a table with huge reams of paper in front of them lists of the 4,000 applicants for just 144 newly built apartments in Zugdidi.

Projected at the front of the room were photos of the inside of an IDP applicant’s house. Subari explained they were verifying that people’s living conditions were in fact as they said they were a process he readily admitted was flawed.

“To say who is living in the worst conditions is impossible because there is no clear border between them,” Subari said.

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

Some IDP families have been living in the former hospital buildings for more than 20 years, even as they have fallen into increasing disrepair. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

He professed no illusions about the problematic reality of ranking people’s suffering: “We have criteria,” he said, “but the criteria are not always fair.”

Nevertheless, he defended the system as the best way to help displaced people short of them being allowed to return to their homes in the disputed regions. By giving IDPs property, Subari argued, the government was providing the essential pre-condition for them to reintegrate into Georgian society and live as any other citizens.

“They can start businesses and become millionaires, or they can go gamble the whole thing and lose it all in the hour they can do whatever they want” with their new property, he said. “But once the government has given them accommodation, the government’s responsibility is done.”

Uprooted By Conflict, Displaced People In The Republic Of Georgia ...

A broken pipe gushes water on the grounds of the hospital complex. Residents say there is only water in the building for a few hours a day. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

His vision is that once all displaced people have been given new housing, the ministry will no longer be necessary. He’ll put himself out of a job, and IDPs will be treated like any other Georgians.

“They are now ordinary citizens,” he said. “If they lost, they lost.”

Stephanie Joyce reported in Georgia as NPR’s Above the Fray fellow. The fellowship is sponsored by the John Alexander Project, which supports foreign reporting in undercovered parts of the world. This story was produced with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
[1][2]

References

  1. ^ Above the Fray (www.npr.org)
  2. ^ John Alexander Project (www.thejohnalexanderproject.org)

Jonah Goldberg: Why Trump is right about terrorists being losers

LOSER IS STRANGE WORD.

Literally and most plainly, it is simply someone who doesn t win some specific contest or challenge: the loser of a race, boxing match, business deal, etc.

Economists routinely talk about how this or that policy on trade, taxes, whatever creates winners and losers.

A big part of Donald Trump s winning appeal in the 2016 election was that Americans were on the losing end of trade policy. Trump took it further, arguing that we don t win wars or anything else anymore. Elect me, he promised, and you ll grow tired of all the winning.

But here s the thing: The logical and semantic inference of this rhetoric is that Americans, Trump voters, or the American military are losers.

Now, hold on. That rage building in some of you at the suggestion that Americans, Trump voters, or the American military are losers perfectly illuminates the problem with the word loser. The moment you use it to describe a person or a group, the meaning changes profoundly from an objective descriptor to a subjective epithet.
Tom Brady is widely seen as the greatest quarterback in the history of football. But even Brady loses games from time to time. Try watching the Patriots play in a Boston bar sometime. If the Patriots lose the game, announce, Brady is a loser, or, The Patriots are losers. In a technical sense, you d be right, which would amount to cold comfort in your hospital room.

I bring all of this up because in his statement on the Manchester terror attack, Trump said that terrorists are evil losers.

I won t call them monsters because they d like that term, Trump said. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that s what they are. They re losers. And we ll have more of them, but they re losers.

The response from many Trump critics has been a mixture of outrage and eye rolling.

Part of the problem is that loser is one of Trump s favorite insults. As USA Today cataloged, he s used it against everyone from Rosie O Donnell to George Will and Standard & Poor s. Not only has he called me a loser, but a total loser.

But I don t think he was calling me a terrorist.

Moreover, I don t think he s wrong to call terrorists losers. In the West, a lot of the people attracted to Islamic extremism are losers in all the meanings of the word. Omar Mateen, the avowed disciple of ISIS who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, was a screw-up and school bully who dreamed of becoming a police officer but ended up a very disgruntled security guard instead. The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, a college dropout, appears to have been a misfit.

Islamic terrorist organizations are hardly the only groups to recruit from the ranks of loserdom. Street gangs, neo-Nazis and countless communist fronts have been seducing resentful oddballs, outcasts and misanthropes. It simply makes sense that such people would be attracted to such groups. Radical causes provide a sense of meaning, belonging and importance to people who lack such things in their daily lives. Throughout Europe, the reserve army of jihadists is full of people who feel alienated or deracinated in Western society. In other words, they feel lost, which is a kind of losing. The extremists tell the disgruntled that their resentments are righteous and give these losers the opportunity to settle scores.

On the other hand, in some non-Western societies, terrorists aren t losers in the pejorative, schoolyard-epithet sense, but they are losers nonetheless. Osama bin Laden was the scion of a wealthy and prominent family. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden s successor as the head of al-Qaida, was from a successful Egyptian family of doctors and was himself a surgeon. They chose to become terrorists for ideological reasons. Subscribing to a doctrine first explicated by Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist intellectual, they believed that the true faith was losing the battle with the forces of modernity and the West.

President Trump may not have all these distinctions in mind when he calls terrorists losers, but that doesn t mean he s wrong.

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.

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