The report by the Public Defender of Georgia on Human Rights and Freedoms Situation in Georgia of 2018 highlights that early marriage still remains as one of the challenges in Georgia. The abduction of underage girls to marry is still a problem, especially in the regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. Although the law of Georgia prohibits early marriage registration, the report emphasizes that “when it comes to ethnic minorities, no strict policy on this particular crime is implemented”.

Azerbaijani Nargiza Emanova opposes precisely this vicious practice of early/child marriage in the Azerbaijani community.

Nargiza Emanova, 60, Kaspi

I was born on September 22, 1959, in Kaspi. After finishing high school, I got my medical degree with a red diploma. I was working as a hospital nurse when the management launched the dismissal process. I decided to explore a new profession – That’s how I became a hairdresser that is still my main business today.

I was mentored by an ethnic Armenian hairdresser who did not know I was Azerbaijani. I could not find the strength to share the details of my origin with my tutor as the confrontation between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the Karabakh conflict was hot then.

I managed to master my new profession well but, unfortunately, my tutor faced health problems the other day and used to fight against death in the hospital. I visited my mentor every day and have not left my friend alone even for a moment. After the successful recovery, I revealed my nationality and my tutor accepted me with great warmth. I can remember many such cases happened in Georgia. I believe human relationships are the most valuable and people do seek for peaceful life first and foremost.

I am so much in love with Georgia that I never feel out of place here. One Georgian person called me Qizilbash once. I got very upset. I wondered how one’s ethnicity could generate such hate but I did not let my sadness root deeply in my heart as I remembered of love and warmth my Georgian friends had shared with me before. This particular accident could never overweight the years of friendly relationships I have experienced.

I remember well how I blocked the way for the Russian tanks moving towards my village during the war of 2008. I began crying: “What do you want from a tiny Georgia?! They have always greeted and supported all of us with a warm heart”! I will never give up on my Georgia, thus its pain is my pain, and its joy is my joy!

Even though I enjoy living among Georgian people, there are still many issues vital to be resolved for the ethnic Azerbaijani population. Getting proper education is still a problem as there are no schools in our villages. Parents are not able to send children to educational institutions tens of kilometers away as this is an additional financial burden. Definitely the state has to become more attentive towards the educational issues relevant for ethnic Azerbaijani citizens.

I strongly disagree with the remained ugly tradition of early marriage messing up children’s futures, resulting in their physical abuse and dissolution of marriage in the future. When I communicate this issue with girls parents usually get angry.

Several girls getting married at the age of 12 have been rescued due to my great efforts. When I hear that parents prepare an underage girl for the wedding I visit the family and talk to them. I usually meet the law enforcement officers and require to cancel the wedding. I am happy to say that the girl who was going to be married at the age of 12 is studying today and has been engaged to her beloved one at the age of 19.

Parents who are ready to marry their own children at the age of 12-13 should have access to educational meetings to understand how harmful child marriage is to their children.

Together with opposing early marriage I do not tolerate the fact that ethnic Azerbaijani women do hard family labor that is not shared by men. Thus, women are not able to allocate time for themselves. I often do a haircut to women free of charge or present perfume in order to make them look beautiful and feel more confident. Women find it difficult to talk about personal problems in public. The ones experiencing violence try to hide tears in their eyes but they can’t keep it out of my sight as I know our people very well.

Along with trying to protect all the women experiencing violence I also make a little financial effort to help those in need. I have a New Year tradition to make dinner, select the woman mostly seeking my support and visit her with the candies to ensure her happy new year.

No much money is needed to make someone happy. Fortunately, I am a hairdresser who can at least visit the women who are in need and do their haircuts free of charge. Even such a tiny act is enough to guarantee people’s happiness sometimes.

I have cancer myself but I have never shared my worries with those who apply to me for help. I have only one wish – The government to pay attention to ethnic Azerbaijani citizens, to take care of their future and accept us as equally as Georgian people living around do.

Author: Lana Giorgidze

This article was prepared in the frame of the project ” Promoting new women leaders and ‘invisible women’ human rights activists” implemented by IREX Europe in partnership with Human Rights House Tbilisi, with financial support from the European Commission. The views in this article do not necessarily express the views of the European Commission.