After the Georgian-Abkhaz war in 1992-1993, together with some friends Arda Inal-Ipa set up one of the first charities in Abkhazia, the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes (CHP), which aimed to support the recovery of this conflict. Arda is also a trained psychologist and she advises on International Alert’s work in the South Caucasus.
"Our first projects at CHP focussed on helping women, men and children who had been affected by the war. With great difficulty, we transported injured women to Yerevan, where doctors provided plastic surgery to give these victims the opportunity to take joy from life again. I used my training to provide psychological support to victims. It was very difficult work, but seeing smiles return to the faces of these victims gave me new strength."
Peace should always be the choice
"Over time we began to understand that in a situation of unresolved conflict you can’t just address the consequences of war. It is also essential to think about how to prevent violence in the future. Therefore for two decades now we have participated in dialogues with representatives of Georgian civil society. I am sure that despite prejudices and the lack of broad support for our activities, we are, step-by-step, creating and strengthening a culture of peace in the warlike Caucasus.
Today citizens of Abkhazia have lost many opportunities, and I know that the situation is similar in South Ossetia and several other parts of the South Caucasus. I would like the citizens of our region, who have suffered war, to suffer no longer and have the chance to study, engage in business, and take part in a diverse cultural life. It is therefore very important to make today’s fragile peace strong and irreversible."
Peace should always be the choice for all the people living in the region. The various leaders in the South Caucasus should receive and understand this firm message and rule out violent methods from their politics. Peacebuilders should help people feel their strength and understand how they can influence their lives. I would like to see the people living as one organism in the South Caucasus while keeping their diversity.
A new and different future for young people
"The creation of a community of peacebuilders on both sides of the conflict has managed to achieve some common understanding. For example, through the dialogues we run, many people in Georgia have begun to see the isolation of Abkhazia as a problem that hinders regional stability and development. They now understand we must make joint efforts to “open” Abkhazia.
Perhaps some will say that this is too little, but there are already a lot of examples of how such efforts helped young people to receive education, participate in international conferences and campaigns and many other things. If we can influence our own fate and, despite the continuation of the conflict, provide a new and different future for young people, this is an important breakthrough. A lot has done been achieved, but there is still more that needs to be done."
Inspiration in and beyond the Caucasus
"Through my work as both a psychologist and peacebuilder I have got to know many sincere, courageous, intelligent, determined and caring people in the Caucasus and many countries in the world, who are giving all their strength to overcome the destructive inertia of violence in both politics and in human consciousness. This gives me hope and helps me to overcome pessimism.
For example, I am amazed by the courage of Iranian women who, despite repression, are stoically continuing to struggle for the rights of women in their country. The women of Saudi Arabia and other eastern countries also deserve great respect on their difficult path to defend their rights."