The last major of Sokhumi

Guram Gabiskiria was the last major of Sokhumi before it fell to separatist militants of September 27, 1993. Born and raised in Sokhumi, Guram was appointed as major of the city during the most difficult times. The savage war was ragged against ethnic Georgian population of Abkhazia since 1992 and little hope of peaceful settlement of the conflict existed in the besieged Sokhumi. Guram became major of Sokhumi in 1993, while organizing defence strategy for the city and its surroundings.

By mid-summer of 1993, Sokhumi was surrounded by the separatist militants and their allies from North Caucasus and Russia. Trapped in the besieged city, Guram Gabiskiria along with other members of Abkhaz Government refused to abandon their city to the blood hungry militants. The evacuation of civilians was top priority for the Sokhumi authorities. The Georgian military presence in Sokhumi was at minimal due to Russian mediated agreement which obliged the Georgian side to withdraw its heavy artillery and tanks from the city. The Abkhaz side was equally responsible for holding their military operation and withdraw its troops from the surrounding areas of Sokhumi. However, as previously (as in Gagra case) Abkhaz separatist side violated the agreement and launched full scale attack on Sokhumi.

The Head of Abkhaz Government Zhiuli Shartava, Major of Sokhumi Guram Gabiskiria and other members of the government were bracing for the last stance over the defence of Sokhumi. On September 27, Abkhaz militants and their allies reached Sokhumi. Mass murder, pillage, and brutal ethnic cleansing was initiated again Georgian civilians soon after the storming of the city. The members of the government and the major were trapped in the government building. Soon after, Abkhaz militants captured members of the government along with Guram Gabiskiria. The video footage of the event shows how sadistically Abkhaz militants tortured members of the government. Guram was forced to knee in front of the militants. His reply was: “Never in my life.” He was dragged, kicked several times in the head and face by the riffle buts. Along with Zhiuli Shartava (who was excessively tortured by forced consumption of growl and soil) and other member of the government, Guram was taken to the outskirts of the city. All captured government personnel and Guram Gabiskiria were executed on spot. Their bodies remained unburied for several days. These horrific events were documented by UN observers and witnessed by some of the survivors of the Sokhumi massacre. Guams family back in Tbilisi still hoped that he was alive, held in custody and waiting to be exchanged for some of money. The video tape which contained the footage of capture and torture of Guram was purchased by his family members from the Abkhaz living in Moscow.

In 2005, during the commemoration photo gallery of the Genocide in Abkhazia, the photos of American journalist Malcolm Linton were displayed. Numerous photos displayed horrific facts of Genocide carried out by Abkhaz militants and their Russian allies. One of the photo displayed pilled of dead bodies on the street in Sokhumi. Vladimir Gabiskiria (son of Guram Gabiskiria) was one of the visitors to this gallery. When browsing through the photographs, he noticed a familiar image of a person who was laying dead among killed Georgians in Sokhumi. After couple of minutes, Vladimir recognized his father on the photograph. He was covered with blood, lying dead over the bodies of executed Georgian civilians and members of the Abkhaz government. The hope Gabiskiria family was shattered after the visit to this gallery.

Biography of Guram Gabiskiria:

Guram Gabiskiria (Georgian: გურამ გაბესკირია) (March 2, 1947– September 27, 1993) was a Mayor of Sukhumi who was murdered by Abkhaz separatists during the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia in 1993.

Guram Gabiskiria was born on 2 March 1947 in Sukhumi, Georgia. Gabiskia graduated from the State University of M. Gorki with a degree in history but excelled as a soccer player. He played for the Dinamo Sukhumi in the late 1960s and later continued his career in Stavropol, Minsk and Kislovodsk before joining CSKA (Tbilisi). In 1972, he became a soccer referee of republican level and two years later upgraded himself to the union level soccer referee. As a result of political tensions in the USSR in 1989 all the Georgian teams except for Dinamo Sukhumi left the Soviet championship. Gabiskiria helped to create Sukhumi-based Tskhumi soccer club (which played in the newly-formed Georgian football league) where he served as a president. In 1990 He was a candidate in the elections for the parliament of Abkhazian Autonomous Republic but gave up his claims in favour of Tamaz Nadareishvili.

Gabiskiria became a mayor of Sukhumi in 1992 and joined the legitimate Council of Ministers and the Council of Self-Defense of Abkhazian Autonomous Republic during the Georgian-Abkhazian War in 1993. When the city of Sukhumi fell to the Russian-supported separatists on September 27, 1993, Gabiskiria along with other authorities from the legitimate Government of Abkhazian Autonomous Republic (Zhiuli Shartava, Raul Eshba, Mamia Alasania, and others) refused to leave the besieged city and was captured by Abkhaz militants and North Caucasian mercenaries. Based on video materials, Human rights documents and witness accounts [1] of the event, G. Gabiskiria, Z. Shartava, R. Eshba and other members of the government were dragged outside of the parliament building and forced to knee by the Abkhaz/North Caucasian militants. Gabiskiria refused to do so by replying in Russian: “Never in my life!” (“Никогда в жизни!”)

All captured members of the government including Gabiskiria were killed by the Abkhaz militants. They were all executed without trial.

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