Interreligious conflict is brewing in Georgia?18.04.2013 | 15:49
In one of the villages in western Georgia there has arisen a conflict on religious basis. Military police has beaten a few people who, in their opinion, were not Christians. Residents of the village of Tsikhisdziri in Ajara are outraged and demand to punish the perpetrators. Representatives of the GOC and the Board of the Muslims are making special statement on the occasion. Can there break out a serious conflict on religious basis, and will the government undertake some measures to prevent the escalation of the conflicts?
"They were armed with submachine guns. They told me they would shoot into my head if I do not show them pectoral cross to confirm that I am a Christian," says one of the villagers of Tsikhisdziri, Kobuleti district. We are talking about an incident that occurred a few days ago. Senaki military police officers verbally and physically abused several residents of this village. According to the locals, the military police officers were in one of the houses of the village. There they drank, after which arranged a conflict with local residents.
The police officers simply stopped all the inhabitants of the village, checked their documents and searched (although it is unclear who gave them such powers) demanding to show pectoral cross. Then they brutally beat those who had no evidence that they were Christians.
"My wife and I were traveling by car. Suddenly, we were stopped by military police officers who demanded IDs, and then demanded to open the trunk and searched it," says a resident of Tsikhisdziri Levan Meskhidze. "Then they told me:" You're probably a Tatar." I said that I am Georgian. Then they demanded to show a cross. I said that my wife is a Christian. "Then let her show the cross," they said. When she showed, these people said, "The cross of your wife saved you, otherwise we would have shot you."
That day, no one was shot, but the local population has heard three shots, apparently made in the air. In total, police officers have beaten six people.
"My son was also beaten, though he is a Christian," says a resident of Tsikhisdziri Marina Dolidze. "They demanded him to show the cross, he replied, "I have forgotten it at home, but I had been baptized in the Christian tradition, do you want me to show a baptismal certificate? But they just beat him," said Marina.
"They called us the Kurds, the Turks, the Tatars. And who gave these people weapon? It's shameful to behave like that?" says another resident of Tsikhisdziri.
The incident is under investigation. The next day, the Minister of Defense of Georgia dismissed the head of the military police of Senaki and several other individuals. As said in a statement by the Ministry of Defense, "for the actions inappropriate for the title of the military."
The concern over the incident was expressed by representatives of Batumi diocese and the Board of Muslims of Georgia. The statement of the diocese, in particular, says: "It is unfortunate that the persons who must ensure our security allow such actions. We believe that the confrontation on religious grounds is inspired by the forces unfriendly to Georgia."
The Board of Muslims of Georgia requires prompt investigation and thanks the leadership of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia "for the prompt response" to the incident. "Such actions of some individuals, even on public service, cannot be considered the position of the whole population of Georgia. This is an attempt to drive a wedge between the people of different faiths in Georgia, which is extremely dangerous in a multiethnic country, where the people of different religious faiths live," said in a statement.
Although such cases are rare in Georgia, experts point out that the government should pay more attention to such phenomena. "Of course, these facts threaten the security of the country," political expert Kakha Gogolashvili said in an interview GeorgiaTimes. "It is necessary to raise the consciousness of people, their culture and relationship to other nationalities and religions, to raise the level of tolerance. We should not let the things slide. There are many organizations inciting hatred on ethnic and religious grounds. Such actions should be stopped at the very beginning, there is legislative base in Georgia for this, but it is necessary to fulfill the laws. Of course, civil society must be connected to the solution of these problems. We should take into account that the economic and social background of the country is still very heavy, and in such conditions it is possible to provoke and to implement any such "project." I would welcome the creation of a special government program that would work in this direction. Conflict can arise very quickly, and then it would be much more difficult to solve the problem, so we need to act in advance and take into account all possible situations that may arise in the multi-ethnic country," says Gogolashvili.
It should be noted that Adjara is the only region of Georgia, located at the border with Turkey, inhabited by the Muslim Georgians. So far, in the region there did not occur serious conflicts on religious basis.