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Women of Pankisi region unite to suspend their children’s flow to IS

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, April 22
Women of Georgia’s Muslim populated Pankisi Gorge, located in Kakheti region, has established an NGO named Pankisi Women to Save Their Children to reduce the numbers of young men from the gorge travelling to Syria and Iraq in order to join the radical Muslim group known as the Islamic State (IS).

The NGO has already appealed to the government and demanded certain guarantees from the state leaders.

The women claim that the government must have a reasonable plan to hamper the dangerous tendency.

Among the major demands are tougher control of the Georgian-Turkey border checkpoint, support of traditional Islam and the Institute of Elders in the gorge, encouraging educational programs and the settling of socioeconomic troubles.

A member of the NGO Meka Khangoshvili stresses that both the previous and the current governments have failed to adequately respond to the threat of Wahhabism, radical Islam, in the gorge.

“The process of weakening of traditional Islam and empowering of Wahabbism has its roots under the previous government and the current state leadership has failed to terminate the trend,” Khangoshvili said.

“Education plays a crucial role, as an educated man will never go to support such groups as the Islamic State. Currently we face complex problems in the gorge; it is not only socioeconomic difficulties. All the problems need to be addressed jointly in a timely manner,” she added.

Prior to the creation of the NGO, elders of the gorge held a demonstration, appealing to the government to pay closer attention to the flow of youngsters to Syria.

They stressed that up to 100 individuals, teenagers among them, have managed to cross the Georgian-Turkey border and departed for the hot points of Syria and Iraq. Eleven of them have already been killed in the fighting.

The elders also claimed that there are some groups in the gorge that recruit the youth for IS.

They stress that the presence of three prominent figures of IS from the gorge also encourage the young men to leave for Syria and Iraq.

Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Paata Zakareishvili stresses that only the elders’ and women’s statements concerning the groups operating in the gorge are not sufficient for him.

“An official investigation should reveal evidence that such groups really exist,” he says.

The Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri states that the investigation into these individuals and groups is ongoing.

“If we find them, the members of the groups will be strictly punished,” he says.

The minister also admitted the mistake of a border guard in regards to one of the teenagers from the gorge that left for Syria a couple of days ago.

Gomelauri promised the punishment of the guard for his incompetence and tougher control at checkpoints.

The government has also initiated a draft that envisages imprisonment for joining terrorist groups or recruiting people with the aim.

Analyst Mamuka Areshidze believes that the government should focus on social programmes to suspend the unfavorable flow of the youngsters to battlefields.

He stressed that Pankisi is not the only place where from the young men leave from Syria from Georgia.

“We are also witnessing this trend in the Kvemo Kartli and Adjara regions as well. Repression methods should not be the priority for the government in such cases, the authorities should think and do more for improve the people’s economic conditions,” the analyst suggests.