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Georgian Army is open for all - Defence Minister pays visit to Muslim-populated Pankisi gorge

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 12
Georgia’s Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli paid a visit to Georgia’s Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge on January 10, where the country’s first female Minister of Defence familiarised herself with the problems faced by the local population, and urged the youth to consider joining the Georgian Army as a future career.

The Minister put particular emphasis on contract-based military service.

The idea to visit Pankisi Gorge emerged some time ago during a meeting with young people in Tbilisi, during which the Pankisi outlined the problems they face in their region.

Khidasheli then promised to visit Pankisi with her colleagues.

Representatives of the Georgian Government met with residents of the Pankisi Gorge and conversed with them for several hours.

Prior to the meeting, they went around the region, saw the Omalo School, a damaged building of a sports club, the local library and promised the population that the government would find timely solutions to their problems.

The concerns of the local population were related to social problems and the employment of their youth.

They requested the improvement of the local sports infrastructure, the water supply system and electricity systems. The problematic issues also included kindergartens, schools and roads. Religious issues were also discussed in the context of social problems.

The meeting in Duisi was attended by representatives of several nearby villages. Representatives of the government were also alerted to the needs of the village of Tsinubani in detail.

The Defence Minister called on the locals to incorporate their ideas into projects in order to receive a timely response to their requests. According to Khidasheli, real projects will be implemented by the Georgian Government.

“I was a frequent visitor and I can often visit the Pankisi Gorge if we have concrete proposals, concrete vision, recommendations – what can we do today, tomorrow and in the nearest future in order to reduce radicalism and return the youth to the relationship and customs they have always been proud of,” the Minister said.

Modern writers and poets also visited the Gorge within the project “Live Books” to introduce their works to the local population. For their part, the hosts held a special solemn event for the guests.

The Defence Ministry will send teachers of the Georgian and English languages to the Kakheti Regional Development Center. At the initiative of the Defence Ministry, specialists will be assigned to prepare entrants to the National Defence Academy for the National Exams. The Defence Minister plans to visit Pankisi again in the beginning of February.

The Pankisi Gorge has always been a cause for concern as dozens of young men have left for Syria and Iraq to join the radical Islamic State. The Government had carried out several amendments in the law and introduced restrictive legislation to prevent the flow.

The locals state that in several cases, the hard economic situation was a motivating factor for the youth to join the radicals.