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Muslims protest construction of House of Culture

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, October 24
Fourteen representatives of the Muslim community were detained on October 22 in the village of Mokhe, in the Adigeni region after protesting the construction of a cultural center in the place of a mosque. 11 of them were detained for petty hooliganism and disobedience to the legal orders of police, while 3 were detained for other similar offenses.

Locals state that the there was a mosque in the building from 1924 to 1937, but it was closed in 1945, when the Communists organized a club there. They claim that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mosque returned to its usual form.

The statement released by the Interior Ministry reads that construction work on one of the buildings located in the Adigeni region has started, which is being fulfilled by a company that won the tender.

“The local population protested against the construction work and hindered the company’s activities. Police protected the perimeter in order to prevent any confrontation, and called on the people to preserve order and remain calm. However, the citizens verbally assaulted the police officers and damaged police vehicles,” the MIA states.

Responding to the actions Khulo Mufti Aslan- Giuram Abashidze said that locals will continue rallying and will hold a large-scale demonstration if police do not release the detainees and does not return the building to them.

Commenting on the situation, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili stated that all the citizens of Georgia are equal before the law and all of them should respect legal norms.

“I found that the current development has deep roots. Local Christians claim that in the past, a church functioned at this location. However, later it was replaced by a mosque. Then, for over a century, under this building functioned as the House of Culture and later it became useless. In a nutshell, it has not been paid any kind of attention for years. Although, the local self-government has recently declared that a library, which would be used by local Christians, as well as Muslims, would be placed in the long forgotten building. Thus, they decided to build a cultural institution here for to avoid conflict between Christian and Muslims as the building would be open to both Christians and Muslims,” declared the Premier, and expressed hope that a solution could be found. The PM appealed to the locals to take rational steps.

Meanwhile, a member of the Parliamentary majority, Tamar Kordzaia, offered an explanation. Kordzaia called on religious agencies to look over the incident. In her words, each and every police officer that dares to abuse their power must be held accountable as well.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili has stressed that given the sensitivity and importance of the issue, the board of the Adigeni municipality should stop dismantling the building. Nanuashvili states that it is important that the issues are decided by local self-governing bodies with the maximum involvement of the population and individuals.

“The Public Defender calls on the Georgian authorities, local governing bodies, as well as the Ministry of Internal Affairs to act in line with the principles of equality and freedom of religion that are safeguarded in Georgian legislation,” Nanuashvili says.