The messenger logo

Pankisi residents protest against youth flow to Syria

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 8
Two more under-aged young men have left for Syria to join an extremist Muslim group known as the Islamic State (IS), their relatives say.

The elders of Pankisi Gorge in northeast Georgia, mainly populated by Muslims, have appealed to the Georgian government to carry out measures in order to eliminate this perilous tendency.

Locals stress that more than 100 youngsters are fighting in Syria currently, among them is the widely-known Abu-Omar-Al-Shishani (real surname Batirashvili), one of IS’s most feared military commanders.

Many youngsters from his home in Pankisi have followed his footsteps, 11 of them have already been killed.

Gorge elders claim that there is a group in Pankisi that encourages people to leave for Syria.

They say that the situation might become strained in Pankisi, and a confrontation among traditional Muslims and Wahhabi Muslims might take place.

The elders’ council has created a petition to show the government how concerned the community is about this issue.

Pankisi Wahhabists also attended the meeting. However, they did not sign the petition. They stress that radical Muslims also condemn this tendency, but an individual should decide himself how to act.

Majority MP Gia Volski states that an investigation should reveal how these underage people managed to cross the border without their parents’ consent.

Volski stated that many countries are facing the same headache.

“We should plan our strategy with other foreign states. The topic is being discussed,” he said.

Leader of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze shifted blame to the government.

She stresses that the current government’s policy has encouraged the problem. She asked the authorities to stand by the elders’ council and take their appeals into account.

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri admitted that a border guard made a mistake.

“People can cross the border to Turkey by using ID cards and not passports. The border guard said that one of the individuals who just left Pankisi, did not have a young look, and he was permitted to cross the border without a close check. The guard will have to be held accountable for his actions,” Gomelauri said, noting that his ministry has already informed Turkish officials about the boy.