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Pankisi Gorge and the Army

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 19
The Georgian Defence Ministry has started the process of registering young people interested in voluntary military service.

The process began at the village of Duisi in the Pankisi Gorge, which is mainly populated by Muslims.

As the Defence Ministry has reported, those interested in serving will pass psychological and physical tests after their registration is complete. They will be enrolled at the preliminary military preparation course and learn basic military skills over 10 weeks.

After completing their basic training, the volunteers will be distributed throughout different units in Georgia.

The issue of engaging Gorge youth in military service was raised by Georgia’s Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli several weeks ago.

The Minister, the President and diplomatic corps representatives visited the area, from where a number of young people have left for Syria and Iraq to join the radical Islamic State (IS).

Together with religious motivation, hard economic conditions were also named as one of the main reasons for the flow of young men travelling to fight for IS.

The Government has made anti-terrorist laws stricter and now seems to be attempting additional measures to prevent the youth from joining the radicals.

It will be interesting to see how many from the Gorge decide to join the Army and serve their country; the financial incentive is undoubtedly also being used by the Government to attract recruits.

The Government should ensure other sources of income for locals and raise people’s awareness over the dangers of IS.

The Pankisi Gorge is mainly inhabited by Kists, people who originally came from the North Caucasian Dagestani Republic, which is currently under Russian control.

Currently, there are about 8,000 Kists in Pankisi Gorge who mainly live in the Duisi, Jokolo, Birkiani, Jibakhevi, Tsalakhani and Omalo villages.

Together with the Kists, the Gorge is also populated by ethnic Georgians from the surrounding mountainous regions.