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Orthodox Christians Opposed Muslims in Tsintskaro

05.12.2012

Natia Danelishvili, Kvemo Kartli Information Center

Local people opposed each other on religious grounds in Tsintskaro village in Tetritskaro district. Situation is still tense in the village. MPs Soso Jachvliani and Viktor Japaridze from majority arrived there to find out situation. They met Svan eco-migrants resettled in the village. During their meeting with locals, MP Viktor Japaridze said if controversy is not resolved, bloodshed is expected.

Greek people lived in Tsintskaro but after their big part migrated from Georgia, Azerbaijan people replaced them there. In 2005, government settled about 400 families of eco-migrants from the mountainous Adjara and Svaneti regions. Attorney of the village territorial entity Tamaz Mosidze said that majority of eco-migrants from Adjara had already converted into Christianity; he was one of them. About 20 Muslim families still live in the village. About 100 families of Azerbaijan people are also Muslims but Azerbaijan and Adjarian Muslims do not pray together.

Georgian, Azerbaijan and Greek families peacefully coexisted in the village during many years. Georgian and Greek people went to the village orthodox church, Muslims attended religious services in Kosalari village and in Marneuli on Fridays. 

Three months ago, Muslims from Adjara purchased two-storied house in the entrance to the village and started to conduct their traditional Friday prayers there. Christians said they were not happy with the opening of the “mosque” in the village but there was no disagreement on that ground.

On November 30, an incident occurred between Christian residents of the village and Muslim eco-migrants from Adjara. Christians forbade Muslim neighbors to pray in the house which they used on that purpose. However, Muslims managed to pray there, after having called police. 

How the controversy started

There are three cemeteries in Tsintskaro village; Christian and Muslim villagers use them equally. Several years ago, in the frame of village aid program cemeteries were fenced and crosses were installed on the gates of all three cemeteries. Late in November, strangers removed crosses from one of the cemetery gates and Svan people got irritated with this fact. They are sure; Muslims from Adjara did it because they always expressed discontent with the fact.

“One cross was installed in the cemetery gate and second was installed above it. A week ago, both crosses disappeared. Supposedly, the cross on the top of the gate was broken by hand and the installed cross was cut out. This fact annoyed Christians,” Giorgi Mestvirishvili, Tsintskaro resident told Kvemo Kartli Information Center.

“They Forbid Us to Pray But We Will Not Obey”

Leader of local Mosque Marad Gorjomelidze said Christians oppress him and demand to stop construction of the mosque in the house. He said Svan people blame him in removing crosses.

“On November 29, they gathered in the village center and threatened me with evicting from the village and with burning my house. They even tried to beat me but somebody stopped them. They blame me in removing the crosses. I have neither removed the cross nor insulted it. I will not forgive anybody to insult our Koran so I justify their protest – somebody, who removed crosses, should not have done it! It was to be settled on higher level. Even more, they should have installed them there. They did not ask anybody’s opinion and installed crosses there. However, we did not protest it after they did it. Now, I do not know who is connected with this fact,” Marad Gorjomelidze told Kvemo Kartli Information Center.

Muslim people from Adjara said Christians had installed cross on the cemetery gate on purpose. Tamaz Khozrevanidze confirmed that they were not pleased with this fact but he does not know who removed the cross from the gate.

“They installed crosses on Muslim cemetery. Nobody liked it and we wanted to remove it from there but I really do not know who did it. So, Svan people used it as a reason for controversy. Nobody cares where we pray but they want to compel everybody to share their opinions. We will go there to pray on Fridays. If the same incident occurs, we will inform district administration, police that our rights are restricted. Very few Muslims used to go to Friday services in Marneuli. Now we conduct service here, we do not create problems for anybody and we do not cause any noise either,” Tamaz Khozrevanidze.

“A Turkish person purchased the house for us and we turned it into a mosque. Svan people claim they will not allow opening a mosque in the Georgian village. I cannot enter their church because God will not forgive it to me. I have my religion and they have their. Do we ban them to enter the church? The house, which we use as a mosque, is located at the end of the village and it does not create problems for any village. People pray there and then leave it. There was serious controversy on Friday. Police was mobilized here. They are going to do the same next Friday but we will not surrender,” Tamaz Papidze said.

“It is Christian village and mosque cannot be officially opened in Tsintskaro

Svan people claim they will revenge Muslims by failing their Friday prayer for having insulted the cross. Christians are against opening mosque in the village.

“They will call this house a mosque; then they will give it a form of a mosque and invite mullah here. Christian families live around it; shall I listen to mullah’s prayers instead Christian ones early in the morning?!” local Zurab Chelidze asked.

“Let them open a mosque somewhere in the remote corner. Which Christian will be happy if a Muslim prays near his house? It is not right. Christians will not forbid them to pray but it is already incredible – they open Muslim mosque in front of our houses,” Meduli Chkadua said.

“Everything started after crosses were damaged. Christian and Muslim people were buried on that cemetery. They came and cut the cross down; we are extremely insulted. Today they removed cross from cemetery; tomorrow they will do the same in the church. Let them pray but they should not provoke us. Nobody has forbidden them to pray here. Now they want to build a mosque; they bought this house for that purpose. It is Christian village and mosque will not be officially opened in Tsintskaro,” said local Ramz Chelidze.

He added situation got tense after elections. “It is provocation to escalate the situation. These incidents started after elections. The government will found out who was guilty in it. The same incident happened in Guria too. Somebody spends money to tense situation. Turkish people purchased the house for Muslims. But their leader Marad Gorjomelidze asked them to buy house for the mosque. I think it is linked with politics; because until now we - Svans, Adjarians and Azerbaijan peoples perfectly lived together,” Ramaz Chelidze added.

Marad Gorjomelidze said there is no financial interest in the purchase of the house and they needed it only for religious services.

“Muslim Muftis assigned the house to us as a present to hold prayers there on Fridays. We prayed there before elections too but it did not create any problems. We learned one part of local population intended to hinder our prayers on Fridays and to raid the house. So, we called police, representatives of the government and Muftis on Friday. We have to pray every Friday. We plan to conduct service next Friday too but I do not know what will happen. The Constitution of Georgia allows us to pray. Christians shall pray in the church and Muslims in the mosque,” said the leader of the mosque.

MP Viktor Japaridze – “it (bloodshed) is inevitable” 

After information about the controversy in Tsintskaro village was spread, MPs Soso Jachvliani and Viktor Japaridze arrived there. They met Svan people in the yard of a house and listened to their position about the controversy. Muslim residents of the village did not attend the meeting.

“Young people have claimed they will stand at the entrance and will not allow Muslims into the mosque. The meeting will be bloody. Somebody will start quarrel. Then it will be difficult to estimate who gets damaged – Adjarian or Svan people. Somebody will be killed. We will not surrender. They will also get ready and we will be ready too. Nobody will predict who will be killed and who will survive,” local Zurab Chelidze said.

MP Viktor Japaraidze – it is inevitable…

-Nobody will mercy rivals – Zurab Chelidze continued.

MP Viktor Japaridze: “They want to protect their rights but what about our rights?! Population will be calm when the people, who cut the cross down, will be punished. Who could dare it?! It does not have name. It is done by old government to escalate situation.”

MP Soso Jachvliani: “We will request to punish those people, who dared to insult the cross. People said everything was in order before elections and law will find out who is guilty in it. We will meet the Minister of Interior today and everything will be cleared up.”

Viktor Japaridze: “If you speak about human rights violations, why do not you admit that Christians’ rights will also be breached when mullah start praying at 6:00 am? People do not want to listen to Muslim prayers at 6:00 am. Everybody could pray in their houses but they should not bother others.”

Public Defender’s Office appealed to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office with the request to study the incident which occurred in Tsintskaro on religious grounds. PDO requested the prosecutor’s office to take relevant measures to protect rights of Muslim community of the village. 

“Unfortunately, the processes under way in the village of Tsintskaro are already a second case in the recent period when Georgia’s Orthodox population opposes the Muslim population and protests the exercise of religious freedom on their part. The first incident took place in the village of Nigvziani in October 2012. The Acting Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia with a recommendation in connection with the fact that took place in the village of Nigvziani, though, at this stage, we have not received an official reply about measures taken,” the statement of the Public Defender’s Office reads.

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