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Historical Mosques of Adigeni and Phlate Are on the Edge of Collapse

22.01.2016

 
Natia Gogolashvili

Remnants of the historical mosque attract attention in the center of Adigeni village, which was built in 1885-1886. Today, the mosque is on the edge of collapse – it has no roof and the walls may fall down any time. Another mosque in Phlate village, constructed in 1927, is also in poor conditions. Human Rights Center requests the National Agency for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to grant status of cultural heritage to the mosques in Adigeni and Phlate villages. 

There is a huge iron cross several meters away from the Adigeni mosque, which shows that nowadays orthodox people also live in the village. According to Muslims, local Orthodox people wanted to transform the mosque into a church but then changed their mind; they marked a new place nearby the mosque with the cross and they are going to build a church there.

Deputy Mufti of Samtskhe-Javakheti region Jambul Abuladze said the half-demolished mosque in the village creates threat for locals because stones are falling down from the walls. “During the previous government we had negotiations with the officials of the Adigeni district administration. We had reached some agreement – we had to fence the building to protect people from stones. We prepared the materials but finally our agreement cancelled. The mosque in Adigeni needs immediate reconstruction to preserve the historical building and to protect locals from the threat.”

The Phlate Mosque also faces threat of deconstruction. “The historical mosque constructed by Muslim Meskhs may ruin because of carelessness but on the other hand it may be targeted by the phobias which are instilled by some local Orthodox clergies. They teach people that “Georgians are not Muslim,” or “the Mosque was built by the stones of the ruined church.” Nowadays, the only way to save this mosque is to grant status of cultural heritage to it after what the government and society will be obliged to protect it from deconstruction,” executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili said.

“I think it is necessary that the state took care of the cultural heritage and restore the mosques, grant status of the heritage to them. There are many historical mosques in Samtskhe-Javakheti. The state shall take care of them and restore them. It will make our country more attractive. Sites of religious worship should not be destroyed, raided and insulted by domestic animals. Everybody should be aware that it is our culture and history; we must respect each other and take care of historical places. Unfortunately nothing has changed in this direction, we hope the Phlate Mosque as well as other historical mosques, will receive the status,” Jambul Abuladze said.

Part of local Orthodox population also requests restoration of the damaged building in Phlate although they are against its functioning as a mosque.
“We do not know who constructed this building – Georgians or Turkish people. It was unique building of our village and we want to preserve it. We do not want it to be a mosque! In the past we had a shop, club and library in this building. It has never been a mosque. Now, the building is ruining and we also want to restore it. Stones are falling from the walls and it is dangerous. Cows enter there that is bad too,” local Vazha Tchitadze said.

Last year humanrights.ge wrote about the premeditated damage of the Plate mosque. On December 17, 2014 Human Rights Center addressed the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia and requested investigation into the alleged fact of premeditated damage of the Plate village and punishment of the perpetrators. However, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office forwarded the case for further investigation to the Adigeni district police division. The fact is still not investigated. 

Samtskhe-Javakheti region Mufti Mamuka Vashakmadze said it is significant that the mosques were assigned to the Muslim Department – it will save the mosques from collapse.

“Nowadays, the Muslims Department owns only one mosque in the region – Mirashkhani Mosque. The others belong either to the Ministry of Economics or to local self-governmental body or to physical persons. Some mosques have status of cultural heritage whilst others are clubs, warehouse or hay store-house. It is the most painful topic for Georgian Muslims. AS for Adigeni and Phlate Mosques, the state shall have a kind will to register them as cultural heritage. We do not request functioning of mosques where Muslim people do not live but the mosques shall have status and be restored. Otherwise, the mosques will ruin and it will be shame for our country,” Mamuka Vashakmadze said.

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili believes it is state responsibility to take care of the mosques. He said the government shall take effective measures to avoid purposeful damage of the mosques. “Cultural heritage of religious minorities are ruining in front of us. It makes no difference whether it has official status of heritage or not. It has many reasons. Sometimes they are purposefully damaged and ruined like it happened in case of Phlate mosque when under supervision of the leader of the Zarzma Monastery stones of the mosque were taken to the Zarzma Monastery. Sometimes it is caused by lack of knowledge, disrespect of cultural heritage for what society does not think they are responsible to take care of the heritage. Finally, it leads us to the state responsibility. The government shall take measures, in accordance to the administrative or criminal law, to protect the sites of worship from purposeful damage. The government shall be interested in granting the status of cultural heritage to those places because it will guarantee its preservation. The government shall be interested to be more informed about the wealth of the country. It was good that in 2012, based on the edict of the Minister of Culture dozens of temples, including mosques, received the status. This process shall continue.”

Human Rights Center addressed to the National Agency for the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage with the request to grant the status of cultural heritage to the mosques in Adigeni and Plate. Director General of the Agency Nikoloz Antidze said the Council will discuss the case of mosques in several days.

Photo reportage by Goga Chanadiri 

The article was prepared in the frame of the project implemented with financial support of the Government of Canada. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor. Human Rights Center bears sole responsibility for the content of the article.


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