From The Pankisi Gorge To The Battlefields Of Syria (2015)

Online video | 3.44 min.

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Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge has long been a notorious hideout for Chechen rebels, Islamist extremists, and smugglers. It has also become a recruiting ground for Islamic State militants. In April of 2015 it was reported that two teenagers from the Muslim Kist community crossed the border into Turkey and then made their way to Syria. It is believed, however that higher numbers are making the journey. A council of elders from the Pankisi community has appealed to the Georgian government to take action.
But youth joining the Islamist Militants in Syria is not the biggest problem in Pankisi Gorge. Locals have their own opinions about the causes of radicalization. One of the main social issues according to locals, is that young people have few chances to earn a living, even if they get a higher education. Their only choice is to return to their homes after years of study and help their families with household tasks; alternatively, they spend most of their time in the streets doing nothing.

“This is not a normal life, you are not going forward, you are stuck in one place” – says Sulkhan Bordzikashvili, resident of Joqolo Village in Pankisi Gorge. He thinks that this is one reason why young people like him get radicalized.
Many people in Pankisi speak openly about their concern for a young man who left their homeland to join Islamic Militants. Lali Sviakauri, head teacher of Duisi (the biggest village in the Pankisi Gorge) school, notes, “these are very unpleasant events, and everyone who lives in Pankisi Gorge is concerned about this. No one here is happy about these cases, but fortunately, they are rare,” she says.

The “Azanashi” (Voices) folk choir, made up of Kist and Refugee Chechen Women is an excellent example of how two different cultures (Georgian and Chechen) can peacefully coexist in the region. The choir performs songs with traditional Chechen harmony, in a mixture of the Georgian and Chechen Languages. Their songs appeal to God for peace.

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