A group of locals in the town of Kobuleti in Adjara region, who are opposing opening of a Muslim school in their neighborhood, slaughtered a pig at the entrance of the building intended for the school and nailed pig’s head to its door on September 10.
“We are deeply offended; this is a very bad incident; this is a huge insult for Muslims,” Jemal Paksadze, the mufti of the Georgian Muslims' Directorate, said and added that those behind this incident should be held responsible.
According to the Interior Ministry investigation has been opened and the case is being treated as criminal threatening.
The three-storey building, intended for the school, which is owned by a Turkish citizen, is administered by an organization known as Georgian Muslims Relation. Its representative Shamil Kakaladze says that prior to this incident there were threats from a group of local Orthodox Christians, who say that they will not allow the school to be opened. Kakaladze said on September 11 that the school will “definitely be opened whatever it takes.”
“We don’t want any religious confrontation, we respect other religions, but this is a completely Christian place, here is not a single Muslim in this [neighborhood],” said an elderly woman, who was among the protesters on September 10.
Also on September 10 the same group of few dozen of locals briefly blocked the main road running through Kobuleti. This group also held protests for number of times in July after learning that the building was owned by a Turkish citizen; protesters were saying that they do not want, what they called, a Turkish-funded Muslim school in their neighborhood.
Head of Kobuleti municipality, Sulkhan Evgenidze, told journalists on September 10 that the local residents were “misled”, because when the building in question was bought by its current owner, local residents were told that it would have been used for “Georgian families.” He also said that the organization needs “license” from the authorities in order to run a school. “They have no such license right now; I will not be against [of school] if they obtain the license. Everything should be in line with the law,” he said.
“Situation is not easy,” Irakli Tsetskhladze, deputy head of Kobuleti municipality, said on September 10. “All the local residents in that neighborhood are Orthodox Christians. Under the constitution those who are planning to open school there – we do not know yet whether it will be opened or not – have the right to do it, but for me, as deputy head of the municipality, the opinion of the local population is very important. As a representative of the local government for me it is the most important not to allow a confrontation and conflict that may then grow into something larger.”
In a joint statement on September 10 up to dozen of civil society organizations have condemned the incident in Kobuleti and said that increased number of cases of intolerance against Muslim communities is a result of the authorities’ “inefficient and inadequate” reaction to such cases.
The statement criticizes remarks made in response to the incident by the local authorities in Kobuleti. It says that with such comments officials are suggesting that permit on function of the school should only be issued based on taking into account interests of the majority; such remarks are “discriminatory, which contribute to fueling of intolerance,” reads the statement signed, among others, by Tolerance and Diversity Institute; Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Georgian Democracy Initiative; Georgia's Reforms Associates.