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Georgien: Mob led by Georgian Orthodox priests threatens local imam over Friday prayer

21. März 2024

Georgian Orthodox priests in southwestern Georgia led a mob of 200 people in an attempt to break into the house of a local imam to disrupt Friday prayer. The mob attempted to break into Imam Merab (Yusuf) Mikeladze’s house in Adigeni in Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region on 8 March. Batumelebi reported that Mikeladze had been holding Friday prayers at his house for the past ‘few years’, which some in Adigeni, including members of the Orthodox clergy, protested. 

Footage of the incident published by the outlet shows a mob of people gathered outside Mikeladze’s house, accompanied by Orthodox priests. The police in the yard outside the house are seen attempting to hold back a group of protesters from entering the building. The mob can be heard shouting insults at worshipers inside Mikeladze’s house, led by a priest seen threatening the imam. ‘I’ll rip your face off, you ingrate; I swear to my mother if I don’t leave you lame forever […] Get out [of the building]’, shouted the priest in the video as a larger mob enters the yard to join the protest.

The Social Justice Center, a Georgian rights group, identified the priest threatening Mikeladze as Nikoloz Getsadze and reported that about 200 people participated in the mob.

Aslan Abashidze, the Mufti of Khulo, a town in Adjara, told Batumelebi that ‘certain individuals, including a local priest’ had been attempting to ‘stir up’ conflict between local Christian and Muslim populations. Abashidze added that the priest, whom he identified as Nikoloz, was ‘violent’ and had also threatened Mikeladze the previous Friday. ‘He also threatens to beat Muslims […] he says there cannot be Muslims in Samtskhe-Javakheti’, said Abashidze. ‘He mobilised people. At first, he took 9—10 people […], then gradually gathered supporters. He mobilised people today; he did the same thing last Friday’.

RFE/RL cited local sources as saying that Mikeladze bought the house after he had moved to Adigeni from Khulo and first used it as a theological school before turning it into a mosque. Residents of Adigeni also told RFE/RL that the mob had attempted to break into Mikeladze’s house because the Orthodox and Muslim communities of the town had agreed the day prior not to use the house as a mosque. However, in their report on the incident, the Social Justice Center stated that Mikeladze’s use of his house for religious education and assembly was not ‘illegal in any case’. They added that Georgia’s Muslim community ‘has been experiencing physical, social and symbolic violence, discrimination and harassment for more than ten years’.

Mikeladze did not comment on the incident, while Georgia’s Interior Ministry has denied that any confrontation had taken place in front of the imam’s house. RFE/RL reported that the residents of Adigeni had agreed following the incident that, from 11 March, the house would no longer be used as a mosque.

On 8 March, Khulo’s Mufti Aslan Abashidze told Batumelebi that he had reported the incident to Adigeni’s Mayor Gocha Kimadze and Samtskhe-Javakaheti’s Mufti, Mamuka Vashakmadze. ‘We have informed all the relevant agencies, we informed the chair of the Supreme Council of Adjara, the member of parliament, Anzor Bolkvadze, and so on’, he said. Samtskhe-Javakheti’s Mufti Vashakmadze distanced himself from Mikeladze, stating that his mosque was not ‘subject to us, it is a private house that a private person bought and built arbitrarily’.

On 10 March, the State Agency for Religious Affairs condemned the mob’s actions and their use of religion and faith for ‘narrow interests’. ‘The agency does not welcome violence and hopes that the issue will be resolved without delay’, read their statement. ‘Freedom of religion and belief is protected in Georgia’. On 9 March, Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office stated that ‘any kind of violence and restriction of religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution is unacceptable’.

In their statement, the Social Justice Center called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the incident and to punish those responsible for organising the mob. No To Phobia, an anti-hate coalition, accused the government and local authorities of fueling religious strife and conflicts in Georgia and of not having the ‘political will to take steps to reduce religious intolerance’. ‘They are trying to assign equal blame to the Muslim community and turn the situation into a provocation/conflict, which seems to be the origin of the religious minority itself’, the statement read.

The Patriarchate has yet to comment on the incident in Adigeni. (Quelle:, 11. März 2024)