On January 13, 2021, Facebook account ქართული გვერდი/Georgian Page shared a video posted by another Facebook page “გადარეული გურულები” (Crazy Gurians) with a caption “Drunken Muslims threaten Gurians with beheading their children.” The video features an unidentified local woman from the village of Buknari in the western Guria region talking about the confrontation between Muslim and Christian communities of the village. She claims that during the January 12 physical confrontation, Muslims provoked Christian co-villagers and did not obey police orders. The woman also claims that several drunken Muslims beat her and her husband’s brother. She also notes that Muslims are threatening co-villagers with beheading their children.
A local of Buknari: “Five Gurians were standing here. A group [of Muslims] came out; fifteen people were beating one person; they trampled my husband’s brother underfoot and when I came to part them, one of them punched me and the arrested person saw it…Their aggressive actions triggered this skirmish, because they were attacking us and not obeying police orders; they were drunk. None of them were Gurians; Christians are not in favor of violence here. They had cohabitated for so long time, they had had good neighborly relations, sharing their troubles with each other and this should not have happened. They should not have threatened us with beheading our children... Yes, they are threatening with sending two heads with one person. So, this is the way things stand.”
The information spread by “ქართული გვერდი/Georgian Page” about Muslims allegedly threatening Gurians with beheading is manipulative. The statement made by one respondent, which actually does not specify who threatened and who was the target of these threats, has been generalized to the entire Muslim community and Gurians that poses a threat of fomenting a strife on religious grounds.
A confrontation on religious grounds between local Muslim and Christian residents of Buknari village of Chokhatauri Municipality erupted after Muslims arranged a shrine in a private house purchased by them for holding prayers. They were opposed by Christian residents of Buknari. The confrontation turned into a skirmish on January 12 leaving several Muslims (including one underage) injured. On January 13, local officials as well as the Muslim Mufti of Kobuleti and Guria arrived at the village to hold talks with the rural population, but later the situation got tense and police decided to mobilize additional force.
On January 14, 2021, a group of Georgian civil society organizations released a statement about the Buknari incident. According to the statement, the arrangement of a private shrine by Muslim community and holding prayers is a constitutional right and the State is responsible for ensuring its execution. “The Buknari developments are not the first instance when Muslims’ rights were violated. Religious persecution, physical and verbal violence against religious minorities, illegal interference into performing a religious rite is one of the pressing and systemic problems,” the statement reads.
On January 15, Muslim community of Buknari village held a Friday prayer. After prayers, the conflicting parties held talks with local officials in an attempt to defuse tensions and reach reconciliation.
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