Identity

Six Messages on Buknari Events That Incite Hatred Towards Muslims

27 January, 2021

A conflict between local Muslims and Christians in Buknari village, Chokhatauri Municipality, connected to setting up a praying space in a private house, grew into a physical confrontation on January 12-13. On January 14, non-governmental organizations disseminated a statement related to the Buknari incident, mentioning that the right of the Muslim community to set up a praying space and conduct worship in private property is protected by constitution and the state should ensure it.

Against this background, various media outlets and politicians were shifting the focus from religious freedom of the citizens of Georgia to manipulations and discreditation campaigns and were trying to connect the case with special services or political powers of foreign countries. Anti-liberal actors were also connecting the events to radical, terrorist groups – presenting Muslims and Islam as aggressive, thereby demonizing Muslim citizens and facilitating the incitement of hostility on religious grounds.

Myth Detector points out six messages related to Buknari events:

Message 1. Radical, terrorism-associated groups were trying to escalate the situation.

Anti-liberal and pro-governmental POS-TV and Prime Time, as well as several online editions were connecting Buknari events with radical groups and terrorism. Several news outlets disseminated materials with identical title and content, underlining the role of Piruz Tsulukidze in the unfolded events. Tsulukidze was associated with terrorism by the news outlets due to his alleged ties with Ahmed Chataev in the past. These media were trying to create a perception that radical groups were escalating the situation in Buknari.

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Quote

Alt-Info, Giorgi Kardava, host, January 15

“What is the form of transportation [in the Buknari confrontation]?! They are mounted on pick-up trucks and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’… This is a typical allusion of the jihadist Syrian terrorists. Yes, sure, they are freezing outside in winter… These are the leaders – don’t they have a car?! This is a direct allusion. Also, they are recording these videos for their curators as an evidence that there is jihad in Georgia.”

Gedeon Ivanashvili, author, News Front Georgia, January 14

“We will experience a lot more provocations on religious basis in Georgia, just like in Buknari, Adjara. What did we see there? – Ferocious Islamists who were brought from various villages and made to argue with the police. Weakened Georgian state is watching all this inactively.”

PRIMETIME, internet edition Leader, Exclusive News, January 14 (identical text)

“Many do not even hide that people who travelled from different municipalities were trying to stir the pot. One of these people is said to be Piruz Tsulukidze, a wrestler from Adjara, who found himself in a serious scandal not long ago […] He is famous in the Muslim community with his radical views and is connected to convicted terrorists, including Ahmed Chataev, who got murdered in 2017.”

POSTV, January 14

“Tsulukidze, who specifically travelled to Buknari to escalate a practically finished conflict, was officially convicted for disobeying and resisting police several years ago. He is famous in the Muslim community with his radical views and is connected to convicted terrorists, including Ahmed Chataev, who got murdered in 2017.”

Message 2. Buknari events are a provocation by Turkey.

Apart from terrorism, Buknari events, that is – the religious right of Georgian Muslims – were connected to neighboring Turkey. The narrative, according to which the confrontation is being directed from abroad, referred to Turkey. Ultranationalist actors, the Leader and a supporter of the Georgian March – Sandro Bregadze and Davit Nemsadze, respectively, as well as Nikoloz Mzhavanadze and the Leader of the Labor Party of Georgia Shalva Natelashvili were all pointing at Turkey’s role in Buknari events.

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Shalva Natelashvili, the Leader of the Labor Party of Georgia, January 15

“In the Buknari processes, I see precisely Erdogan - Putin's future deal of introducing Turkish and Russian so-called peacekeeping forces in Adjara and Guria as if to separate conflicting Georgians from each other and the schemes of declaring Batumi as Porto-Franco or a free city.”

Sandro Bregadze, Leader of the Georgian March, January 13

“What is happening in Burnati (Buknari) village, is a provocation directly planned by Turkish special services.”

Nikoloz Mzhavanadze, the Director of the Union of Human Rights Defenders, January 13

“After making Adjara Turkish and Muslim, Turkey began the same process in Guria.”

Davit Nemsadze, supporter of the Georgian March, January 15

“This is an organized assault by Turkish special services, aiming to strengthen separatist, pro-Turkish attitudes in Adjara… - Gentlemen, this is not a peaceful community that just wants to pray. This is a foreign intelligence service ‘sitting on the head’ of an already frightened state, aiming to launch anarchy in the country.”

Message 3. Buknari events are connected to the Treaty of Kars.

In an article by Georgia and the World, Soso Tsintsadze, a respondent, and the journalist connect Buknari events to the Treaty of Kars. The conspiracy about the Treaty of Kars has been trying to showcase Turkey as a threat to the territorial integrity of Georgia, claiming that the Treaty, signed by Turkey and the Soviet Socialist Republics of Transcaucasia on October 13, 1921 and returning Adjara from the Ottoman Empire to Georgia, expires in 2021. The expiration of the Treaty would mean that Adjara should be returned to Turkey, and Russia would not be able to protect Georgia from Turkey anymore.

Connecting Buknari events to the Treaty of Kars is indirectly emphasizing the role and interests of Turkey in this process.

Soso Tsintsadze, political scientist, Georgia and the World, January 20

“The story which unfolded in Guria is very dangerous. The Treaty of Kars will be prolonged, sadly, without our country finding that out. We will not know, what will change in the clauses of the Treaty. We once again face the problem of not having specialists. This will be followed by a decline of Georgia.”   

Eka Naskidashvili, journalist, Georgia and the World, January 20

“Could the religion-related events in Chokhatauri be connected to the Treaty of Kars?”

Message 4. Muslims are aggressive and pose a threat.

Hosts of an Alt-Info program were showcasing Georgian Muslims participating in Buknari events as aggressors and as a threat. They were assessing the incident as their “attack” on Christians and labelling them with hate epithets (“pigs”, “an alliance of Islamists and gay-queer-transgenders”). Moreover, a Facebook page „ქართული გვერდი“ (Georgian page) published a manipulative post about Buknari events which was later deleted. In the video included in the post, a Buknari local was talking about a threat from a Muslim – something that the post generalized on all Muslims. Alt-Info also aired this video.

Giorgi Kardava, host, Alt-Info, Analytics, January 13

“I would not call this a confrontation, this was an attack on Christians in Buknari village, Guria”

Shota Martinenko, host, Alt-Info, January 14

“They are so aggressive and have such an attitude. A man visited them, their man, who said ‘let’s make a deal’ – they nearly beat him for these words, these pigs. They are so determined to be aggressive and to fight that they nearly beat their own guy. And who are they aggressive towards?! They are in another village, another village! And they, these pigs, are threatening Christians. They brought these pigs, as they say, they are not hesitating at all.”

Giorgi Kardava, Alt-Info, host, January 14

“… alliance of Islamists and gay-queer-transgenders is attacking Christians…”

Tatia Gabrichidze, host, Alt-Info, January 14

“… in fact, we saw that it is the Christians who need protection in this case. They were not to be seen throughout the entirety of this process.”

Buknari local, Facebook page “Georgian Page”, Alt-Info

“[Muslims] were threatening that they would not let children go to school and they would decapitate them”; “Drunk Muslims are threatening to decapitate children of the residents of Guria.”

Message 5. Islam preaches violence.

While covering Buknari events, Alt-Info showcased Islam as a religion preaching violence.

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Quote

Zura Makharadze, host, Alt-Info, January 13

“We have a more humane religion – Christianity does not include decapitation, increasing taxes, and extreme repressions, unlike Islam.”

Shota Martinenko, host, Alt-Info, January 13

“Quran directly assumes the decapitation of heathens. It is directly written in Quran. If Christians and Judaists, who are considered to be the worst among the worst creatures in the Quran, do not pay… they have to pay Jizya in a humiliating state of affairs.”

Message 6. United National Movement and Gülen-funded forces are behind the Buknari events.

Sandro Bregadze, the leader of Georgian March, Alt-Info, as well as Mamuka Areshidze (on air at TV Obiektivi) claimed that the United National Movement – which they claim is funded by Gülen – provoked the escalation of the processes in Buknari. Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish religious scholar, living in the United States, who has a lot of supporters in Turkey. He was accused by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of attempting a coup d’état in 2016.

Source

Quote

Sandro Bregadze, Georgian March, January 13

“These are Gülen-funded powers and as you might know, this Gülen is a close friend of Giuli Alasania and Mikheil Saakashvili. Gülen, Giuli, and Misha are basically one family and it is thanks to the millions in funding by Gülen that all of this is happening.”

Zura Makharadze, host, Alt-Info, January 14

“Khulo descent and an Islamist network of Guria is starting to make changes with the support and endorsement of the former President Mikheil Saakashvili”

Giorgi Kardava, host, Alt-Info, January 14

“How paradoxical it is that Saakashvili is organizing Islamists.”

Mamuka Areshidze, expert, Obiektivi TV, True News, January 15 

“So, certain countries use religion to achieve political goals and exploits local political powers, because in this specific case (Buknari) the United National Movement is involved. The evidence of it is that a group travelled there from Adjara and they are not the followers of traditional Islam, they are not, let’s say, a congregation of Batumi Mosque, but rather function with financial support of a foreign country, a third power.”

 


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