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Islamic literature confiscated at Georgian–Turkish border

23 October 2017
Sarpi customs checkpoint (adjara.gov.ge)

Books about Islam, including the Quran, have been confiscated by border guards at the Sarpi customs checkpoint on the Turkish–Georgian border, according to an annual report by Georgia’s Public Defender.

According to the report, Muslims carrying the books were delayed at the border, questioned about the purpose of their travel, their links with Turkey, and relations with other Muslims.

From the cases filed to the Public Defender, they say it became evident that when crossing the Sarpi customs checkpoint, Muslims faced additional obstacles.

After processing information from the Revenue Service, the Public Defender found that there were at least seven cases of where religious literature was confiscated. In all seven cases the books were are about Islam, including the Quran, the report says.

The report details one case in which a group of Muslim Georgians underwent lengthy questioning at the border about their appearance, religious beliefs, past, connections with Turkey, and lifestyle, following which books were confiscated.

The Public Defender said this was an example of the state’s interference with the right to freedom of religion, through restricting the freedom of movement and right to property of Muslim Georgians.

Discrimination in education

The report also describes discrimination faced by Georgian Muslims in education. Incidents where pupils were denied the right to express their religious identity, as well as religious indoctrination, proselytism, and forced assimilation were recorded in a number of public schools.

The report included an incident in the village of Mokhe in southern Georgia’s Samtskhe–Javakheti region in which a school director requested a Muslim pupil not wear her hijab. This provoked protests from other Muslim pupils at the school. The school’s director was also involved in a movement against construction of a mosque in the village.

[Read more about similar issue on OC Media: Girl ‘prohibited from wearing hijab’ in east Georgia school]

According to the report, Muslim pupils have been subjected to increasingly violent and aggressive behaviour from other pupils, which has often been met with inaction from school authorities.

One case filed to the Public Defender’s Office saw Muslim pupils being humiliated in the village of Nigvziani in western Georgia’s Lanchkhuti Municipality. The incident took place while discussions were taking place on the construction of Islamic places of worship, the Public Defender says.

The report assessed the level of equality in Georgia from 1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017. The highest number of cases being considered by the Public Defender concerned reports of discrimination based on a difference of opinion (12%), sexual orientation and gender identity (11%), religion (10%), and political opinions (9%).

Other complaints included discrimination on account of disability (9%), ethnic origin (7%), sex (6%), age (4%), and nationality (4%). Thirteen per cent of complaints referred to discrimination based on ‘other grounds’ and in 13% of cases, no protected grounds could be identified.

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