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Defence Minister’s special offer to Pankisi Gorge youth

11 Jan 2016 - 12:59:00

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Agenda.ge,11 Jan 2016 - 12:59, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli has offered youth living in Pankisi Gorge, a challenging region in Georgia, to join the Georgian army on a contract-based military service and make a successful military career.

Pankisi Gorge youth. Photo by the defence Ministry's Press Office.

The Pankisi Gorge is a valley mainly inhabited by the Kist sub-ethnos in northeastern Georgia that borders the Chechnyan republic of the Russian Federation.

High unemployment and a lack of opportunities were believed to be the reasons why many people left the Gorge - the area that once sheltered rebels from the Russians during the Chechen wars.

Last year, the Georgian Government pledged to create better living conditions in the Gorge so that locals will not leave the area.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Khidasheli provided Pankisi locals with the information about how to join the Georgian Armed Forces on a contract-based military service and how to make a successful military career.

Pankisi Gorge youth. Photo by the defence Ministry's Press Office.

She offered locals to sign a four-year contract with the Defence Ministry. Contractor's approximate salary would be 955 GEL monthly, which would increase according to rank, position and military experience. Contractors would also be provided with modern equipment and enjoy high level free medical service, as well as social and legal guarantees. Contract-based military service would also provide the opportunity for career development.

While visiting heavily Muslim-populated villages of the Gorge, Khidasheli said all fundamental human rights were protected at the Georgian army and Muslims didn’t have problems there in terms of praying, nutrition or celebrating religious holidays.

Khidasheli’s offer was important since Pankisi Gorge remained to be one of the most challenging areas of Georgia. In 2003 it was a place of major military engagement where a special operation involving police and US-trained special forces were required to repress the threats of Al-Qaeda.

The Gorge is also home to Tarkhan Batirashvili - also known as Abu Omar al-Shishani, a military leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It has been reported that a growing number of young men from the Pankisi Valley have left the region to join ISIS.

Photo by the defence Ministry's Press Office. 

Yesterday, alongside the defence Minister, the State Minister of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Deputy Education Minister, Deputy Sports Minister and high officials from the Culture Ministry and other state agencies visited Pankisi Gorge. The officials spent the whole day talking with the local population and listening to their problems.

Khidasheli also offered locals to turn their ideas into projects and the Government would allocate funding for them.

Photo by the defence Ministry's Press Office. 

Earlier, the Government opened a felt workshop for the Gorge school girls. Khidasheli expressed her interest to collaborate with the Pankisi felt-makers, within the law.

"We will try to follow all the needed procedures and let these girls prepare the gifts that all state agencies need when they have foreign guests from time to time. The state allocates some funds for this anyway and it’s better to support such initiatives,” the Defence Minister said.

When listing their biggest problems, Pankisi locals named unemployment and poor infrastructure.

The officials pledged to solve all the problems step by step. Khidasheli said the Defence Minister would send Georgian and English teachers to the Gorge, as well as teachers who would help local youth to prepare for the national exams and enroll in the National Defence Academy.

Photo by the defence Ministry's Press Office. 

Khidasheli said she would pay frequent visits to the Gorge to make sure everything she planned was actually being implemented. She said the next visit would be in the beginning of February.

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