Pankisi Gorge: President’s Adviser visits challenging region

Council of Elders is an authoritative, respectable group of Pankisi locals who make important decisions., 12 Nov 2014 - 17:27, Tbilisi,Georgia

The President Adviser in ethnical minority issues has visited the Pankisi Gorge, a valley mainly inhabited by the Kist sub-ethnos in northeastern Georgia that bordered the Chechnyan republic of the Russian Federation today.

Sophie Shamanidi spoke to locals about the problems they faced and were most concerned about.

Pankisi elders said unemployment was a major problem which had resulted in an exodus of the youth from the region.

High unemployment and a lack of opportunities were believed to be the reasons behind the trend to leave the gorge – the area that once sheltered rebels from the Russians during the Chechen wars.

The Pankisi Gorge remained one of the most challenging areas for 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 was 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 recently left the region to join ISIS.

Meanwhile today Shamanidi also visited schools in the area and listened to teacher’s problems. She also met the Council of Elders of Pankisi and discussed the ways of solving the unemployment problem with them.

"We need to implement projects which will give new opportunities to the gorge’s youth and prevent them from leaving the area,” Shamanidi said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili visited the Gorge. On his visit he told the locals the Government was working on a special program for the Pankisi Gorge which aimed to create better living conditions there.