- Republic of Georgia -
21st April, 2019
21st April, 2019
For the predominantly Orthodox population of Georgia, 21st April, 2019, was to be a celebration of Easter. But in the north of the country, the Muslim residents of the Pankisi Valley would be woken up pre-dawn by a family member, a door-to-door messenger, or a foreboding text message bearing news that the Georgian government was sending 200 special force troopers to the valley to protect the unprovoked facilities of the proposed Khadori 3 hydropower dam site, a construction project that the Pankisi residents had been peacefully but vociferously protesting. The Pankisi villagers gathered in increasing numbers to object to the presence of the special forces and demand that they leave the valley. But their protestations were denied. The events that unfolded that day are reminiscent of the parable of David and Goliath.
Georgian riot policemen with body armor, shields, rubber shotguns and batons as they muster into formation outside the Khadori 3 hydropower dam construction site in Birkiani, Georgia.
Pankisi residents observe as the Georgian police form up.
With sticks and stones, other Pankisi villagers open up a second front and face off with heavily armed Georgian police reinforced with armored riot vehicles.
Violence breaks out when the Georgian police reject the Pankisi residents' demand to leave Birkiani.
The Georgian police retaliate with tear gas and rubber bullets forcing the villagers to retreat.
An elderly villager is overcome by tear gas, moments later, she is helped by a passing villager.
Pankisi womenfolk, old and young, played an integral part of the protest, going so far as to insert themselves between the Police and their menfolk to act as a buffer.
As the leaders head to the negotiating table, the menfolk of the predominantly Muslim population of Pankisi gather for noon prayers.
Just as noon prayers end, the Georgian police sends in armored reinforcements.
Violence resumes as the Pankisi villagers attack the convoy with Molotov cocktails, sticks, stones and brawn.
After a brief but tense negotiation, the Government eventually relents and decides that unless 90 percent of the Pankisi locals agree to the dam, construction will not be allowed to go ahead. Two young Pankisi villagers stand defiantly atop an overturned Police vehicle.
- Selected Clips from the Day -