Brief on the issues of Batumi and Mokhe mosques

On May 11, Muslim citizens of Georgia were notified about two important decisions of the state: In Batumi Muslims were denied to get construction permit for the mosque and in Mokhe village of Adigeni municipality, historical mosque was transferred to the National Agency of State Property.

Both decisions made regarding property and construction of house of worship once again demonstrates the state’s discriminatory policy, violates the constitutional rights of Muslims to have adequate conditions for worship and to equally exercise freedom of religion.

Batumi City Hall has not satisfied the appeal of the Foundation for Building a New Mosque in Batumi, submitted on February 8, 2017 to use the obtained land plot for construction purposes. This is the first stage of the procedure to acquire the construction permit.

The City Hall stated that the land plot is located in a residential zone, hence, it is not allowed to build the mosque in the given area.

It has to be noted, that the State does not have the similar regulations regarding the building of Orthodox churches, while Muslims in Achara has been requesting for years to be given the possibility to construct a second mosque, as the existing one can not accommodate the parishioners and they are forced to pray outside, in the courtyard and streets. 
Muslims in Mokhe were also denied to return the historical property.

According to the decision of the special Commission created by the Agency for Religious Issues two years ago, the mosque is granted the status of cultural heritage site and entitled as the disputed building. The mosque will be transferred to the National Agency of State Property and the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection will be responsible for its preservation.

The aforementioned commission was created to study the origins of the building and identify the historical owner, as well as to resolve the conflict, however, it was revealed that after two years, the Commission has not fulfilled the responsibilities and functions it was created for. At the same time, the work of the Commission was not transparent for the Public Defender and non-governmental organizations. The Agency refused the Public Defender to get involved as an observer in the process and did not approve the candidatures of independent experts suggested by local Muslims. Furthermore, local Muslims did not have the opportunity to engage in the process as Commission members. Only the representatives of the Administration of All Muslims of Georgia (AMAG), closely affiliated with the State were selected as Commission members.

Instead of returning the contested property, the State decided to avoid the resolution of the problem in the legal framework and allocated a new plot for Muslims in Mokhe to build a house of worship.

Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) represents the interests of Muslims and will continue to use all legal measures to advocate their rights.

The article written for Forum 18, about hindrances on construction of houses of worship, included Batumi mosque, can be seen at the following link: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2118

The article about the events in Mokhe:http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2260

May/1716