On April 19th, the Batumi Press Café hosted a public discussion entitled “Arguments Surrounding the Mosque of Azizie”, organized by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. Key speakers included Ruslan Baramidze, Professor of History and HBF scholarship holder 2004, Zaza Shashikadze, Professor of Historical Sciences, and historian Sulkhan Okropiridze.
In early 2012, the Ministry of Culture informed the public about successful negotiations regarding the restoration of Ishkhani and Oshki monasteries, in addition to the construction of Azizie’s Mosque in Batumi and restoration of another mosque in Akhaltsikhe. Ruslan Baramidze stated that there are currently 184 Muslim religious and educational buildings. He also reviewed local and national media publications on this subject and spoke about inaccuracies in coverage.
Zaza Shashikadze corroborated this point: “There are errors in historical facts, and ideology is mixed with reality. I am not in favor of building a mosque named after Sultan Azizie in Batumi, but it is false to say that Sultan Azizie was a blood-sucking conqueror.” Shashikadze recalled an episode from Georgian history when Azizie’s Mosque was built in Batumi.
Who was Sultan Azizie, was his mother really Georgian, and what were his intentions towards Georgia? Sulkhan Okropiridze addressed these questions.
Most of the participants in the discussion noted that the agreement made between Georgia and Turkey should be made public, and the mosque should not be built using funding from the Turkish government.
Temur Gorgadze, Chair of the Union of Theologists of Ajara, also attended the discussion. He noted that it does not really matter whether Turkey, Georgia, or another country funds the construction of a mosque in Batumi. He believes that the number of existing mosques is not enough for Muslim believers.
Most of the participants in the discussion believed that the public has already expressed its negative position about the issue of construction of the mosque.
Debates were held within the framework of the EU-funded project: “Combating Hate Speech in Georgia: Litmus Test for Social Tolerance and Human Rights”