Irakli Gharibashvili

Irakli Garibashvili. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili says the government is not capable of preventing Pankisi youth from joining the war in Syria.

There have been many reports lately that young men from the Pankisi Gorge in the north of Georgia have left the country and joined Islamist fighters in Syria.

Most recently, two boys aged 16 and 18 who dropped out of school to go to Syria sent home a picture showing them in military fatigues clutching machine guns in front an Islamic State banner.

Locals from Pankisi Gorge, which borders on Chechnya, Russia, in the northeast, claim over 100 youth have gone to Syria to become fighters for Islamic State, and at least ten of them have died.

Youth becoming Syria fighters is not something locals support. Recently, they demonstrated against the phenomenon, and were backed up by the Council of Elders, an informal mediation body. They ask the government to do more to stop their young from leaving, and also blame a group of recruiters affiliated with one of the top commanders of Islamic State, who is from Pankisi.

People have particularly blamed the government for not preventing a 16-year old from leaving the country. The government’s response was that the border guard didn’t check his age because he looked older.

Prime Minister Garibashvili said on Wednesday that the state could not have stopped those who left; it was their own choice.

He also said that government is monitoring the situation.

“This is bad and it should not be happening.”

The PM also said that most of the people who have left Georgia left two or three years ago, and that they are not leaving now.

But the reality is quite different, according to Pankisians.

“Modern European countries, America cannot control the movement of people, how we can do that? If a person makes it to Syria from Europe it is unimaginable to control that.”

At the end of last year, the government started to prepare a law to make it punishable for Georgian citizens to join a terrorist group abroad.

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri on Wednesday said that the ministry has finished researching the details about the two youngsters who left Pankisi for Syria and will soon publish its findings.

Meanwhil, there are reports of another young man who is missing and allegedly went to Syria two days ago: Jamlet Borchashvili, aged 19, from the village Dumasturi.

“He packed up and went to Tbilisi. He never contacted [us] after that. I cannot say if he has crossed the border or not, but I know that he was planning to go to Syria.” His mother told journalists.