People in Tbilisi also demonstrated Saturday against the planned Aziz Mosque in Batumi. (Photo: Mari Nikuradze.).

TBILISI, DFWatch – Three thousand locals massed in Batumi Saturday to protest the planned construction of a mosque honoring the historic Turkish leader Aziz.

The decision to construct the mosque is part of an agreement reached by authorities in Tbilisi and the Turkish government, which aims at mutually restoring each others historic sites. There should be formed a document about the mosque, and apart from stopping the mosque, demonstrators also demanded to make the document about the mosque public, along with the other parts of the agreement.

Initially there were discussions between Georgia and Turkey to rehabilitate a total of four historical and cultural monuments located within both countries. As part of the arrangement, Turkey will restore the Oshki Monastery and Ishkhani Monastery; two Georgian historical monuments dating back to medieval times.

In turn, Georgia will build the Aziz Mosque in Batumi, and reconstruct the Akhmedi Mosque, which is located in Georgia’s southern region of Javakheti. There are discussions underway that Turkey will be involved in the joint rehabilitation of this historic mosque as well.

Though the project seems aimed at respecting Muslim and Christian cultural sites, a significant segment of Georgian society is against the implementation of it, claiming that unequal conditions exist and the full details of what is being planned is not being made transparent.

Approximately 3 000 locals rallied in Batumi on Saturday, without any political parties taking part. Just before the rally, clerics held a burial service for Georgian military cadets (იუნკერები) who died in 1921. According to one version, the Azizi Mosque will be built on the site of a graveyard where these cadets were buried. This is unacceptable for much of Georgian society since these young patriots died fighting Turks.

The protest coincided with the anniversary of a referendum that was held for Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union, March 31, 1991, which confirmed that an absolute majority, 98% of citizens who had the right to vote supported the restoration of Georgian independence. The vote included people living in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazian and South Ossetian territories.

The referendum confirmed the collective decision to leave the Soviet Union as a whole. The very same day, Mary 31, the American Congress officially recognized the results of March 31 referendum by special resolution as being binding. April 9, Georgia’s independence was consequently announced.

Saturday’s rally participants in Batumi had two demands:

1. The government should not later than April 15 clearly and unambiguously inform the Georgian people that they refuse to construct a building named after the Turkish conqueror;

2. As foreseen by principles of international law, immediately make public the agreement between Turkey and Georgia, which is being illegally kept secret.