PROTEST IN PANKISI VALLEY TURNS VIOLENT
Birkiani, Republic of Georgia
20+ still and moving images available in color
Created April 2019
For most of the Christian world 21st April 2019 was Easter Sunday. That morning, the mostly Muslim residents of the Pankisi Valley were woken up by a door-to-door messenger, family friend, or foreboding text, bearing news that the Georgian government was sending 200 special force troopers to the valley to protect the facilities and workers of the proposed Khadori 3 hydropower dam, a construction project that the Pankisi residents have been vociferously against. The events that unfolded are reminiscent of the parable of David and Goliath.
Pankisi residents observe as the Georgian police form up in their ranks outside the Khadori 3 hydropower dam construction site in Birkiani, Georgia.
With sticks and stones, other Pankisi villagers open up a second front and face off with heavily armed Georgian police in riot gear and armored 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. She's helped moments later by a friend.
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.