Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Though much of the country is Orthodox Christian, the nation considers itself tolerant of all faiths. Muslims have lived peacefully there for centuries.
Tariel Nakaidze is the head of Georgian Muslims Union and says there are approximately between 300,000 – 350,000 Muslims in the country, though there are only a few mosques located in the major cities of Tbilisi and Batumi. In 2015, the union took efforts to secure a government permit to build a new mosque but have since experienced delays and red-tape. “We see this struggle as the struggle for real democracy,” declares Mr. Nakaidze. “In this case we have a civil obligation to see it through that this mosque, which now became a symbol of democracy, is built.”
In the southwestern region of Adjara, approximately 30% of ethnic Georgians are Muslim, many living in the highlands close to the Turkey border. Hurie Abashidze is a 25-year-old postgraduate psychology student who grew up in in the area and says she started to wear the hijab at age 20, embracing the visibility of her faith. “Generally, if you are not visually recognisable as a Muslim, people are fine with you because they don’t necessarily ask about your religion,” says Ms. Abashidze. “But if you are wearing a hijab and express your religious identity, you get a different reaction. My family members had such a good reaction to my decision though that I didn’t pay much attention to the outsiders.” She says she has found personal fulfillment with wearing hijab and representing her faith to non-Muslims.