In his paper, Folklore and Terror in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, Paul Manning, a professor at Trent University in Canada, recounts a joke told by locals: “Georgia – you know. It’s near Pankisi.”
Home to 8,000 ethnic Kists, a Muslim minority group related to Chechens in the North Caucasus, Pankisi is a picturesque valley just 10 kilometers long, situated in northeastern Georgia. The gorge gained a notorious reputation as a refuge for militants during the Chechen wars of the 1990s and 2000s, a perception fueled by an influx of refugees from Chechnya to the region. Now, security concerns are reemerging, as the gorge is seen as a seedbed of potential recruits for militant groups, including Islamic State.
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Onnik James Krikorian is a journalist, media consultant, and trainer from the U.K. He has covered conflict in the South Caucasus since 1994 and has been involved as a speaker and participant at expert working group meetings, seminars, and conferences on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Counter Narratives, and Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) organized by the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), Hedayah Center, International Center for Counterterrorism – The Hague (ICCT), the OSCE office in Tajikistan, and the OSCE Transnational Threats Division.