Photo feature: The Sufi women of Georgia’s Pankisi region

15079695164_a016d428b2_oGeorgia’s Pankisi region is well known for its poverty. But recent headlines have made this part of the country famous for another reasons.

Jihadists and Islamic extremists from across the world are traveling to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State militants in their war efforts. In the Caucasus Chechnya is well known for its high-level contributions, and in Georgia it seems like many young people from the Islamic community are joining the fight.

No one knows exactly how many young people have been recruited from Pankisi, or if the rate could even be considered a problem. But the recent speculations teamed with growing anti-Muslim sentiment have forced the Islamic population to become the uncomfortable targets of much scrutiny.

The local Muslim community are however unhappy with the country’s changing perceptions of them. They are a mixed and diverse culture, who view it as unfair to all be painted with the same brush.

Islam in Georgia is often misunderstood and marginalised by the majority. It is a country that is not easy for many Muslims. Much is being done to combat misunderstanding but the problem still remains.

Earlier last month mountain guide and photographer Devi Asmadiredja visited the Sufi women of Duisi where she was invited to document a small part of Pankisi’s Islamic community.

15080303063_82518553dd_oEvery Friday, around midday, a fraternity of Sufi women gather at the old mosque in Duisi for their regular ritual. The women are here for the ‘dzikr’, or remembrance.

15513759249_3959ab32e3_o15514447887_b4b207576b_oThis Sufi tradition is unique to many Muslim rituals in that it is a special event held for women. The women gathered invite anyone interested in Sufi traditions to join them, but only women can observe the prayers and ceremony from within the mosque, men are made to wait outside where they can watch through doors and windows.

15514451307_c2e4ce2e23_o15699623535_f238214898_oAsmadiredja was one of those women invited to take part, allowing her to record this rare insight into a small and highly misunderstood culture.

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Khedi Devi Asmadiredja is a mountain guide and photographer based in Pankisi, Georgia. She speaks several languages including Georgian and Chechen. You can find more about her work at her Facebook page. And you can view more of her photography on her Flickr account.

Additional words by Tom Ana.

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One thought on “Photo feature: The Sufi women of Georgia’s Pankisi region

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