New Georgian liberal party establishes church to offer military service exemption

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 24.04.2017 15:29
Reuters Photo
Reuters Photo

A new liberal party founded in the country of Georgia in the southern Caucasus promises young men an alternative to obligatory military service by offering them documents "proving" priesthood.

According to Georgian laws, clergymen do not have to serve in the military, which means that the new party has found a loophole in the legal system that would allow some to circumvent mandatory service.

According to the Georgian Liberali magazine, the party named "New Political Center - Girchi" created a religious organization that they registered with the Ministry of Justice in March, allowing them to legally award documents to individuals indicating that they are priests.

The religious organization founded by Girchi is called "Christian Evangelical Protestant Biblical Freedom Church of Georgia" and the party has stressed that it will not admit persons of dubious character including homophobic or racist people.

Georgian military service, which currently extends over a 12 month period, poses problems to young men who often have to leave better paying jobs after being drafted to serve for minimal financial compensation, Tina Khidasheli, Georgia's former Minister of Defense has argued.

Military conscription in Georgia, which was abolished in summer 2016, became mandatory once again though a decision made by the Ministry of Defense in November 2016 as it was believed that mandatory service reduced costs. Representatives of the military now fear that conscription numbers might drop drastically. The discussion about whether or not to abolish obligatory military service in Georgia has been ongoing for years.

The Girchi party generally opposes military conscription and its name, which means "pine" in English, is meant to stand for freshness and greenery.

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