“You ruined me, Tarkhan!” - Exclusive Interview with the Father of Abu Omar al-Shishani
09 October, 2014
“You ruined me, Tarkhan!” - Exclusive Interview with the Father of Abu Omar al-Shishani
BIRKIANI, Georgia - The Pankisi Gorge is not the ideal place for three journalists, including an American, to visit and start asking questions about its most famous native son Abu Omar al-Shishani, whose terrorist group has made a name for itself by cutting off the heads of other adventurous American journalists - along with brutally massacring any village and/or ethnicity that stands in its way. ISIS doesn’t discriminate about race or religion; they kill everyone. But we at Georgian Journal have made it our mission to bring you the best news possible and to take you to wherever the story may be.

This week the story happens to be in the childhood home of Abu Omar al-Shishani - where we sit nervously across from Tarkhan Batirashvili’s very erratic, almost eccentric father, Temur Batirashvili, who despite having sworn to never to speak to the media again just can’t resist himself. The old man seems to be in a rare mood and he is talking about everything under the sun. This situation should be every journalist’s dream. But something isn’t quite right. The old man tells story after story about “Tarkhan.” We remind ourselves that Temur’s jihadist son and his 40 personal guards have much more to worry about than bursting through the door, silencing his father and removing our heads.
And then it hits us. This little elderly Georgian man is lonely. He has a collection of business cards on his table that is like a who-is-who of notable western journalists—those who have come to see him for only one reason: they are using him, just as we are, for information about his son, to understand his son’s beginnings. Most of the journalist he’s blown off. Yet it seems that this man, just like every other human being on earth, wants to be acknowledged, wants dignity and attention—wants to connect. So instead of blowing us off like the other reporters, he talks to us, mostly because two of us are Georgian and deep down he simply wants attention. There in the empty little grey house, the pain in this man is apparent. Tarkhan refuses to talk to him because he is a Christian, and he refuses to believe Tarkhan is a killer.
“My son, my sweet Tarkhan would never kill a man, I do not believe it,” he tells us when we ask him about the various accounts of
ISIS brutality, especially in Syria where his son is the top commander. And this is his reality. For him, Abu Omar al-Shishani, is still young Tarkhan Batirashvili, the sweet freckled ginger boy with a penchant for geography who was bullied by the UNM government and driven down this path by forces out of his control. That’s how ‘Dear Ole Dad’ sees it anyway:
“You ruined me, Tarkhan! Woe to the father who lost a son like you!” He wails. He talks about how after his son served Georgia heroically in the 2008 war, he was bullied by the UNM government, which killed one of his friends and threw poor “Tarkhan” in prison where he was radicalized. For him his son is somehow a victim, though the rest of the world has good reason to think the very opposite.
When we ask him why he doesn’t travel to Syria and join his son, Temur’s sadness is apparent. He tells us that his son cannot even give him money because he is a Christian: “No one knows how horrible and desperate I feel. How miserable I am. I’m like a hobo. My son is one of the founders of Islamic Caliphate and I’m here, dying in poverty! Look where I live! Nothing is left for me here but Vodka and all I do is drink it. What else can I do? I cannot kill myself because devils would take my soul! Sometimes, when I’m drunk, I tell myself – Temo, it’s your time. Go on, do it… And then something inside my brain tells me – No, Temo, do not do this,” the father of possibly the next Osama Bin Laden muses woefully.
For Temur Batirashvili the world is quite a lonely place. When your son has violently broken off a good chunk of Syria, lives in a massive opulent compound, travels in fancy armored SUVs with his personal posse of 40 armed men and commands one of the most brutal groups on earth, but refuses to speak to you on principle, it’s not a nice feeling. Reality becomes complicated, almost fractured: memories of the boy he loved become haunting contradictions to what he reads in the news. At one point he looks at us almost pleading and says “Don’t write anything bad about my son... Please don’t write anything bad about my boy, Tarkhan.”
The first thing Temur Batirashvili says to us when we walk into his house is, “My son Tarkhan called yesterday! He says he is going to exact his revenge against United National movement. His plan is to kidnap women from UNM, Sajaia, Taqtaqishvili, Nadirashvili and Gogorishvili and to put them in his harem in Damascus!”
The old man is of course joking (we hope!), but as night falls over the Pankisi Gorge and the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, sounds in the distance, it seems that now anything is possible. We are no longer in Georgia. This is just the first stop on the bloody trail that more and more young disillusioned Wahhabi Pankisians have been following via Istanbul to Syria - only arriving back home to be buried.

By Georgian Journal’s Editorial Staff

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