Report from Tbilissi
TBILISI, DFWatch–When groups in Tbilisi wanted to mark the international day against homophobia May 17, they had to organize it in tightly-controlled secrecy and gather in silence.
Time and location was secret, and everyone who showed up, including journalists, had to register beforehand and go through a vetting process, where journalists for media that have espoused homophobic views were excluded.
A few dozen people gathered in Round Garden, in Tbilisi’s Vake district, at 11am. The garden has four entrances which each leads to a street, and is therefore suitable for quick evacuation. The mostly young people there were surrounded by hundreds of police, who arrived in yellow municipal buses.
The gathering progressed peacefully in near silence; without the shouting of slogans and whistling and noise often used in political demonstrations here, underlining the sensitivity of the subject matter.
Several tens of anti-gay activists demonstrated peacefully some distance away from Round Garden, without being aware of the presence of gay rights campaigners nearby.
The main message at this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Tbilisi was a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which a few days ago sentenced the government of Georgia to pay more than 33,000 euros to thirteen people for damages after being attacked during a May 17 event in 2012.
“…the duty of the State authorities to ensure freedom of assembly and speech, as well as the physical security of all persons who take part in legal demonstrations which are held simultaneously.”
“LGBT community feels being in risky situation,” another poster read.
The gathering went on in near silence, without any shouting or use of whistles.
Irakli Vacharadze, leader of the rights group Identoba, said today’s gathering was dedicated to the ruling of the Strasbourg court, which decided that ‘democracy means people respecting each other.’
That’s why participants brought quotes from the court ruling, he explained.
Other participants said that it is not enough to have a legislation which protects minorities. The laws have to be properly enforced.
Some think today’s gathering was proof that it is possible to express one’s opinion without being attacked, but others think it is comical when people have to use such a degree of secrecy in order to make a statement.
The Women’s Initiative Supporting Group (WISG) claimed #ThisStreetIsTaken
Women’s Initiative Supporting Group
On May 10, 2015 Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group started a campaign “this street is taken – there is no place for homophobia and transphobia here.” Photos were taken outdoors, in different neighborhoods of Tbilisi, by separate groups of people and posted on social media. By taking part in this social campaign, the participants exercised their right to assembly and expression and expressed their support to LGBT community, which is often unlawfully deprived of this right in a homophobic society.
The demonstration that WISG decided to hold on May 17, on Vachnadze street, was a logical continuation of our social campaign and also had a symbolic meaning. Vachnadze Street was the place where most of the LBT activists and their allies were brutally attacked in 2013. Due to security reasons WISG had to take additional precautionary measures and limit the duration of the demonstration to 15 minutes, as well as number of participants to a maximum of 20 persons.
With this symbolic demonstration we wanted to emphasize once more, that everyone should be able to enjoy their constitutional freedom of assembly and expression and all the activists that joined that symbolic demonstration stood there for everyone who couldn’t join but also for all those who experienced violence on that same street in 2013.
Source WISG website.
From the call for participation
The main reasons driving counter-demonstrators to attack the peaceful events, are directly connected to the struggle for appearance in public space, human rights of LGBT people, highlighting the problem of homophobia and transphobia in our country, as well as increasing visibility of LGBT community. The aggression and brutality expressed during the attack on May 17th, 2013 was accompanied by threats and statements against the group and its supporters. The same forces advised us to give up our constitutional rights and confine ourselves to a closed space, in order to avoid any further violence.
If you don’t want to support statements motivated by hatred, with your inaction; if you believe that all the groups should be able to enjoy their constitutional rights; if you want public space to belong to you as well as others – look around you! Public space is not limited to the central street of the city. Do you see that one street is occupied? Occupy another one. Know wherever you are there is no place for hatred, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia.
Take a picture on your street, on a street parallel to yours, in a square, in a part, in a neighbourhood where you spent your childhood, in a neighbourhood where you’re visiting your friend … choose your space, take a picture and join us, stop homophobia and transphobia!
Join our campaign: “This street is taken – there’s no place for homophobia and transphobia here!”
Share the photo you have taken with hashtags: #THISSTREETISTAKEN #IDAHOT #WISG
– The Women’s Initiative Support Group
LGBT Georgia being the first to celebrate the very first IDAHOT in Georgia, initiated online campaign “May 17 IS the day Against Homophobia”.
“As we know, in recent years, various social groups try to scatter importance of May 17 by announcing number of celebrations on this day. Thus, LGBT Georgia tries to deliver the message – real meaning of May 17 – to people, via simple and effective ways, including painting of the major stairs of the city, zebra crossings and floating of rainbow balloons in the River Mtkvari.”
Campaign photos have been posted on the Official Facebook page of the Organization, with the hashtag #17MayTbilisi2015.