IDAHOT Report 2014: Georgia

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Activists in Tbilisi, Georgia made the invisible, visible on Sunday, May 18, 2014, when they left more than 100 shoes in Pushkini Square, Tbilisi – where a planned march to commemorate the IDAHOT on May 17 had had to be called off, for security reasons.

Called a “Protest on Behalf of the Invisible & Against Invisibility”, the act symbolised both the silence and the resilience of LGBTI and human rights defenders who were unable to demonstrate this year on May 17 itself.
Read the interview with organisers, which provides a full overview of the action!
Some activists also painted rainbows around the city in the early hours of May 18, 2014.
Last year, on May 17, 2013, the Square was the set of brutal scenes of violence, as some 40,000 people, mobilised by the leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church, descended on and many attacked a group of less than a hundred LGBTI and human rights activists who had assembled for a peaceful and silent demonstration to mark the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia 2013. Shocking scenes showed priests leading the attacks. Amnesty International received reports of an attempted lynching among the crowds. Millions of people heard about these events as international media quickly responded with hundreds of major press and television reports.

tbilissi-536x350-536x330IDAHOT 2013: Priests leading the attacks against LGBTI activists in Tbilisi, Georgia.

On May 17 this year, LGBTI activists decided to cancel even private events for the Day. On May 12, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church had urged thousands to take to the streets on May 17, in a show of “Strength of Family and Respect for Parents”. 4,000 participated in this “counter” protest, which passed without LGBTI communities being attacked – as they stayed clear of the event. That said, reports did surface of demonstrators attacking one another, after appearing to mistake each other for being gay. Members of a TV crew were also attacked on the Day, reports Identoba and Tabula TV Crew.
In the lead up to May 17, 2014, Georgian activists reported that LGBTI communities had become targets of threats and intimidation, including by the Georgian police. They also advised that, despite petitions by LGBTI activists, authorities offered no guarantees as to the safety of those who wished to publicly assemble and express themselves in favour of LGBTI rights on May 17.

activists-620x330IDAHO 2012: A demonstrator being dragged away by Georgian police.

Moreover, local activists from Identoba group report (May 17, 2014) that pro-Russian groups had been organising to stage a “fake gay pride” this May 17, using certain front groups, with the intention of justifying and sparking confrontation on the Day. As they point out, this has also been the case in recent months in Kiev, Ukraine, as well as in certain other countries.
 

silent-protestFreedom Square metro station, Tbilisi, May 18, 2014. Source: © Onnik Krikorian Photography

Further information

  • Identoba: Statement before May 17, 2014
  • Meghan Johnson: Recap of May 17, 2014 in Georgia

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