July 28, 2021

In Georgia, LGBT + pride march canceled after homophobic violence

Georgian activists for LGBT + rights gave up on Monday (July 5) to hold a Pride March in Tbilisi, after clashes started by homophobic groups in this Caucasian country with conservative mores. Several events in support of sexual minorities have already taken place in recent years in Georgia, but the country remains under the influence of the powerful Orthodox Church, which has already criticized governments considered too progressive.

On Monday morning, hundreds of protesters opposed to gay pride protested near the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. Some attacked the police and beat journalists in several places in the capital, according to footage from Mtavari TV.

The organizers of the Pride March claimed that their offices had also been targeted by “Homophobic”. “We cannot endanger human lives and demonstrate in streets full of violent aggressors”, estimated the LGBT + activists on their Facebook page, announcing the cancellation of the parade.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili himself spoke out against holding the event. “Holding a so-called pride march is not reasonable because it creates the threat of a civil confrontation”, he said Monday during a meeting, arguing that these marches are “Unacceptable to a large part of Georgian society”. Mr. Garibashvili also accused the opposition and ex-president in exile, Mikheïl Saakashvili, of being behind this march in order to provoke a crisis.

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party accuse it of tacitly supporting nationalist and homophobic groups that have already demonstrated against pro-Western opposition parties. Prime Minister’s statements have been judged “Shameful” by the organizers, who denounced remarks encouraging homophobia and the government’s inability to defend “Fundamental human rights”.

Common homophobic violence

The organizer of the event, Giorgi Tabagari, had hoped for a while that the march would be maintained despite the violence for “Show that attitudes towards sexual minorities are happily changing in Georgia”. “We feel a growing solidarity of Georgian society and politicians, but there are violent homophobic groups”, he had explained.

Last week, as the march approached, the United States, the European Union (EU) and 16 other countries asked Tbilisi to ensure “The right to peaceful assembly of all people in Georgia without exception”. With tens of thousands of faithful, the Orthodox Church had for its part called to meet Monday afternoon for a public prayer against the parade.

Although mentalities are slowly changing in this former Soviet republic which wants to get closer to the EU, homophobic violence still breaks out regularly. Georgia did not decriminalize homosexuality until 2000, and anti-discrimination laws were passed in 2006 and 2014.

In 2019, hundreds of far-right activists burned rainbow flags in Tbilisi to protest against the screening in cinemas of an Oscar-winning film on the theme of homosexuality. Six years earlier, thousands of ultra-conservatives had interrupted a march against homophobia. Dozens of people had to take refuge in police vans, pursued by activists who threw stones at them and threatened to kill them. The violence sparked a wave of solidarity, with the publication of a petition signed by thousands of people demanding criminal proceedings against the attackers.

The World with AFP