Ahead of the city’s very first Pride parade, hate groups attacked the Tbilisi Pride offices resulting in a police evacuation yesterday (19 June).
The capital of Georgia, eastern Europe, has, much like its cobblestone streets, a long and complicated history with LGBTI rights.
Also, according to Pride organizers, Orthodox Christian groups gathered outside the office to condemn what they call a ‘provocation.’
On 19 June, police evacuated Pride organizers from their office after two members received death threats. This on the same day that several ultra-nationalist groups organized counter anti-LGBTI marches.
In addition, an alleged 50 anti-LGBTI protesters surrounded the office bloc.
Moreover, two members, Giorgi Tabagari and Tamaz Sozashvili, as well as many others, both posted screenshots of the death threats they received.
Received death threats on my mobile. Similar messages have been sent to @TamazSozashvili and @MaryKvara. This went out of hand. We are being terrorised!#TbilsiiPride #Georgia pic.twitter.com/UeCmynhxlA
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) June 19, 2019
— Tamaz Sozashvili (@TamazSozashvili) June 19, 2019
‘You are still holding the Pride, right? I know where your office is and where your home is. I’ll cut your head off and become a hero!’ said a message Tabagari posted.
Queer rights group the Equality Movement also urged to evacuate their office after ultraconservative groups announced they would hold a demonstration there.
Pride to go ahead
Despite the safety and security risks, the Pride activities have officially kicked-off.
Despite all the risks, Tbilisi Pride has officially started with the social theatre performance “Caucasian Metamorphosis”, an #LGBT+ reinterpretation of “The Metamorphosis” by Kafka. The event passed peacefully, without any incidents. Over 100 people attended the performance! pic.twitter.com/FDVUa8sCcF
— All Out (@AllOut) June 20, 2019
Furthermore, LGBTI group All Out posted a photograph of the event that strikes a moment in history; an LGBTI re-interpretation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.
According to the group: ‘The event passed peacefully, without any incidents. Over 100 people attended the performance!’
As a result of the counter-protests and death threats, a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called LGBTI Intergroup wrote to three MEPs asking them to call on Georgian authorities to protect Pride.
The group wrote to Commissioners Federica Mogherini, Frans Timmermans and Vera Jourova.
In the letter shared to Gay Star News, the group wrote: ‘We call on you to intervene urgently, and give a strong and unambiguous message to the Georgian authorities, that we expect them to fully and unreservedly protect human rights and make sure the march will get full protection.’
Background of Tbilisi Pride
Organizers knew the first Pride in the capital city wouldn’t go without a hitch.
Back in February, LGBTI groups announced plans to hold the first ever Tbilisi Pride between 18 and 23 June.
However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia responded that this would be impossible if such events were held on the most crowded central streets of Tbilisi, on Freedom Square or Rustaveli Avenue.
But organizers fought back, announcing on 18 June they would hold the parade nevertheless. Organizer Nino Bolkvadze warned that safety risks must be taken.
‘We’ve been planning and holding negotiations with the government and other relevant stakeholders for months,’ she said.
‘In recent days, as a result of working for hours, we can say the following: safety measures are taken by the organizers within our competence.’
LGBTI rights in Georgia
While many religious leaders have tried to counter LGBTI rights, Georgia’s government has introduced pro-LGBTI policies.
In fact, since 2014, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been outlawed.
Moreover, it sits about in the middle of ILGA’s (International LGBTI Association) Rainbow Europe ranking. A pretty good feat considering some of its closest neighbors – Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russian regions including Chechnya – regularly persecute LGBTI people.
Nevertheless, lawmakers deemed equal marriage unconstitutional last year, and adoption remains barred.