This week in your episode of KET Talks, Vincent Reillon and Rémy Bonny from Forbidden Colours bring you to Georgia as they are joined by Mariam Kvaratsrelia, co-leader of Tbilisi Pride. They discuss the violence met by the activists trying to organize the first Pride parade in the country. They also discuss the current political situation of the country where Russian influence is growing.
2023 and still no Pride Parades in Tbilisi
Mariam takes us first to the birth of Tbilisi Pride, when activists decided in 2019 that to secure their basic human rights, they had to become more visible in society. Yet, anti-LGBTIQ+ groups fueled by pro-Russian oligarchs and the Orthodox Church prevented the first March for Dignity to take place in Tbilisi. Banned, delayed, and attacked, the parade never took place. The activists only managed to organize a small demonstration in front of the Ministry of Interior in the end. The documentary March for Dignity from director John Eames relates these events.
Tbilisi Pride announced that the March for Dignity was cancelled
After the confinement caused by Covid, Tbilisi Pride tried to organize a parade in 2021. While the march was supposed to take place in the evening of 5 July, anti-LGBTIQ+ groups started gathering in the street in the morning. These groups attacked the offices of Tbilisi Pride and the journalists covering the event. 53 journalists were injured, and the offices were ransacked. Faced with this situation, Tbilisi Pride announced at 3pm that the March for Dignity was cancelled. This was a very sad day.
But the following day, thousands of people gathered in front of Georgian Parliament to support Tbilisi Pride and condemn the event of 5 July. Rainbow flags were finally waved happily in the main square of the capital of Georgia.
Two years after, there is still no option for Tbilisi Pride to organize a march in the capital of Georgia. This is the only organization in the country which is denied the fundamental right to protest and manifest peacefully in the public space. This situation shows how much the slogan of this year’s Brussels Pride, Protect the Protest, is important.
The Pride festival will take place this year again at the beginning of July with thousands of people attending conferences, debates, and social events. Yet, no March for Dignity is planned for this 2023 edition, as the anti-LGBTIQ+ narrative from the government is on the rise.
Pro-Russian forces denying fundamental rights and democracy
Mariam also explains what happened in March this year, when the government tried to introduce a so called ‘foreign agent law’ that would have declared all media and civil society organizations receiving funding from abroad – including all LGBTIQ+, human rights, and rule of law organizations – as foreign agents. Such a classification would have led to searches and collection of information that would have put the members and the beneficiaries of Tbilisi Pride at risk.
Tens of thousands of people took the streets to express their discontent with the adoption of this Russian-inspired law. For days they marched with EU flags against tear gazes and water cannons. And their perseverance paid off as the government was finally forced to withdraw the law.
In Georgia, the Prime Minister Irakli Garibachvili has been following closely the path designed by Vladimir Putin when it comes to attacking the rights of LGBTIQ+ people and rule of law. He traveled recently to Hungary at a meeting of conservative figures organized by Viktor Orbán. And, in a recent speech, he has been specifically targeting Tbilisi Pride.
This direction taken by the government seems contradictory with the process followed by Georgia to get the candidate status for the accession to the European Union. Irakli Garibachvili says that he wants to join the European Union, but the ‘other’ European Union. The one following the vision of Orbán. The one where LGBTIQ+ people are denied their basic human rights.
In this context, Tbilisi Pride keeps fighting on the ground to promote human rights, inclusion, and tolerance.
To listen to this episode, click here.
Photo by : Bojan Cvetanović
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