Tbilisi Pride Week took place in Georgia once again, despite violent groups trying to disrupt it, and ended successfully with a festival.
Tbilisi Pride members this year decided, in order to avoid public polarization and tensions during the process of European integration, not to hold the March of Dignity, and all events of Pride Week took place indoors.
Tbilisi Pride Week opened with the premiere of Georgian director Elene Naveriani’s film “Wet Sand.”
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell, Ran Gidor the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, and French Ambassador Diego Colas attended the presentation of the film.
Meanwhile, supporters of the far-right extremist group Alt Info gathered on Rustaveli Avenue, as well as near the offices of Georgian Dream and the European Union, where they burned the flags of NATO and the European Union and tore apart rainbow flags.
Police were mobilized on the spot.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA) released a statement condemning violence of any kind and calling on the groups opposing Pride Week to adhere to the law, follow the rightful demands of the police, and not to exceed the limits of the right to assembly and manifestation permitted by law. They noted that the police would act in accordance with its mandate, and each case of violation would be immediately prevented and followed by a strict legal response.
On July 1, the MIA reported that opponents of Tbilisi Pride had gathered and paralyzed the access routes leading to the festival site, artificially obstructing traffic.
“As a result of the mentioned, the law enforcement officers called on rally participants on the site to clear the roadway. The police also instructed them to continue the protest in a place where they would not interfere with or violate the rights of other citizens. Late at night, despite the warning of the Ministry, participants of the gathering did not obey the legal request of the police and offered resistance to police officers. Therefore, the police applied proportional force in accordance with the law and arrested 26 people based on Articles 173 and 166 of the Code of Administrative Offenses,” stated the Ministry.
Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, thanked police officers on site for providing for public safety.
“The United States affirms that all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love. As we honor the resilience of LGBTQI+ people, who are fighting to live authentically and freely, we reaffirm our belief that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights,” she stated.
Ambassador of France to Georgia, Diego Colas, thanked Tbilisi Pride for celebrating freedom and fundamental rights and also thanked the police force for the excellent service and security at the event.
Pride Week ended with Tbilisi Pride Fest 2022. The festival opened in the afternoon on July 2 and lasted until the morning of July 3. Festival guests had the opportunity to listen to music, and see drag shows and dozens of performers.
Among the messages of this year’s festival was solidarity with Ukraine.
Several thousand people attended Pride Fest.
Irma Chkheidze told OC Media she was very happy to be able to participate. “I am in a great mood. I feel like everyone here is creating a large island of freedom, which is very important,” she said. “Each person is representing their own individuality, which ultimately gives us a very colorful, diverse, and free society.”
“Tbilisi Pride Festival is way more than an amazing night. It’s our way to fight for equality, freedom and love. Our action is against hatred. This is our way to catch a breath in this unjust and unequal fight, to heal, recover, and support each other,” stated the organizers.
DRI: A Year On Since July 5, 2021 Violence, Organizers Haven’t Been Punished
The Democracy Research Institute (DRI) this week presented the interim findings of its study of far-right groups and their activities.
The report is presented in three parts: media monitoring of far-right groups, rallies of homophobic groups, and judicial monitoring of the July 5, 2021 violent events.
The director of the Institute, Tamar Khidasheli, said that despite the fact that one year has passed since that July 5 event, the perpetrators have not yet been punished and the activities of ultra-right, pro-Russian groups have intensified.
She noted that as a result of the study, it was revealed that in some cases the messages of the ultra-right, pro-Russian groups and the government coincide with each other.
“We are monitoring the activity of far-right pro-Russian groups on social media and we are also monitoring their rallies, we have also been monitoring the ongoing court proceedings related to the violence that occurred on July 5, 2021. As a result of this monitoring, it became clear that a year has passed since the violence, and yet the organizers of the violence have not been punished, despite it being proven by trial that there is evidence that the violence was indeed organized. Instead of taking proper procedures against these groups, they have strengthened, transformed into a political party, opened regional offices, and managed to mobilize financial resources.
“On observation of social media, unfortunately, in some cases, the messages of the far-right, pro-Russian groups, and the government overlap. This is especially noticeable when far-right groups talk about the opening of a second front in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war: we have also heard the same from government officials. It is a pity that their messages coincide with each other,” Khidasheli said.
The attacks were committed by right-wing groups on July 5 and 6, 2021, in an effort to prevent the Tbilisi Pride March from taking place. The attacks targeted civic activists, community members, and journalists who were peacefully exercising the rights guaranteed to them by Georgia’s Constitution. The mobs went largely unchecked by authorities as they attacked citizens and also broke into and vandalized the offices of the Shame Movement, the Human Rights Center, and Tbilisi Pride, and attacked a long-term opposition tent protest outside of Parliament.
Following the violence, TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso (Aleksandre) Lashkarava was found dead in his home, though the official investigation concluded that the reason of his death was drug overdose.
Pride Week 2022: a Potential Stepping-Stone for Enhancing LGBTQI+ Rights Protection in Georgia
A joint statement was issued by the United Nations Development Programme, the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, the Embassies to Georgia of Czech Republic, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States:
We, the undersigned development partners, welcome the successful completion of Pride Week 2022. We congratulate the organizers, Tbilisi Pride and other community organizations, and express our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities and support their right, as citizens of Georgia, to exercise their Constitutional rights without fear.
We acknowledge that marking Pride Week is still connected to safety risks and other stressful situations that many have to live through on a daily basis. It is our sincere hope that this year’s successful holding of events marks a step forward in protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, including their right to freedom of assembly.
We express gratitude toward the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the police for their successful work in maintaining public order and ensuring safety during the Pride Week events. We appreciate the involvement of the Administration of the Government of Georgia in the coordination and preparatory process.
By protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, the state stands up for ensuring basic human rights protection for all and the building of an inclusive society that embraces diversity and empowers and protects all people, with no exception. We encourage further steps to be taken by Georgia to reinforce its national commitments in the human rights area, including through the adoption of a robust National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan.
A growing number of Georgian citizens welcomes diversity and believes that the protection of LGBTQI+ rights is important. It is vital for state policies and practices to embrace this social trend, align with Georgia’s international commitments and ensure that every citizen can enjoy due protection of their human rights and liberties regardless of disability, religion or belief, national, ethnic or social origin, sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other grounds.
In this context, we also remind the Georgian authorities of the need to properly follow up on the events of 5 July 2021, including the full investigation and prosecution of the instigators and organizers of violence.
We remain committed to supporting Georgia to further enhance the protection of LGBTQI+ rights, prevent and combat discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ communities, and strengthen the social protection of vulnerable LGBTQI+ persons by providing housing solutions and improving access to employment, education and healthcare.