The Dispatch

The Dispatch – March 8-9: On Women’s Day, It’s Raining Men!

Women March Against Sexual Violence | Proud of Past: First Elected Muslim Woman | Khoshtaria Announces New Movement | Latest Secret Recordings Spark #METOO | Opposition Split over Canceling PM Garibashvili | Tbilisi Mayor Announces Announcement |Several Hurt after Bishop’s Gambit

Greetings from Tbilisi. On March 8, Georgian women hit the streets to have their voices heard – but it is male voices that were recorded (and replayed…and replayed…) these days. With much happening in the country, all developments have one sad common denominator – violence. Happy Women’s Day and may you see more of love, justice, and equality and less of violence and aggression!

The Dispatch and me, your operator – Nini – are having our ear to the ground – seeking context in isolated events – and trying to glean the meaning in the absurd. Subscribe here!

BASED ON A TRUE STORY The highlight of the day on March 8 was “1,000 Parents’ March” arranged by women’s rights activists to raise voices against sexual violence, particularly against minors, and systemic failures that enable these terrible acts. Scores of people marched today Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue to arrive in front of the Government Administration building for a performance: actresses retelling true stories of rape survivors almost made the public relive the grave experiences. And yes – listening can do wonders if one bothers to find a time!

WE CAN DO BETTER Sexual violence came into the particular spotlight this year for many reasons, but other pressing concerns surrounding women’s issues didn’t go anywhere (sadly, but logically). With women struggling in families, workplaces, and politics, we are here to remind everybody that we can do better – because we once did. Here is yet another inspiring First Republic story when Peri-Khan Sopieva, a Muslim woman from predominantly Azeri-populated Karajala village southeast of Tbilisi, won local self-government elections, becoming “world’s first democratically elected Muslim woman.” And while one cherishes the strong and brave woman she was, we should not forget about functioning democratic systems that allow all persons, regardless of race, sex, religion, or nationality to have equal opportunities.

THE TIME IS UP! Or “The Time has Come” – up to you to translate the name of a new political movement that was announced by Helen Khoshtaria – former leader of the European Georgia party. “The time has come we show the government that we see what is happening and will not accommodate it,” she says in her YouTube address, pledging to expose the injustices, going beyond the traditional laundry list and touching upon the concerns of ordinary citizens countrywide.“Get in touch with us,” Khoshtaria calls on those who are aware or have to endure injustices. She announced the new movement late on March 7, but it was today – on March 8 – that most of us heard about it. Coincidence? A woman splitting from a party of too many and too heavyweight male leaders and going it alone – can be symbolic, to say at least. We still have to wait and see the official unveiling of the first collaborators Mrs. Khoshtaria counts on in her new struggle.

#METOO! No, not what you think – we are not talking about women survivors here anymore, although it is still about power and violence. Ever since the alleged tapes of conversations between Bera Ivanishvili, son of former Prime Minister, with current PM Irakli Garibashvili and Head of the Special State Protection Service (SSPS) Anzor Chubinidze were made public, a number of young men stepped forward to say that they once too fell victim to Crown Prince’s vengeful caprices (brave move, we hope they are not asked what they were wearing to deserve it). The terrifying recordings show Bera ordering violent revenge or intimidation against social media users who dared to insult him in the comment sections, and indicate that some of those vendettas have already taken place. The authenticity of tapes has not been confirmed, but neither were they as denied by the ruling party as one would expect: their responses sounded more like excuses than denials (they said tapes were edited, but not completely falsified – leaving the rest with the impression that at least some of it are true).

FIRST TO THROW A STONE What adds to the questions is that authorities did not bother themselves with launching an investigation for a while – until today. Nobody expects those probes to be effective – but are they too lazy to even pretend? Or is this one of those end-of-regime paranoia plots when nobody trusts nobody? The opposition, meanwhile, looks no less confused: Mamuka Khazaradze’s usually moderate Lelo party was the strictest in its response, refusing to continue any dialogue with the alleged criminal PM Garibashvili. The rest of the opposition so far agreed to continue negotiations since others were less categorical. Wake up, Mr. Khazaradze, we know you are new in the game but…canceling someone who has some alleged abuses on the record in Georgia? Then cancel the entire politics!  

TEASERS AIRED The biggest tragedy is not that recordings look authentic – but rather that nobody would be surprised if they were. Still, if it is true, those in the ruling party should be least shocked, particularly Vasil Maglaperidze, GD’s Deputy Chairman with some working experience at Ivanishvili-owned GDS TV before, who quit today citing “health concerns.” The sibylline remarks by Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, however, keep us guessing as he did not go an extra mile to defend Bera Ivanishvili today, but rather announced… an announcement: some more information is to follow in days to come, he said without even hinting what he was talking about.

IT’S RAINING MEN, HALLELUJAH Yes, this is literally what happened today. March 8, after all, might have been a little less violent for women, since some Men of God in Martvili, Samegrelo region, were busy beating up each other – and accidentally fell from the second floor once the railings could not hold it anymore. Long story short, it is about the parish not willing to accept new Bishops, after the former one – Petre Tsaava – who has accused the Patriarch of Georgian Orthodox Church of homosexuality – has been dismissed by the Patriarchate. We wish to all injured a fast recovery – and in case you still prefer long story long, here are all the details you need.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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