The Dispatch

The Dispatch – May 17/18: of Love & Hate

Decisive Political Moves, Hate Attacks, and EuCo President’s Stormed FB Post – IDAHOT 2021 in Georgia | Fresh Stats on Hate Crimes | Major Unrest in Dmanisi Ends in Reconciliation, Authorities under Fire for Failed Handling | Glovo Faces Major Strike | GPB Forced to Reinstate Unlawfully Fired Staffers

Things around May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT), first appeared calmer than expected: despite some hate attacks, a couple of good news lifted moods, and the announced hater rally seemed less scary than first thought. But the disturbing images from the country’s south made our blood run cold. Here is Nini, your operator, with relevant updates from Georgia.

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LOVE IS LOVE Events planned as part IDAHOT started off badly: Guram Palavandishvili, a prominent Georgian ultra-right figure, gatecrashed one of the venues chosen by the LGBTQ activists to mark the day. Seeing rainbow [colors] on a makeshift booth marked “the closet” the homophobe smashed it. Police removed the raging homophobe from the scene, while the female activists responded with a public kiss.

POLITICAL BLESSING The rest was less violent: some clergymen got onto their bandwagon: riding pick-up trucks and vaporizing holy water across the town to purify the homo-evil, thus the “Family Purity Day” – a counter-holiday introduced by the Orthodox Church. In the meantime, the queer rights activists notched a major success: 15 Georgian political parties publicly signed the pledge to eliminate discrimination and violence against LGBTQ citizens with all tools at their disposal. The ruling party did not sign.

HE’S A RAINBOW The European Council president Charles Michel should have known that engagement in Georgia comes with some long-term side effects. He is a publicly known figure now, so after posting the rainbow flag to mark the IDAHOT,  his Facebook account exploded with homophobic slurs in Georgian (and English). The teachings, preachings, and Biblical quotes abounded, assuring the European diplomat that he is definitely not going to heaven.

FRESH DATA: To mark the IDAHOT, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia published statistics of hate crimes in 2016-2020. In 2020, criminal cases for hate crimes were opened against 253 persons, the report says, while 268 persons and 4 legal entities were granted victim status as part of proceedings. As for the crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the Office says 100 such persons were prosecuted in 2016-2020, and 28 persons were recognized as victims as part of criminal proceedings in 2020.

WRONG FOCUS? Levan Vasadze, current homo- xeno-, etc. -phobe-in-charge, gathered hundreds on May 16. The bash was less scary and violent than initially feared. Vasadze promised all kinds of legal prohibitions against “propaganda of depravity”. But Vasadze was not a center-stage of radical hate revival: the limelight was stolen by the massive unrest in ethnically mixed Dmanisi Municipality, Kvemo Kartli region in southern Georgia, which showed that the authorities were slacking in handling this sensitive region.

WORLD WAR IV To recall Albert Einstein’s famous quote, events that unfolded in Dmanisi, settled both by ethnic Azeris and Georgians, on May 16-17 looked like the WWIV – literally fought with sticks and stones. The banal incident at the local shop grew into uncontrolled, massive violence the next day. The authorities desperately warned the media not to attach an “ethnic” dimension to it. But whatever the trigger, the confrontation did go along the ethnic lines, and the slurs and abuse shouted by those involved clearly had an ethnic tint. Details here.

HANDSHAKE PRACTICES While opposition politicians, as well as civil society, slammed the government for failing to prevent and to control the violence, the unrests – streaming into Georgian’s home with disturbing images – continued throughout the day, despite the beefed-up police presence. The authorities managed to bring the parties to the negotiating table and to end the day with a public reconciliation.

LESSONS TO LEARN The reactions by those in power were clumsy. The Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri found it relevant to reiterate the friendship between the two nations – as if the Azerbaijani citizens in Dmanisi were somehow not Georgian citizens. Then the Azerbaijani Embassy itself weighed in.  The integration policies in minority-settled areas are not very effective said the activists repeatedly. Maybe they reserve a fair hearing?

DELIVERY ERROR Authorities have eased some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the major highlight is the shortened curfew which will now start at 23:00 instead of 21:00. This may allow busy Georgians to spend more time in cafes since delivery services are paralyzed: hundreds of Glovo delivery couriers went on strike protesting the alterations in their bonus system. Negotiations are underway, but no final agreement is in sight.

JUSTICE ENFORCED Georgian Public Broadcaster was ordered by the court to reinstate two of its staffers unlawfully fired in 2018. The Supreme Court had already ruled in February, but the GPB refused to take two camera operators until the Bureau of Enforcement intervened – the channel was saying there were no vacancies. Now it will also have to pay the compensation for the missed worktime. Aside from two successful appellants – both with over three decades of working experience – dozens of other employees were reportedly dismissed in the same period by the GPB, and many of the cases are still pending in courts.

Also in the news:

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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