Ninotsminda Foster Home: New Accusations and Protests – Gakharia’s Puzzling Political Role – Rally in Solidarity with Chiatura Protesters – Diplo Bae: Diplomats on Cuisine Tour in Tsinandali
Politics in Georgia has been less about good governance and more about out-of-touch power games, as social protests gaining strength to counterbalance the detachment. One may hate these games but still enjoy good players, particularly amid endless confusion on whose game they are playing. Here is Nini with our usual updates from Georgia.
- Taboo: the controversy around the Church-run children’s foster home in Ninotsminda continues. Things started moving after the Ombudsperson raised alarm about her representatives locked out of the institution for years. Soon reports about criminal investigations involving violence and rape followed, former wards came forward with allegations of abuse. The State Care Agency stated that social workers, too, had limited access to the closed facility (read the summary in our previous issue).
- What’s new? After much noise, the court partially satisfied the request filed by the local CSO Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) and ordered prompt removal of children with disabilities from the facility (the order did not apply to all residents, since the PHR was only entitled to file court appeals on behalf of children with disabilities). Orthodox Church Patriarchate said it would appeal the ruling, citing lack of evidence of abuse and violence and the inability of foster home’s personnel to testify, adding that children’s rushed removal would go against their best interest. In the statement, the Patriarchate also claimed the Ombudsperson never approached them regarding access problems and they only learned about it through media reports.
- In the meantime, the State Care Agency said it has already removed 20 minors, including seven with disabilities, from the facility, while a team of social workers and psychologists continues to work inside the institution. The removal was followed by new revelations from Ombudsperson Nino Lomjaria, who listed some of the punishment methods reported by those who recently left the institution: the abuse, mostly practiced on those aged 4-10, allegedly included forcing minors to stand on one foot while holding a chair in hands, or standing upright through the night. Children were apparently deprived of meals and forced to watch the others, including their wardens, eat. Lomjaria further said there were unregistered minors enrolled at the foster home, without the State Care Agency’s knowledge. She added that their enrollment allegedly coincided with the period when social workers’ access was restricted, leading to neglect of such children’s needs. Further comments of abuse surfaced, allegedly from former residents.
- Rallies: the controversy was not without its protests, as Tbilisi already hosted at least two demonstrations demanding Public Defender’s access, investigations, and child protection, and one rally on June 6 outside the Public Defender’s office to support Skhaltian Bishop Spiridon, the one in charge of the children’s facility. The crowds demanded Ombudsperson Lomjaria’s resignation accusing her of discrediting the Church. The protesters were joined by hater-knight Levan Vasadze. Addressing the public, Vasadze presented some additional demands like opening investigations against journalists involved in “defamation and offense” against the church.
- See also: Georgian Patriarchate Hosts Moscow-led Ukrainian Church Bishop
- Then & Now. Back in February, when ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia suddenly announced his resignation, many were looking forward to his return to politics. When he did return, however, his unbroken silence over his tenure as a high-ranking Georgian Dream official and refusal to criticize party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili fuelled doubts of covert collaboration between the two (like conspiracies are not rife in Georgia, to begin with).
- The Playbook. Here is the game: by signing the EU-brokered April 19 agreement, the GD agreed to hold snap elections in 2022, should it score less than 43% in October 2021 local polls – a surprising move, considering that the threshold does not seem unreachable for the opposition. With Gakharia’s For Georgia party competing, the 2022 snaps scenario looks even more likely. Slowly, but surely the ruling party launched its anticipated attack on ex-PM: starting with traditional smearing by first the fringe and then mainstream pro-government media, continued with GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze’s dropping hints of an alleged “coup“. Today, the second shoe finally dropped: Ivanishvili called out his former teammate as a traitor.
- Good or Bad? Gakharia’s game divided not only the public, but the opposition too: part of them see the ex-PM as more of a benefic phenomenon who’ll be a big help to attain the snap elections, assuming his party will largely attract ex-GD voters. Others look further beyond and suspect a big trap, meaning that in 2022 the rest of the opposition will have to compete with two GD-s: the official one plus “Ivanishvili project” Gakharia.
- In Quotes: Politicians React to Ivanishvili’s Gakharia Statement
MINING THEIR OWN BUSINESS On June 6, Tbilisi hosted a rally in solidarity with residents of Shukruti village, Chiatura municipality, who continue their hunger strike, with their lips sewn shut, in Tbilisi, demanding fair compensation for mining activities in their village that destroy their living environments. After months of ignoring from the top, the problem starts appearing in political discourse too, with opposition politicians such as Strategy Agmashenebeli’s Giorgi Vashadze repeatedly reminding the ruling party of Shukruti’s plight. Is it that MP Vashadze really cares about Chiatura’s woes or is he as someone owning 57 Bitcoins and 315 Ethereums (cryptocurrencies with the current total approximate worth of USD 3 Mln) just into a different, modern kind of mining? It can be both.
GLOCAL AFFAIRS But where are the government leaders while the crises wash over the country, one might ask: well, minding international affairs of course. This time, government officials, including PM Irakli Garibashvili, took the diplomats to Tsinandali, Kakheti region, and gave them a tour of Georgian wine and cuisine. The photos uploaded by the Government Administration show diplomats enjoying themselves, making Churchkhelas, traditional hazelnut desserts, and cooking Khinkali, world-famous Georgian dumplings. Not an easy undertaking! Having dealt with the complexity of Georgian politics, however, all this seems like less of a challenge.
That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!