Recent incidents of Iranian residents of Georgia being denied entry into the country have elicited criticism from Iranian officials as well as rights groups.
Twenty-six-year-old Iranian citizen Farhad (name changed upon his request), who has spent the past eight years studying in Georgia and has family members in the country, told OC Media that he was among the latest victims of apparent restrictions for Iranian citizens travelling into the country.
Farhad told OC Media that, earlier this month, Georgian authorities did not allow him to board the flight to return to Georgia. He said they refused to give him an explanation. This happened, he said, despite him holding a residence permit valid until the end of 2022, having proof of a negative PCR test, and being fully vaccinated.
‘It is not the first time that they’re discriminating against Iranians specifically’, Farhad told OC Media. He said that during 2014-2015, he was unable to see his parents in Georgia for over two years because ‘they completely stopped issuing visas to Iranians’ during that period.
On 22 September, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh condemned Georgian border officials denying Iranians entry into the country as 'discriminatory and inappropriate conduct', and added that the issue will be 'seriously followed up' through diplomatic channels.
The Iranian spokesperson claimed that Georgia had ‘imposed restrictions and a discriminatory entry ban’ for Iranians.
Iranian officials made similar criticisms several years ago. In December 2018, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said that Georgia had denied entrance for up to 200 Iranian citizens despite their documents being in order.
The statement was followed up by the Iranian Ambassador in Tbilisi Seyed Javad Ghavam-Shahidi holding a press conference saying that Georgia was in breach of the 2010 Iranian-Georgian visa-free agreement, and hinting that it could be ‘revisited’.
In a recent report, the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), a Tbilisi-based watchdog group, noted that the practice of racial profiling among Georgian border officials ‘starts right at the border checkpoints’.
The report also noted that the Georgian government has an opaque policy of denying residence permits to Iranians by citing non-specific reasons of ‘state security’.
Meanwhile, for Iranian residents like Farhad, this all comes alongside the bitter sting of rejection from a place that they consider home. ‘All of my adult life has been in Georgia’, Farhad said. ‘I’ve built my life [in Georgia] but right now, it’s not the best place to be’.
OC Media has reached out to the Georgian Foreign Ministry for comment.