The chair of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, Irakli Kobakhidze, has called for the organisers of the upcoming Tbilisi Pride march to cancel the event.
In an interview with TV Pirveli on Thursday, Kobakhidze said that ‘given the full context, these people should be refused to hold this event’. He did not specify what he meant by ‘full context’.
On Tuesday, Levan Vasadze, an ultra-conservative campaigner and businessperson, issued an ultimatum to the authorities, saying that if Tbilisi Pride was not canceled within 10 days, protests would start and the situation would escalate.
The previous attempt to organise a Pride march in Tbilisi, in July 2019, was thwarted after campaigners including Vasadze threatened violence against marchers and the police announced that they would not protect the event. No event was organised in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to OC Media, the director of Tbilisi Pride, Giorgi Tabagari, said that Kobakhidze had ‘responded very badly to Levan Vasadze’s ultimatum’.
‘It was a sad statement, especially given that it is the chair of the country’s ruling party saying this. This is a person who is a co-author of the Constitution of Georgia. We do not live in a country where permission is required for public assembly’, Tabagari said.
‘It is a very bad precedent from the government that they turn a blind eye to the threats of this man [Levan Vasadze].’
Queer people are among the most marginalised groups in Georgia. According to the 2019 Caucasus barometer survey, 24% of the public reported they would least like a homosexual as a neighbour.
Attempts by queer rights activists to organise public demonstrations have frequently been met by violence.
Some queer rights campaigners have advocated for less visible approaches. ‘Public rallies help mobilise ultra-right groups and do not change the situation for queer people’, a spokesperson for the Equality Movement, another queer rights group in Georgia, said. ‘Therefore, our strategy as an organisation is not to take part in Tbilisi Pride, although individual activists may wish to take part’, they said.
The ‘March for Dignity’ is planned to take place along Rustaveli Avenue on 5 July.