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Scandal in Abkhazia over rainbow flag in school

24 November 2021
Notes in the classroom where the lesson took place: 'Symbols of tolerance', 'International Day for Tolerance'. Photo via Facebook.

The use of the rainbow flag in a lesson on tolerance in a school in Abkhazia has led to a backlash, with some parents accusing the school of ‘promoting gay propoganda’.

On 16 November — International Day for Tolerance — A teacher at the Second Sukhum (Sukhumi) School printed out various symbols of tolerance to promote the concept, including the rainbow flag. 

After photos from the class were shared on social media, the families of several of the children complained to the police, after which an investigation was launched. 

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said that inspectors had visited the school and discussed the incident with the school management and the class teacher, but had concluded that there had been no violation of the law.

‘As was established during the inspection,  the class teacher used visual materials to decorate the blackboard, including an image of a rainbow flag — “a symbol of peace that reigns on Earth” ’, the ministry said in a statement.

Astandy Tarkil, the head of the Sukhum Department of Education, also attended the meeting with the school representatives and law enforcement officers.

The incident has been widely discussed in Abkhazia, with many negative reactions.

A voicemail in which a teacher from another school sharply criticised the tolerance class was widely shared through WhatsApp. The teacher called such a class a ‘degradation in society’.

'Where are we going? Where is our own, Abkhazia?!' the woman exclaimed while urging people to subscribe to bloggers who promote ‘Muslim values’.

One of the parents at the school complained to OC Media that ‘now, even primary school children know the word “gay” — all thanks to adult but not so smart people’.

Another student’s mother, however, said that children would learn about queer people one way or another, although she still said she would not want her children to be told about the topic at school.

According to the mother of one student who attended the class where the incident occurred, the teacher that conducted the class has suffered psychologically because of the backlash.

Aida Ladaria, head of the Amshra Foundation, also suggested that the incident could harm attitudes towards non-governmental organisations in Abkhazia, as the term ‘tolerance’ is often associated with NGOs.

The primary geographic terms used in this article are those of the author’s.  For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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