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Second family saved from eviction in Tbilisi as protests continue 

26 January 2024
A series of successful and attempted evictions this week have caused outrage in Georgia.

Georgia’s National Bureau of Enforcement has postponed the eviction of a second family in Tbilisi, as protests against a series of controversial evictions continue.

On Friday, protesters gathered outside the home of the Balakhadze family, who were due to be evicted later that day. The family includes Guja Balakhadze, a food delivery worker and the family’s primary breadwinner, his brother, who has disabilities, his elderly mother, and several children. 

The protest was organised by Khma (‘voice’), a left-wing movement, and was also supported by the May Student Movement, food delivery workers, several miners from Chiatura, and Varlam Goletiani, the leader of the grassroots group Saving the Rioni Valley.

Varlam Goletiani led the successful movement to prevent the construction of a large dam in western Georgia. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Tariel Mikatsadze, a miner from Chiatura, told the crowd on Friday that he had come to the protest directly from his night shift at the mine to express solidarity towards the families facing eviction. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The Enforcement Bureau announced their decision soon after the protest began outside the house in Tbilisi’s Vera District.

It follows a similar aborted eviction from a flat on Tbilisi’s Dadiani Street where protesters had gathered on Wednesday.

The protests began on Tuesday, as the Enforcement Bureau, with the help of the emergency services and police, successfully evicted the family of Marina Kharatishvili. During the eviction, 20 people were arrested as protesters clashed with the authorities.

One of the speakers at Friday’s protest, a child who was due to be evicted on Wednesday, referred to Kharatishvili’s eviction and the uncertainty it created for him and his family.

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‘I may have stayed in my home on the 24th, they didn't come, but before that, on the 23rd, [it felt as if] they evicted me along with Miss Marina.’ Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
The protests against this week’s evictions have drawn unprecedented attention to predatory lending and the role of commercial banks and the government. Advocacy for adequate housing had previously been minuscule in Georgia, mostly limited in recent years to students demanding adequate campus housing.

A university sit-in

Following the Enforcement Bureau’s decision to postpone Friday’s eviction, members of Khma, the May Student Movement, and several supporters marched to Tbilisi State University to continue their protest.

Students protesting at Tbilisi State University. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Students from the May Student Movement and their supporters occupied the main office of the university to demand a halt to foreclosures on families’ sole residences and the release of two men facing criminal charges for their roles in Tuesday’s demonstration.

They were demanding the release of Giorgi Khasaia and Akaki Chikobava — two activists from Khma. Chikobava is also an invited lecturer at the TSU.

The two are currently in pre-trial detention facing charges of damaging or destroying property as part of a group, punishable by three to six years in prison.

23 January demonstration against eviction in Tbilisi. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

‘Let the academic staff join us. Let the University go on strike until Giorgi Khasaia and Akaki Chikobava are freed from unlawful detention and the planned evictions are stopped’, their statement read. 

Khasaia and Chikobava have been accused of smashing the windows of a car belonging to the National Bureau of Enforcement, which enforces court rulings. The incident happened during an attempt by protesters to prevent an eviction in central Tbilisi on 23 January.

[Read more about Tuesday’s demonstration: Police clash with protesters attempting to block Tbilisi eviction

The Georgian Bureau of Enforcement car damaged during the 23 January demonstration. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

Chikobava and Khasaia did not strongly dispute the charges during their bail hearing on 25 January, but requested to be released on a bond of ₾2,000 ($750), which Tbilisi City Court judge Davit Kurtanidze denied.