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Tbilisi Pride evacuates office after ‘receiving death threats’

19 June 2019
Queer rights activists calling for police protection for Tbilisi Pride on 14 June. (Mari Nikuradze / OC Media)

The organisers of Tbilisi Pride have evacuated their office after two of them received death threats from unidentified numbers. Several ultra-conservative groups organised marches in Tbilisi on Wednesday against Pride.

On 19 June, Giorgi Tabagari and Tamaz Sozashvili, both organisers of Georgia’s first queer pride, posted screenshots online on Wednesday of messages they said they received.

‘You are still holding the pride right? I know where your office is and where your home is. I’ll cut your head off and become a hero!’, said a message Tabagari posted.

Another threatening message posted by Tamaz Sozashvili said that he would be killed and queer people ‘will calm down’. ‘Tamaz you will die, they’ll find you dead in the night’, said the message.

The  Interior Ministry told OC Media that they had launched an investigation into the threats.

Queer rights group the Equality Movement was also urged to evacuate their office after ultraconservative groups announced they would hold a demonstration there.

Pride to go ahead

Ultraconservative groups, with priests among them, resumed preparations to disrupt Tbilisi Pride after activists reiterated on Tuesday that the event would not be cancelled.

In a statement on 18 June, Tbilisi Pride said that the government’s response to groups that were threatening them was insufficient and inefficient.

‘Georgia’s statehood and institutions are in danger’, they said, insisting they would hold the Pride event to force the government to protect human rights and fulfil its constitutional obligations.

On Wednesday, the Georgian Orthodox Church released a third statement about Tbilisi Pride, this time distancing themselves from the threats of violence.

The statement reiterated their ‘negative position’ on Tbilisi Pride but added that they distanced themselves from violent statements, both from priests and parishioners.

‘First of all, we call on priests to abstain from holding unsanctioned press briefings and statements and actions that contradict Christian teaching’, said the statement.

Homophobic and ultraconservative groups have continued to make open threats against queer people and call on them not to hold pride parade.

At a gathering of ultraconservative groups on Sunday, businessman Levan Vasadze urged the public to prevent the pride march from going ahead.

He announced plans to set up a ‘people’s legion’ to detain pride marchers and said the units would patrol the streets and cut through police lines during Tbilisi’s first pride.

They cancelled their plans to create the ‘legions’ after the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the ‘creation of an illegal formation’. However, they still insisted they would prevent Pride from taking place.

The Interior Ministry has continued to urge activists to cancel the event saying that the ministry could not guarantee its protection.

On Monday, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said that queer rights were not a ‘problematic issue’ in Georgia.

[Read more about Georgian Government’s stand on Tbilisi Pride on OC Media: Georgian PM says homophobia is ‘exaggerated’ following last week’s homophobic siege]

On 18 June Pride week was officially launched in Tbilisi and is to continue until 23 June. It will include cultural events, an international conference, and the pride march.

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