Thursday, 19 July 2007

Gay Parade in Tbilisi?

***Breaking News update (24 July 2007): After all histeria and homophobia surrounding this event (see my comments below) which aimed at promoting Equality and Tolerance towards disadvantaged and minority groups, and which was, in fact, not "Gay Parade" at all, but rather broader event organised by Council of Europe in Georgia within their campaign "All Different - All Equal ", the event got cancelled by one of organisers and apparently will not go ahead. Very sad news, indeed...

Sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? I felt the same reading the news received via Kornelij Glas, in the first instance. Here is the story.

Rosbalt Russian news agency broke the news yesterday on upcoming Gay Parade in Tbilisi. I intentionally waited for some time (almost a day) before publishing this post, waiting for any confirmation from independent sources, other news or gay-related agencies or institutions. None so far…

News report was based on Georgian “Rustavi2 TV” report and suggested that there will be first-ever Gay Parade in Tbilisi on 29 July 2007. Based on TV report, Rosbalt stated that according to organisers of the Tbilisi parade, it will differ from similar Gay Pride events in other countries, without elaborating on details. Organisers aim at “stirring up not only sexual minorities, but also ethnic and religious minorities, promote their integration with the majority”. As indicated, it will be the first time ever when representatives of LGBT community will march through Tbilisi streets.

The route of the parade will begin from the State Philharmonic Hall in the centre of Tbilisi and will end up in one of city squares on the banks of the river Kura.

“Everyone is different – everyone is equal” – this will be the logo of the day, and many NGOs have already prepared various souvenirs, posters, T-shirts.

As common in case of many blog or news sites, this sort of news led to a sea of comments from ‘concern citizens’ full with homophobia, verbal abuse and ‘conspiracy theories’. I will not waste my time on reflecting those comments – same old s**t.

I still have some doubts about the authenticity of this information and the nature of the event. It seems to me a bit strange of having Gay Parade as a common event with ethnic and religious minorities, not because I do not wanna see it, quite the contrary, I think all minorities should join forces in their fight for equality and universal human rights for everyone. However, knowing reality and mentality of people there, I doubt that, say, Armenians or Azerbaijanis as “ethnic minority” (not as “sexual minority”) will march with gay Georgians, or that Muslim people as “religious minority” will join the event, unless they are gay. I fear that due to widespread homophobia in Georgian society, like everywhere else in the region, ethnic or religious minorities may find marching with LGBT people or being related to them as too much of negative publicity and trouble for them. Besides, many of representatives of organised ethnic or religious minority groups are homophobes themselves, and along with representatives of various groups from ‘majority’ promote hate and intolerance towards gay people.

I want to be proved wrong (I wish!) and if I am wrong, I will salute organisers of the event. Again, as I mentioned before, this news needs to be confirmed by other sources, and I will certainly keep an eye on all developments in neighbouring Georgia.

Even though homophobia is widespread in society as a whole, the attitude towards gay people in Georgia, especially Tbilisi, is more open-minded and gay scene is more developed than in surrounding countries, as pointed out by Spartacus International Gay Guide (2007). In fact, Georgia was the first country in South Caucasus to decriminalise gay male sex in 2000.

If this information is true and Gay Parade goes ahead, it will be the first most significant event (after decriminalisation of gay male sex) in terms of gay rights movement not only for Georgia, but also for the whole South Caucasus, including Armenia and Azerbaijan.

7 comments:

artmika said...

As I suspected, the information about upcoming "Gay Parade" in Tbilisi circulated by Rosblat news agency, was not quite right. There will be an event in Tbilisi on 29 July 2007, but it won't be a Gay Parade per se.

Apparently, Council of Europe Office in Georgia is orginising a special event dedicated to the Council of Europe Campaign "All Different - All Equal" to be held on 29th of July (4 pm), in Tbilisi at Europe’s Square.

As expected, news on possibility of Gay Parade in Tbilisi was proved to be highly controversial and sensitive to the extent that Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General to Georgia Mr. Igor Gaon called for a press conference to provide explanations on the nature of event.

He dismissed the claimes that they are organising Gay Parade in Tbilisi. In fact, as he explained, within the Council of Euroope campaign "All Different - All Equal", there will be a concluding special event on 29 of July at Europe sq in Tbilisi, which aimed at people (especially younger generation) with disabilities, ethnic, religious and other minorities. Along with making graffiti images on the square, there will be also distribution of leaflets promoting tolerance towards minorities.

In relation to question about the possibility of sexual minorities taking part in this action, Mr Gaon said that this event is open to all, including representatives of sexual minorities, and he does not see any problem in it. "I am a representative of Council of Europe, and our standards are quite clear. We are against homophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism and so on", he added.
***
So called 'human rights' group in Georgia (approximate translation of the title of that NGO is 'Association for human rights for the whole Georgia') called for a boycott of the Council of Europe campaign due to the possibility of sexual minorities taking part in it. In its press release, this notorious group claimed that in past they succeeded in blocking of attempts to open a "blue cafe" in Tbilisi ["blue" is a reference to "gay" in post-Soviet countries] and orginising of gay parade.

They made the most rediculous 'geopolitical' statement: "This action will damage strategic interests of Georgia, since Abkhasia and South Ossetia would not like to be re-united with Georgia if there are gay parades there." (!)

One thing is clear - urgent medical help is needed for this group.

I'll keep an eye on any new developments and hope that the event in Tbilisi will pass without violence, in true spirit of equality and tolerance (fingers crossed!).

*based on NewsGeorgia (in Russian): http://newsgeorgia.ru/geo1/20070720/42019465.html
and
http://newsgeorgia.ru/geo1/20070720/42018854.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog! :) I was going to send you the url but i can never quite remember it for some reason...;)
This event in Tbilisi does sound like quite a good step forward even if it's not just gay pride, it's nice that they think about equality for everyone..:)
by the way, do you actually live in London or Armenia? i'm curious :)
Rhiannon.

artmika said...

both in Yerevan and London; right now in London :)

I really hope that the event in Tbilisi will go ahead as planned and in accordance with "All Different - All Equal". But you never know... will keep posted. I hope that the Council of Europe will organise similar events in Armenia and Azerbaijan too.

artmika said...

Head of Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II made a "statement" today about upcoming Council of Europe "All Equal - All Different" event in Tbilisi, with a possible participation of representatives of gay community in Georgia, along with other minorities. He condemned gay relationships as "perversion" and "terrible sin" and warned that their participation may result in "phyisical confrontation" (!!!). He then continued that in a country where "80% of population consider themselves religious" (?!), participation of sexual minorities in a public event will "offend religious feelings of absolute majority". He concluded by warning (again and again!) Gergian leaders and event orginisers that "knowing extremely negative attitude of majority of population", this "march of sexual minorities", if goes ahead as planned, may lead to "physical confrontations with tragic consequences".

He completely ignored Council of Europe representative's clarifications about the nature of event 2 days ago (see my comment above) which aims at promoting tolerance towards disadvantaged and minority groups, without any marches or parades, and without any specific reference to sexual minorities (although it is open to all).

No news, I suppose, but still... Instead of preaching peace, Georgian religious leader, in fact, provoking "absolute majority" towards physical violence against gay people. This sort of intolerance is one of the reasons that promotion of Equality is as vital as ever!

*based on NewsGeorgia (in Russian):
http://newsgeorgia.ru/geo1/20070724/42020573.html

Paata said...

Mika thanks for your attention to the events we were going through. I represent Inclusive Foundation a Georgian LGBT NGO. Was just looking at our websats and discovered link to this blog.

Please feel free to contact us whenever you will have some questions at info@inclusive-foundation.org

As for the aleged pride parade - you got all of it right. Don't even feel discussing this issue any more. But for the sake of clarity I would add that NO responsible for the organization of the event "Century XXI" cancelled the activity and announced that they just share office building block with us. We are now updating our media analysis that will be published in Georgian and English and will cover this event in detail. It will be published on our and ILGA's website.

Thanks also for covering gay life in Georgia. We actually updated Spartakus's data on Georgia and they messed it up. From ILGA website other group posted the correct version that you can copy from http://www.globalgayz.com/georgia-news.html#article1
It is information prepared by us and you can take it from this quick link.

And many thanks again.

artmika said...

Thanks Paata!

Good to hear from you and certainly would be great to keep in touch and posted. And thanks for updated info and link; will amend Georgia Gay Guide soon, accordingly.

artmika said...

Déjà vu: 2 years on, same scenario, same hysteria re imaginary "Gay Pride" festival in Tbilisi