Waking up with hangover and watching #Ivanishvili talking about homophobia in his Independence Day speech. I hope I'm not still drunk
— Sh. Khinchagashvili (@lishtotah) May 26, 2013
No, he was not drunk.
What happened in Tbilisi on 17 May was a disgrace for Georgia. As I said in my previous post, under the facade of "democracy", we witnessed Middle Ages in the country aimed at European integration. However, the follow-up to 17 May brings a ray of hope that - after all - the *change* is happening, and Georgia may well recover from the defeat as a modern country and an example for the South Caucasus.
What is different, e.g. from last year homophobic attacks in Armenia, is the reaction of top level officials. Instead of silence or endorsement of attacks, you see PM using the Independence Day speech to condemn homophobia and re-assert equal rights of citizens, “regardless of ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation”. This is pretty groundbreaking for the whole region and beyond.
Says Ivanishvili: “I promise that we will stand against illegality,” Ivanishvili continued. “At last everyone in our country will be equal before the law regardless of ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.”
“I promise that no one will be punished for being different, for free opinion and speech,” he said. “We are devoted to our traditions, custom, but accepting and creating new is also part of our tradition. We should be dignified not only in being dedicated to our traditions, but also in respecting others' traditions and custom.”
“We should always be critical towards xenophobic and homophobic views locked up in pseudo traditionalism, as well as towards thoughtlessly imitating everything that is foreign and new,” Ivanishvili said.Do not expect anything similar in Armenia on 28th May - the First Republic Day.
I don't want to think how many decades (centuries?) it'll take before an Armenian PM publicly condemns #homophobia on independence day. Sigh***
— Sona Dilanyan (@SonaDilanyan) May 26, 2013
In related news. There has been reports on increased number of homophobic incidents in Tbilisi following 17 May IDAHO attacks. On the other hand, criminal charges have been filed against some attackers, including at least 2 priests.
Along with homophobic rally, there has been a “No to theocracy” one. Great photostory is available on Civil.ge (selected photos below). Hilarious internet memes, especially “taburetka” related, are in abundance.
*A demonstrator at No to Theocracy rally at the monument to mother tongue holds a banner reading "No to Religious Nationalism". Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge
*A demonstrator at No to Theocracy lies on the ground holding a banner reading: "Why don’t you run over us directly with your SUVs instead of chasing us with stools and nettles" – the banner makes a reference to a recent debates in which some senior Orthodox clerics were criticized for driving luxury cars in the country with large number of socially vulnerable population. Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge
*A demonstrator at No to Theocracy rally holds an image depicting a priest with a stool - one of those numerous cartoons that became Internet memes in Georgia, originating from those videos and photos from the May 17 homophobic violence in downtown Tbilisi, which show an Orthodox priest, father superior at Ioane-Tornike Eristavi Monastery Iotam (Irakli) Basilaia grabbing a stool and chasing gay rights activists. Father Iotam is one of those two clerics which are facing criminal charges in connection to the May 17 developments. Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge
Of course, it will be interesting to see how this will develop. Whether the people and leadership of Georgia will have enough determination to challenge Georgian Orthodox Church’s domination and interference into secular affairs. And whether the rule of law and Constitution, rather than “traditions” and religious dogma will prevail. Good luck, Georgia !!
Part I: Victory for homophobes. Defeat for Georgia
Part II: LGBT activists under attack in Tbilisi: Georgian police and politicians
Part III: Criminal church: Georgian Orthodox Church incited and led anti-gay attacks in Tbilisi