Tuesday, 24 July 2007

'Gay' rally in Georgia cancelled

BBC just published an article on cancellation of "All Different - All Equal" event in Tbilisi, which I first reported in my post "Gay Parade in Tbilisi?" on 19 July 2007 and updated today with 'breaking news' (with additional background and follow-up info - in comments for that post). I thought it's worth republishing BBC's report in full, which is the exact reflection of my fears expressed there.

By Matthew Collin
BBC News, Tbilisi

An event promoting tolerance and cultural dialogue in Georgia has been cancelled, after rumours spread that it was in fact a gay parade.

The highly influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church spoke out against the event.

Organisers told the BBC they feared that the participants could have been attacked if it went ahead.

Gays have come under attack in former Soviet republics, with the Orthodox Church one of their main critics.

Since false rumours spread that the planned event was a demonstration for homosexual rights, the organisers say they have received large numbers of abusive telephone calls and emails, some making threats of physical violence.

Anti-gay feelings

The event was to have been held in the Georgian capital next week as part of a Europe-wide campaign against intolerance, called "all different, all equal".

But it was cancelled on Tuesday amid fears for the safety of the young people taking part. The organisers, a human rights organisation called Century 21, say they are victims of what they describe as disinformation and lies broadcast by Georgian television channels.

The head of the Georgian Orthodox church had also warned that any rally involving sexual minorities would cause widespread offence and possibly lead to physical confrontation.

Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values.

Although homosexuality is legal, it is widely regarded as immoral. Gay rights activists in Georgia say homosexuals are often the targets for abuse and physical violence.

For further details, read also Gay Parade in Tbilisi? and accompanying comments.

Details of "All Different, All Equal" campaign are available here


artmika said...

Onnik Krikorian at Oneworld Multimedia has relevant post Homophobia in the South Caucasus

Anonymous said...

Really sorry to hear about that! :(

artmika said...

Georgian Media Invent Gay Pride Rally
By Anna Kamushadze
The Messenger

When the NGO Century 21 planned an event for young people to celebrate Georgia’s diversity and encourage acceptance of those who aren’t like themselves, they had no idea they would be forced to call it off after media mistakenly portrayed it as a gay pride parade.

“This was a demonstration targeted at youth for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, where children could have shown their views on mutual respect and love with their songs, pictures, and creativity,” head of Century 21 Paata Gachechiladze told The Messenger.

According to Gachechiladze, the rally, part of the Council of Europe’s “All Different, All Equal” campaign for diversity and human rights, has been organized in dozens of countries since 1995. It was held for the first time last year in Georgia.

This Sunday, explained Gachechiladze, they were planning to have young people illustrate their takes on diversity up and down Rustaveli Ave. sidewalks.

Head of NGO Century 21
Paata Gachechiladze
“Unfortunately, despite our intentions, in Georgia, unlike in the other countries, this activity took on an entirely different persona, and because of that we’ve been forced to call it off,” Gachechiladze stated.

The imbroglio began with an article in the Georgian newspaper Alia entitled, “Pederasts are Getting Ready for a Parade in Tbilisi.” Alia journalist Irakli Mamaladze wrote that his paper had exclusive information about a “gay office” in Tbilisi. He went to the office, the article recounts, but no one opened the door. He then went downstairs, where Century 21—unaffiliated with the gay rights NGO, called Inclusive Foundation—is located.

Mamaladze claims that he interviewed Keti Melkadze, a Century 21 representative, and based the whole article on her statements.

Gachechiladze says that Melkadze only identified herself and the organization to the journalist, and that the purported interview is entirely fabricated.

The Messenger was unable to reach Mamaladze at Alia’s offices for comment.

The Alia article claims that Melkadze said Century 21 was working with Inclusive on the rally, and that both religious and sexual minorities would be in the demonstration.

Inclusive declined to provide information for this article, citing the problems the local media has already created for them.

Mamaladze goes on to write that this is just the first parade for the Georgian gay community. He has unofficial information, the article says, that they’ve reached an agreement with the president and will hold several parades in the capital.

“Let’s just see how ready our country will be to host a gay parade. But if the government gave them permission to do so, nothing can prevent them. Moreover, our police will defend the security of the pederast men decorated with jingling jewelry,” Mamaladze writes in his article.

The media coverage took off from there. Rustavi 2 aired a report, misinterpreting Century 21’s logo as a gay rights advocacy message.

A radio station in North Ossetia broadcast, “Saakashvili, experiencing a strong allergy to all things Russian, old-fashioned, and imperial, has given an exhortation to allow homegrown sodomites and a many-colored assault of world pederasty on the streets and prospects of Tbilisi.”

The radio station asserted that invitations have been sent to the Armenian and Azerbaijani Diaspora to include an ethnic element, and said that an anonymous source in the provisional government of South Ossetia confirmed that Dmitry Sanakoyev, the head of the Tbilisi-backed temporary administrative unit, might participate.

Even the BBC picked up the story, saying “organizers told the BBC they feared participants could have been attacked if [the gay rally] went ahead.”

The Patriarchate of Georgia was swept along with the baseless media furor, issuing a statement saying, “The nation that does not ban incorrect sexual orientation and lifestyles is always condemned by God.” A representative of the Patriarchate called the event an “exhibition of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The Patriarchate urged officials to call off the non-existent gay pride march, warning that such a controversial event could inflame tempers.

“Knowing the extremely negative attitude of society to this procession, I appeal to the leadership of Georgia and the organizers of the event, and say that it is possible that such an action will provoke physical confrontation that could lead to tragic results,” the statement read.

Century 21 was caught in the middle. According to the organization’s statement, staff members have been receiving threatening emails and telephone calls. Their safety and reputation have been jeopardized, said Gachechiladze.

“The filthy gossip of one journalist caused such a big mess. That edition of Alia disappeared from the stands after the article was printed, but the reputation and name of Georgia was insulted,” Gachechiladze says.

In a visit to Georgia at the end of February, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg felt the need to comment on homophobia in Georgia.

“Homophobia is not a part of a modern society which is oriented towards democracy and human rights’ protection…From this point of view, we think the government must be a leader in resolving problems. It must assist people in becoming more informed and educated in this area.”

So far, the government has remained silent.