Holding Dignity March became impossible
The concluding event of Tbilisi Pride – the March of Dignity - could not be held as planned due to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia’s (MIA) refusal to protect us from violent homophobic groups. Nevertheless, our team and a few of our closest supporters did not give up on public space entirely and organised a guerrilla rally outside MIA premises on July 8.
Up to a thousand individuals had registered to take part in the Pride March scheduled originally for June 22nd. However, on the 20th of June, following a night of turbulence in Tbilisi, our team made a painful but the only correct decision for that moment – to postpone the march.
Following relative stabilisation of political processes in the country, on July 6 we informed MIA that the new date of the Pride March would be July 8. Since we did not receive any response from them as to whether or not police would be present at the site of the march, on July 7 Tbilisi Pride team made a public announcement about the march planned for the next day, hoping that the Ministry would co-operate with us to ensure the participants’ security.
MIA representatives once again ignored our pleas for direct contact. On July 7, they conveyed to us via Public Defender: "You are free to act however you want, but there won’t be any co-operation.” The Ministry also refused to grant our request to transport hundreds of participants from gathering locations to the site of the march.
On the very same day, the Ministry told diplomatic missions and international organisations accredited in Georgia that Tbilisi Pride is “staging a provocation" and that they were not going to co-operate with us. MIA representatives and the ruling party leaders were also consistently attempting to delegitimise Pride - they openly dubbed us an opposition-run group.
MIA’s display of such an attitude was not a novelty in the process of organising Pride. In the past weeks, MIA senior officials and the Georgian Dream leadership have directly called on us at closed-door meetings to cancel the March of Dignity as they “saw risks" and could not protect us.
There is no doubt in our minds that MIA has complete resources at its disposal to ensure the safety of the March of Dignity – considering especially that they were informed of the planned event already in February. The ruling party simply does not have a political will to ensure its LGBTIQ citizens’ right of peaceful assembly.
Under such circumstances, it became impossible to hold such a public event with the participation of hundreds of people. Therefore, we canceled the march planned for the morning of July 8. However, LGBTIQ activists and allies did not completely give up on the public space, so we rallied in front of MIA headquarters.
The Georgian authorities’ actions vis-à-vis Tbilisi Pride constitute a firm backsliding in the protection of human rights. It is clear that the ruling team perceives allowing a brief and peaceful demonstration of LGBTIQ activists and allies in Tbilisi to be politically disadvantageous for itself; the authorities have shown us that fundamental human rights are neither protected in Georgia nor there is any political will for its protection.
Despite the above-mentioned challenges, we believe that we have achieved some significant results as well. In recent months, the visibility of the LGBTIQ community has increased and the society has been discussing LGBTIQ issues much more actively. With the support of international organisations, we exerted pressure on the Georgian authorities to implement reforms in several policy areas. Tbilisi Pride is continuing its work incessantly. We intend to implement a number of political, cultural, and social events in the coming months and years to help reduce homophobia and transphobia and contribute to the formation of a more equal and free environment for LGBTIQ persons.
The battle goes on!