Tag Archives: LGBT rights

Georgian priests and rightwing party promise to disrupt Gay Pride

JUNE 16 2021 (The Bulletin) — Georgian priests and leaders of the right-wing political party Unity, Essence, Hope promised to disrupt a Gay Pride march planned for the start of July. They have said that homosexuality runs against Georgian traditions and the march should be banned. Previous Gay Pride marches have been attacked by opponents of gay rights. 


— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Nationalists in Tbilisi attack people queuing to watch gay film

TBILISI/Nov. 8 (The Bulletin) — Right-wing nationalists in Georgia clashed with police outside a cinema in Tbilisi that was screening a film about a homosexual love affair.

At least one person was injured when protesters threw rocks at people queuing to watch the film at the Amirani cinema in central Tbilisi. Police dressed in riot gear arrested at least 20 people.

Eyewitnesses said that hundreds of anti-gay rights demonstrators blocked the road leading to the cinema.

“Long live Georgia!” and “Shame!” they shouted. Some demonstrators burnt a rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride. Many were holding crosses. The Orthodox Church, a powerful institution in Georgia, has denounced the film.

The Swedish-Georgian film ‘And then we danced’ documents a love affair between two male ballet dancers in Georgia’s national ballet. The film shows the difficulties of conducting a gay relationship in Georgia where conservative values are rooted into society.

Far-right supporters in Georgia have attacked Gay Pride events in Georgia previously and also targeted foreigners. Although the government and most of the population wants to join the EU, Georgia also has a reputation for sustaining a society which is suspicious of reform.

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream government have accused it of not doing enough to clamp down in homophobic sentiment in Georgian society. It has previously been supported by the Georgian Orthodox Church and also by nationalist parties.

On his Facebook page, the film’s director, Levan Akin, wrote that these were “dark times”. “Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out screenings,” he wrote.

‘And then we danced’ was released in Europe May and has won numerous awards.


— This story was first published in issue 428 of the weekly Bulletin.

Turkmen doctor retracts statement that he is gay

NOV. 6 (The Bulletin) — A Turkmen doctor who came out as gay on a video broadcast by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has recanted the information and said that it was falsised. Three days after coming out as gay, Kasymberdy Garayev, was summoned to a police station in Ashgabat. He left the following day and immediately distance himself from his earlier comments. Homosexuality is illegal in Turkmenistan.


— This story was first published in issue 428 of the weekly Bulletin

First lesbian to run for political office in Georgia

SEPT. 16  (The Bulletin) — Nino Bolkvadze, a gay lawyer, will compete for a seat in the Tbilisi City Council elections next month, the first lesbian to run for political office in Georgia. Ms Bolkvadze will run for the Republican Party, a staunchly pro-European party, in the election. Georgia is still regarded as a strongly conservative country with strong anti-LGBT rights movements.


— This story was first published in issue 344 of The Conway Bulletin, now called the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Sept. 24 2017.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2017

Moscow court halts Uzbek reporters extradition

AUG. 8 2017 (The Bulletin) — A court in Moscow suspended the extradition of Uzbek journalist Khudberdi Nurmatov after he said that he would be tortured and killed if sent back to Uzbekistan. Mr Nurmatov is openly gay, a crime in Uzbekistan. He was detained by police in July for allegedly breaking immigration rules. He has lived in Moscow since 2011 and has been trying to claim asylum. Uzbekistan has one of the worst media freedom records in the world.


Copyright ©Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 339, published on Aug. 13 2017)

Four transgender women attacked in Georgian nightclub

TBILISI, FEB. 8 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — An alleged gang of men attacked four transgender women in a nightclub just off Rustaveli, the main street in Tbilisi, once again triggering fears of a lack of acceptance in Georgia for alternative life- styles.

Transgender women have been targeted for attacks in the past couple of years, with several being killed.

The day before the latest attack a man was sent to prison for 13 years for killing a transgender woman in 2016.

But other social groups have also been attacked, including vegetarians, homosexuals and ethnic minorities.

Georgia wants to, ultimately, join the European Union but these hate crimes are likely to play against it. Georgia is renowned for having a deeply conservative society rooted in the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The Church, an important focal point for ordinary Georgians and their politicians, has campaigned against gay rights and has pushed for the ruling Georgian Dream coalition government to change the government to enshrine marriage between a man and a woman.


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 316, published on Feb. 10 2017)

Radicals attack transgender in Georgia

OCT. 16 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) – Human rights groups called for the Georgian government to do more to fight hate crimes after a transgender woman was badly stabbed in an apparent attempted murder. Georgia has seen a rise in attacks and marches by rightwing radicals over the past few years. Last month a group of nationalists marched through a street in the old town of Tbilisi taunting foreigners.


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 301, published on Oct. 21 2016)


Georgia’s Orthodox Church

OCT. 7 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) – >> I read earlier in the Bulletin that the Pope flew over to Tbilisi but wasn’t warmly received. This surprised me as I thought the Pope was generally greeted by massive grounds wherever he went.

>> You’re right. Georgians gave Pope Francis a luke- warm welcome. Staff at the Vatican had probably been expecting a far more friendly touch down but then Georgia has a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church.

>> So what actually happened in Georgia?

>> Essentially, although the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, greeted Pope Francis, he was made to feel unwelcome. Many Orthodox priests told their congregations to stay away from his Papal mass on the Saturday and a hardcore group of Orthodox believers followed him around shouting various slogans against the Catholic Church.

>> Right, the sound fairly active? Outside the Pope’s visit, is the Orthodox Church influential in Georgia?

>> Yes, very. Around 80% of Georgians identify themselves as Orthodox. The Patriarch, Ilia II, is one of the most powerful men in the country and is often turned to in times of crisis. He has brokered deals between rival political leaders. Presidents and prime ministers are careful to be seen attending church and meeting with the Patriarch. He is also a staunch conservative, holding views that represent those of many in Georgia.

The Georgian Orthodox is anti-gay rights and same sex marriage, for example. There are often Orthodox priests leading anti-gay rights marches.

And the Georgian Orthodox Church an incredibly influential body. Public opinion surveys consistently rank it as the most trusted public body in Georgia.

>> I see. But is the Orthodox Church involved any way in Georgia’s foreign policy?

>> Not officially. Georgia’s constitution states that the Orthodox Church is fully independent of the state. That said it has played a major role on occasion. After Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in 2008 over the disputed region of South Ossetia, it was the Patriarch who was able to reach out to the Russian side and begin to mend relations. He was in Moscow towards the end of 2008 to see the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexey II, for the last time. While he was there he also met up with Dmitri Medvedev, then Russia’s president. This was considered a vital first step towards pulling Georgia and Russia together.

>> So, Ilia II is definitely a bit of an all-rounded then. He seems to play a major role in domestic affairs, influencing public opinion, and also happy to deal in high level diplomacy in international affairs.

>> He’s certainly a major factor in modern Georgia. Watch out for his reaction to any issues before or after the parliamentary election in Georgia on Oct. 8.


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 299, published on Oct. 7 2016)



Georgian president blocks gay rights referendum

AUG. 9 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili blocked a petition calling for a referendum that sought to enshrine an outright ban on gay marriages in Georgia’s Constitution. Supporters of the petition had argued for a referendum on the issue to be held at the same time as a parliamentary election in October.


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 292, published on Aug. 12 2016)

Georgian anti-LGBT activists want referendum on blocking gay marriages

TBILISI, JUNE 12 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — Georgia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) gave preliminary approval for a referendum on enshrining the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman in the Georgian Constitution, setting up a potentially acrimonious clash between liberals and conservatives.

If activists manage to collect the 200,000 signatures needed to trigger a referendum it is likely that the vote would be held on the same day as a parliamentary election — Oct. 8.

It’ll be closely watched by the European Union. Georgia wants to join the European Union and has been lobbying for visa-free access but, among other issues, Brussels has said that Georgia’s attitude towards gay rights undermines its application.

Georgia’s society is broadly conservative and against gay rights, although it does have a vocal LGBT community. In 2013, a crowd attacked a gay rights march in Tbilisi injuring several people. A Georgian Orthodox priest was photographed wielding a stool as a weapon.

The proposed referendum was put forward by several MPs, including Sandro Bregadze, who had been a deputy minister within the Georgian Dream coalition and is known for his staunchly homophobic comments.

He told a press conference after the CEC approval that the referendum question he wants to put forward is: “Do you agree or not the definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of starting a family?”

Lika Jalagania, lawyer at Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center, later told The Conway Bulletin that there was a strong chance that the group lobbying for the referendum would be able to collect the 200,000 signatures.

“I really think that they will reach this number, bearing in mind the current homophobic attitudes of Georgian society”, she said.

On June 13, outside the US embassy in Tbilisi a group of gay rights campaigners were holding a vigil in support of the victims of a homophobic attack on a nightclub in Orlando two days earlier. At least 49 people died in the attack, one of the worst mass shootings in the US.

A 57-year-old activist who declined to be named said that mainstream Georgians’ attitude towards the LGBT community would not change.

“The Church rules our country and that is not good for us,” she said.


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 285, published on June 17 2016)