Ninia Kakabadze, Tbilisi
They are everywhere, closely watching everything and nothing escapes their attention – they can disrupt university conferences and exhibitions; burst into a private apartment, where a workshop is underway; demand execution of people just because they’ve expressed their opinions in the social network.
They have different names. Some of them are members of a particular organization and they are paid for their threats and aggression. Others serve ‘a holy idea’ with an absolutely unmercenary enthusiasm.
They call themselves patriots and Christians. They say, the main idea they serve is the homeland and its defence.
They defend their homeland against all those, who have different ethnicity, sexual identity, religious belief. In the name of the country and Christianity they are ready to execute everyone, who is not a virgin or an obedient wife; who does not propose toasts during a feast or dresses in a different manner, etc.
Once you decide not be like them, they will create not only discomfort to you, but will also pose a physical threat.
A scientific conference on gender and sexual issues, organized by the Gender Institute jointly with ‘Identity’ organization, was to be held at Tbilisi-based Ivane Javakhishvili State University, last week.
Immediately upon dissemination of this information, Facebook was literally flooded with the appeals to prevent LGBT propaganda in the university. Rallies were planned and threat letters were spread. It came to a point that the organizers were to cancel the event, in order to ensure the participants’ security.
Neither the university administration, and most importantly, nor the state, managed to ensure safe conduct of the conference at the higher education institution!
It was also a problem to hold discussion on subaltern issue at another higher education institution –Iliauni.
Patriot extremists literally condemned to death Michael Khundadze, the director of ‘Studio Campus’ organization, who had a narrow escape a few months ago. He was conducting a workshop on Nietzsche for students in his apartment. Young people, living in the neighborhood, who caught a few words through the open window, decided that it was the ‘Satanists” meeting. One of them burst into Khundadze’s apartment and stabbed him.
It is obvious that such an extremism has particularly gained a foothold in Georgia in the recent years. No matter what we claim, we are still afraid of them, they change our agenda. Before scheduling any event, many of us would think of whether it irritates them or not.
After the clergymen and “patriots’ dispersed with crosses, ‘stools’ and curses in the name of the Holy Virgin, a peaceful rally three years ago, on May 17, 2013 [The International Day Against Homophobia], we no longer dare holding rallies on that day. We sit at home in fear, hold conferences in small offices, whisk out paintings home, because their content may turn out to be unacceptable for extremists.
Social space is the only place where we are still afloat. Despite the fact that our personal mail boxes are overfilled with letters containing threats and curses, this is still an area protected from direct physical violence.
Why are we afraid, when they should be afraid?!
The matter is that the state does not protect our freedom of expression. That’s where a problem lies. Extremists and aggressors know, they will get away with it. Government’s inaction allows them lay violent hands on us, restrict our freedom and take away our conference halls.
Everyone agrees that education is the only way out of this situation.
But what education are we talking about, if the Education Ministers undergo consultations with the Patriarchate on what to teach the children in schools and textbooks are compiled with due account for Patriarchate’s censorship.
We are well-aware that the education reform, which actually has not even been launched, is a long-term process. Therefore, we have sort of given up on it. However, that is not a right position.
Though, for the time being, we have no power and resources to implement the education reform inside the schools, at least, we can teach children tolerance from the outside. The disciples should, at least from a school window, take notice that there are people, who are different from us and whom we should also love. Therefore, civil activity, peaceful rallies on the Day Against Homophobia, educational exhibitions and conferences, are of particular importance. We – the civil society, should do what the government fails to do.
The state always keeps silence, but it is particularly silent during the election year. Why?
The team, that is in Georgian government today, has come to power on a wave of hatred. In their campaign addresses, the leaders and speakers pledged to defend their homeland from a spread of ‘sodomy’ and ‘prostitution’, i.e, from everything that may contribute to ‘losing Georgians’ national identity.’
Given such a rhetoric of the ‘Georgian Dream’ representatives, why should one be surprised that the aggressors feel safe? After all, a certain part of government shares the extremists’ views. Today, the government’s inactivity morally and legally legitimizes the aggressive ‘activity’ of those people.
Another part of government, representing itself as a democratic force, is active only in the social space or in separate televised appearances. They condemn religious and patriotic extremism, confining themselves to making statements, writing Facebook posts, sharing solidarity photos and getting hearts for that.
What have we finally got? As a result, we are slowly and gradually conceding our freedom, making compromises in order to protect ourselves from the abusers. We neither go in the street on May 17, nor do we hold any conferences. We disappear, hide, fear, while they are growing in number. Meanwhile, an undeveloped and failed state protects the religious-patriotic extremists as there are many of them. After all, there are the elections ahead.