Protests against the "law on foreign agents" continue in Georgia. Opinions of those opposed
Georgian society against foreign agents law
Protests following the introduction of the draft law “On Agents of Foreign Influence” to Parliament continue in Georgia.
Scientists, artists, athletes, doctors, teachers and professors, writers, bloggers, and students have been making statements in public spaces for a week now. All are unanimous that they believe this law to be a copy of a similar Russian law, and even some loyal to Georgian Dream are opposed.
Mzekala Shanidze, linguist, academician:
“Such projects as the creation of a national corpus of the Georgian language and the beginning of the digitization of Caucasian languages and cultures could not be done without foreign funding. We must also remember that the creation of the first Georgian alphabet font for computer technology and the creation of the first Georgian web pages were done with the support of a foreign organization — the George Soros Foundation, whose name is routinely smeared.
This anti-social bill, if it becomes law, will seriously harm Georgia’s European aspirations. Such laws are characteristic of authoritarian regimes, which we see in the example of Russia.”
Rismag Gordeziani, Academician:
“There is no need to adopt this law, in my opinion. […] When all foreign partners ask us to refrain from adopting this law, ask why. What’s the problem? […] In my opinion, this is actually the result of the wrong law being passed at the wrong time.”
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Nino Okribelashvili, Deputy Rector of Tbilisi State University
“They asked me, and I will answer openly …
Yes, in America there is a law that protects the country from the enemy, in particular, from the influence of Nazi and Communist ideologies (the latter of which lives on in Russia and China).
Yes, in the USA there is also a foreign agents registration act. It would be understandable to me if we passed such a law against the northern enemy, who occupies 20% of our territory, or against his ideology.”
Nino Dobordzhinidze, Rector of Ilia State University:
“Today the German Ambassador also made a statement, and one of our strategic partners has warned that the law “On Agents of Foreign Influence” would hinder our integration with the European Union. This means that the adoption of this law will hurt us: t will lead to the stigmatization of civil society, and it will tarnish the reputation of our foreign donors, which will affect the financing of various projects. Both will have dire consequences for human rights, education, culture, health care, social welfare, small business and other areas.”
Tinatin Stambolishvili, Associate Professor, JIPA:
“It will affect all sectors of society if we don’t stop the persecution of free thought and the destruction of civil society. One gets the impression that Russia does not need to send tanks into Georgia at all — it will get what it wants with a single law. Not a single bullet will have to be fired to completely subjugate Georgia. They will achieve their cherished goal of leaving us in their orbit.
Nana Sharikadze, Rector of the Tbilisi State Conservatory:
“The European Union is my/our goal. Full integration into its structures is my/our goal in itself, and nothing should prevent this. If this law “On Foreign Agents of Influence” hinders us, we should not adopt it. Those who are obsessed with the Soviet past, re-read Mikhail Javakhishvili (shot as an agent in 1937): “… we are for the North, or for the East, or for the West, disputes and reasoning about this are fruitless and harmful. Wherever the country turns, we must turn our backs and move westward with invincible force. This path no longer leads to Moscow and Petrograd, but crosses the Black Sea and crosses the Danube valley. We were supposed to be fed with European culture, and not in Moscow-Petrograd, mixed with Mongolian poison rather than with the sacred drink of the West … “Mikhail Javakhishvili, 1918.
Archil Kikodze, writer, photographer:
“This bill is a complete disaster. I think society should not allow this to be accepted. It will bring us isolation, the hunt for “spies” and, consequently, “witches”, thousands of unfortunate people and authoritarianism. There will be no European integration.”
Aleko Shugladze, writer:
“I have not been in this situation in a long time: the course of my country, my homeland does not at all correspond to my desires. I want Europe and I want the East. I love them both. I am filled with their culture and experience. I love both poles, I give the government a wide choice … We have such a variety of directions, and these lead us to Moscow! I don’t need Moscow! I don’t need Russia today! This place is poisoned. I don’t like Lavrov [Russian Foreign Minister]! He came to India, they laughed at him, booed him. As I understand it, Surgut will soon be my homeland, and I want to get to it earlier and scream hysterically, if you like, even historically: “Down with sawdust and kerosene schools!” Down with the black bread in which I found a mouse! Down with the Soviet bar and ice cream! All that’s left is jeans and a T-shirt!
Dato Gorgiladze, writer:
“Not only the adoption of this bill, but even its initiation is evil and says a lot about the plans and intentions of its initiators.
However, an intelligent citizen understands that the most shameful and indelible label of an agent of influence of a foreign (actually very familiar) country is attached to the one who came up with this law, and the one who will support it.
Nika Tavadze, actor:
“Some of the authors of the law probably do not even remember that we already went through this once — in the early 1990s. The first thing that caused the greatest split in the country was the search and hunt for agents of the Kremlin, which was not entirely true, but caused real paranoia, drove people crazy. We could only hear from the TV who was whose agent. Don’t make us live in this paranoia.”
Levan Songulashvili, artist:
“This “Russian law” is destructive and has nothing to do with the American one. There was plenty of time to pass this law, but why in 2023? Why today and now?! And why would bot trolls with Cyrillic names claim that this law is Russian when they criticize the West in the previous post?! Read the law, consult with lawyers, send the text to professionals for evaluation. If you do not agree with the parents in the family, this does not mean that you are their enemies. Even if the Georgian Dream electorate doubts this law, this should not mean that they will lose the “Georgian Dream family”. The interests of the state must come first, and then the interests of the party!”
Nika Machaidze, musician:
“One question arises – people under the influence of Russia, they are not agents of influence?! What are they doing?! This means that we are returning to the 1930s. No one will protect anyone, because there will be no more NGOs. If someone has children who study in the West, then these children are agents of foreign influence? Those who think they are acting in the interests of Georgia should not pass this law. And if they do it for Russia, then it’s their choice. We must oppose the adoption of this law.”
Tamriko Chokhonelidze, singer:
“Slowly we will be kicked out of our own country. This question worries me a lot. It is one thing that this law was initiated, but I would say that if someone supports it, then it is signed first of all under the Russian dictatorship. I have a feeling that the authorities are afraid of freedom, free will and critical thinking. Therefore, they are doing all this to tell Europe: “No one should dream that Georgia will ever return to Europe.” They tell you not to raise your voice or they will destroy you.”
Shota Arveladze, former player of the Georgian national team:
“Our future can only be European. From the day of independence, for better or worse, we have been able to become a better country, we should not create problems for ourselves at such a crucial stage. It is not up for debate. Almost a century ago, the Soviet Union considered Sandro Akhmeteli, Mikheil Javakhishvili and other great Georgians to be agents and spies, whose correct and patriotic activities history finally gave an accurate assessment of. No law or government can have the leverage to denigrate a person as an agent because of a different opinion or activity, we have left that in the past. The law aims to limit competition, dissent and freedom.”
“Dynamo Tbilisi, as one of the main bearers of Georgia’s identity, is and will be one of the main driving forces for the self-expression of the Georgian people. Our club, a large Dynamo family, supports Georgia’s European path. We view this initiative [on the adoption of a bill on foreign agents] as a threat to our path. Our football, like our country, needs development, and most of the population of Georgia has repeatedly noted that they see the possibility of this development only in the European family. The European Union should be one of the main goals of our country, and the legitimacy of this path is not subject to revision.”
Football club “Gagra”:
“Gagra chooses Europe, because only in Europe is it possible to get rid of the heavy burden of moving [from the territory of Abkhazia]. Because Europe is the only way to expel the occupier from our land. Because Europe is the only hope that one day we will return to our home in Gagra and accept our rivals in our arena. Because Georgia itself is Europe!”
Goga Chanadiri, photographer
“With all our other problems, I don’t understand why the government electrifies the political environment with this bill and deepens polarization. We do have more important issues than this bill. This is really confusing. And this naive or malicious attempt to compare this law with American law … Stop discussing this bill and do a little more for the state, for democracy, for entry into the European Union.”
Guram Sherozia, blogger, traveler:
“In 2009 I went to Europe for the first time. I had had this dream since childhood, but I had no money. But I found those who were ready to sponsor me. The first impression was amazing — the order, mentality, level of education, views, respect for people and rights, business mindset, etc. Every time I went there, I was filled with new qualities, my mind opened in a new way, there was more and more work and I took on more and more difficult tasks. I am from the ’90s. I remember the path we took after we made friends with Europe. Without any arrogance, I will simply say that those who prefer Europe’s “northern neighbor” are just scumbags and pests. Even dialogue with them is meaningless.”
The Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia has confirmed a draft law according to which non-governmental and media organizations that receive foreign funding must be registered as “agents of foreign influence”.
As of 27 February, two bills have been registered in Parliament. Both were initiated by the People’s Power movement, which has become famous for its harsh anti-Western statements. The movement includes deputies who were previously members of the ruling party. Experts and many in the public view the movement as fully affiliated with the authorities.
Members of the movement openly declare that it was created in order to “tell people the truth about the West, which is trying to go to war and open a second front.”
The draft law is being criticized by everyone except the ruling party — the local NGO and media sector, the opposition, experts and politicians who were once on the side of Georgian Dream and even the President of Georgia.
The bill is heavily criticized by Georgia’s Western partners — various international organizations, US senators and European lawmakers. The US Ambassador bluntly called it “Russian law.”
US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, says that the proponents of the law will be held responsible for risking the future of the country.
On February 20, Georgian senators Jeanne Shaheen and Dick Durbin visited Georgia. Shaheen stated at a press conference on the “foreign agents” law that it was similar Russian legislation of the same type.