How safe is Georgia? Murder of Australian tourist scares foreigners
Is Tbilisi safe for foreigners and what to do if you are attacked
Shanai Brook, a 31-year-old Australian citizen, was found murdered in Tbilisi on July 31, 2021. She went out for a walk the day before and disappeared. Her body with traces of violence was found in Mtatsminda Park, in one of the central districts of Tbilisi.
Brook lived in Tbilisi for over a year, taught English, was fond of hiking and often wandered the hills in the vicinity of Tbilisi, along popular hiking trails.
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Shanai’s killer Brook has yet to be found. The murder of a young woman caused a huge wave of anger and fear both in Georgian society and among foreigners living in Georgia.
Several groups on Facebook, where expats (foreigners who moved to live in Georgia) have united, write that the crime situation in the country has deteriorated sharply.
The day after Shanai Brook’s death, one of the online defense stores sold out all of its stocks of pepper spray.
Is Tbilisi no longer a safe city?
Let’s start with a list of attacks on foreigners over the past few months:
● On July 5, a Polish citizen, 49-year-old Jacek Kolankiewicz, was stabbed in the chest, reports Formula-1.
● On July 30, Berlin DJ Phase Phatale was attacked in Batumi. The artist wrote on Instagram that the attack also had a homophobic motive.
● About a month and a half ago in Rustavi, two men raped a 25-year-old foreign woman who was hospitalized in shock.
● On May 5, a 26-year-old citizen of Kazakhstan, Asel Aytpayeva, was found dead under the windows of a residential building in Tbilisi. The official version is suicide, but the society is discussing the version of murder or driving to suicide.
● On July 14, an Azerbaijani blogger who opposed the government of Ilham Aliyev fell from the roof of the fashionable Rooms hotel. According to the investigation, it was also a suicide.
Foreigners living in Georgia openly tell reporters and on social networks that they have witnessed the growth of crime from their own experience.
“I felt like I was in the most peaceful and safe country. When my son came home at two or three in the morning, I was never afraid. But lately I have been trying not to go out alone at night, ”Arun Gupta, an Indian citizen who lives in Georgia with his family, told JAMnews.
Arun temporarily arrived in Georgia from Dubai in 2015, but stayed.
“I have lived in Dubai for 15 years. And having been in Georgia for only nine days, I decided that I should move here. Today Georgia is my homeland, ”he says.
However, Arun has been scared lately. In restaurants popular with tourists and foreign citizens living in Georgia, people tell each other about the events that they themselves or their friends and relatives have experienced.
“Two Indian students recently told me how a Yandex taxi driver forced them to have sex. The girls informed Yandex about this and reported to the police. But no one contacted them like that, ”says Arun.
Another incident, he said, happened about two weeks ago:
“A guy from Qatar was vacationing in Georgia as a tourist. At night, he went to photograph the views from the Peace Bridge, as he wanted special photographs. He was attacked by three or four men, severely beaten and robbed. He reported to the police, but there was no reaction from there. He has already left, and with very bad impressions. “
Over the past year, more and more stories of attacks have appeared on social media. For example, one of the recent posts:
“I was walking near Vake Park and in the area of Turtle Lake (the center of Tbilisi), when a stranger suddenly attacked me. I am fine, I was not hurt, but I managed to take a photo of him, and I post it here on the networks. If you see him, be aware of the impending danger. I also reported to the police and gave them this photo. “
Daria Golovina, 26, moved to Georgia from Russia in 2019. He is studying psychology online at a Russian university and teaches English and Russian in Georgia.
At first she felt “like in a fairy tale” in Georgia – she liked everything here, the people, the environment, she felt safe. However, in September 2020, a story happened to Daria, after which she no longer feels safe.
One Saturday Daria got on a bus in Freedom Square and headed for the outskirts of Tbilisi. She wanted to take a walk in nature in the fresh air.
She got off near the village of Shindisi, walked just a few meters, when an unknown man approached her. He said that it was unsafe to be here and it would be better to get into his car and he would take me to a more populated place.
“I looked around and saw only sheep and a few shepherds. I didn’t have the feeling that I was in danger, but I got used to the fact that in this country everyone is trying to help others, and I got into his car. He was a man under the age of 50, and as soon as I closed the car door, he was completely transformed. “Do you want sex? Do you want sex with me? Will you have sex with me? ” – he repeated it without stopping, like a madman.
Even now, as I tell this story, I feel that the stress still hasn’t left me. “
As a result, Daria was lucky. Her screams and threats worked, and the man let her get off at the bus stop. But since then, she stopped boldly walking around the suburbs of Tbilisi.
“Crimes happen everywhere”?
It is not yet known what the statistics of recent months are, but specific high-profile events do not give grounds for calm.
Many observers say that the exacerbation of the crime situation and the increase in aggression in society was the result of government policy.
“It should be understood that the death of Shanai Brook is a continuation of the events of July 5 [on that day, the March of Pride was declared in support of the rights of people of different gender orientations, crowds of aggressive radicals took to the streets, beating journalists and smashing the offices of non-governmental organizations – JAMnews].
The events of this day are not one-off. Ivanishvili (oligarch, shadow ruler of Georgia), Prime Minister Garibashvili – they encouraged the darkest instincts and impunity on behalf of the state. They were blessed by many priests. This beast from the Apocalypse rushes around the country and will not spare anyone. The ruling party is the creator of this, ”wrote Gigi Ugulava, one of the opposition leaders, on his Facebook page.
“I don’t think Georgia has a catastrophic situation with attacks on foreigners. But it cannot be said that nothing is happening and that the government has nothing to do with it. After the events of July 5, there is a clear tendency of aggression in the country towards those who are different. This applies not only to foreigners, but also to locals who wear bright clothes or if the man has an earring, ”says political observer David Zurabishvili.
“The July 5 events happened because the government directly encouraged violence against different people. After that, fertile soil was created for crimes motivated by xenophobia and homophobia. “
How to defend yourself in the event of an attack?
These days, women’s Facebook groups are actively discussing self-defense methods. Many say they go out with a stun gun and pepper spray. Others write that they are going to take up karate and other martial arts to protect themselves.
The most popular remedy is pepper spray. However, there is a danger of creating a danger to yourself if you use it in windy weather.
The second popular method is the stun gun. But the big question is where to buy it?
Groups also recommend downloading several apps to your phone. For example, from the police application 112, you can silently send a distress call by pressing one button.
Another useful application Face you is Georgia. Here you can enter trusted contacts in advance, and if you then press the SOS button, these people or organizations will automatically receive a message that you are in danger.
Another useful method is simply activating a live stream on Facebook, which can also save you from violence, because in many cases, the offenders are afraid of publicity.
Frequently attacked activist Nata Peradze uses Facebook live streams the most.
“Broadcasting on Facebook is one of the fastest and most reliable tools out there, but you need to make sure that your audience will immediately take action to help you. It is even important here not so much to actually shoot a video as to demonstrate what you are shooting. I always warn transgender women that in the event of an attack, they should immediately start filming or simulating filming, because most rapists really do not want publicity. ”