Tbilisi City Hall seeks to obstruct Armenian genocide commemorative event outside Turkish Embassy
A rally to commemorate Armenian genocide victims is annually held outside the Turkish Embassy in Tbilisi on 24 April. The ethnic Armenians of Georgia thus pay tribute to those who died in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1918.
However, this tradition may be broken this year, since Tbilisi City Hall seeks to thwart the event.
The Armenian Community of Georgia has received a City Hall notification letter, saying that the Tbilisi Transport Company regarded such an event ‘undesirable’, as it could possibly hamper vehicle traffic.
The Armenian Community of Georgia doesn’t perceive this notification letter as a ban and is not going to change its plans.
As Sandro Ohanov, the head of the Armenian Community press office, told JAMnews, the letter was ‘unpleasant’ and ‘unexpected’:
“We don’t perceive it as a ban, since we are entitled to hold a rally under the Constitution. We’ve been holding similar events in that very place since 2005 and we have never had such a problem before. Whether this rally is ‘desirable’ or not should be determined by the Constitution, which provides for the citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression, rather than by the Transport Company.”
Ohanov hinted that he had ‘certain assumptions’ with regard to City Hall’s response, that it could possibly be a political decision, though he didn’t expand on the issue. “These are just assumptions. We don’t want to intensify the situation between the countries,” said Ohanov.
The Armenian Community of Georgia has notified City Hall, as prescribed by the legislation, about its plans to hold a rally outside the Turkish Embassy in Tbilisi.
Under the Georgian Constitution, everyone is entitled to hold a peaceful rally, unless it is against the country’s national interests. There is no need for a special permit to hold a rally, but it is mandatory to notify the local municipality on holding a rally so that it doesn’t coincide with any other event. The municipality should facilitate the rally. The municipality is not required to respond to the notification on holding a rally, unless there is some other event scheduled for the same time at the same venue. In this case, City Hall should send a response letter to offer another place for a rally venue.
No other event has been scheduled for 24 April outside the Turkish Embassy building. Thus, City Hall’s response wasn’t required.
— A protest march on 23 April in Tbilisi will mark the beginning of commemorative events, dedicated to the 102nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The participants, holding torches and candles, will march from Vake Park to the Turkish Embassy building. Another protest manifestation will be organized outside the Turkish Embassy at midnight on 24 April. The participants will call on the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian genocide, as well as will address the Georgian authorities with the same appeal.
— On 14 April, the Armenian public and civil organizations appealed to the Georgian Parliament, the President and the Prime Minister, requesting them to consider the Armenian genocide recognition issue.
- Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions where they died of starvation and thirst.
Armenia says up to 1,5 million ethnic Armenians died in that time and refers to the events as genocide.
- Turkey rejects the use of this term, maintaining that many of the dead were killed in clashes during WWI and that thousands of ethnic Turks and Kurds were also casualties in the conflict.
- Georgia hasn’t officially recognized the Armenian genocide.