The last time LGBTQ activists held a demonstration in Tbilisi, Georgia, in May 2013, they were violently attacked by orthodox, priests, and conservatives. People were hit and injured, and the assault reinforced the country’s already strong anti-LGBTQ culture.
Georgia has laws against LGBTQ discrimination, but as a social environment—and particularly in its Christian Orthodox elements—it’s aggressively antagonistic to its queer community. Still, activists have organized the country’s first pride parade, dubbed Dignity March, to be held in Tbilisi this week, one of three main events of Georgia’s first pride week, alongside a theatrical performance and an LGBTQ conference.
The organizers’ instructions for the march: Meet somewhere in Tbilisi, sometime between June 18 and 23. It’s a vague appointment for a public demonstration, but it’s as specific as they’re willing to get. In order to protect the safety of the participants, who are likely connected with existing queer networks, the day and time of the parade, and indeed its location, are being kept under wraps.
On June 14, LGBTQ activists who had gathered to demand authorization to hold the pride parade—which the interior minister denied on safety grounds—were attacked by anti-LGBTQ protestors. The event was seen as an indicator of the risk of holding the pride week events, and a reminder of the 2013 violence. As a result, questions were raised on whether the program should continue, especially since the government had not granted an official permit to march in the streets (suggesting instead other locations where participants’ safety could be guaranteed).
At the same time, however, prime minister Mamuka Bakhtadze had accused LGBTQ rights advocates of exaggerating the threats to their community.
While many NGOs both national and international have expressed solidarity with the pride organizers, and have raised concerns about queer safety in the country, some members of the LGBTQ community have criticized them for bringing up unnecessary threats and exposing the community to new risks.
The organizers moved forward with the program. Upon launching the first event on June 18, a statement on the Tbilisi Pride page on Facebook said it was important to hold the pride events despite intimidation because “today we are in danger not only for ourselves, but also the statehood of Georgia and the democratic system.”
So far, no further details are available on the Dignity March, except for the suggestion that the walk will likely not take place in the main streets of the city.