By Quentin Choy
July 11, 2021
2021 Attacks in Tbilisi, Georgia
Along the Black Sea in the nation of Georgia, a cameraman named Alexander Lashkarava is dead. Lashkarava’s death followed his beating by around 20 people at a LGBT pride parade which was called off. His death raises concerns over global press freedom and LGBT rights abroad.
On July 5, the day of the proposed parade, hundreds of conservatives and religious Georgians protested and blocked the proposed LGBT event. These protests grew violent as around 60 journalists were attacked and beaten by protesters.
This kind of violence toward LGBT people in Georgia is not new. Attacks like this also occurred at gay pride parade attempts in the country.
A Violent History of Opposition
Georgia is a socially conservative nation, and is unwelcoming toward sexual minorities. Being a former Soviet-bloc country, Georgia still needs time to reach western standards of social freedom such as LGBT rights.
Even the presentation of the film And Then We Danced, a Swedish film about a love story between two male dancers was met with violence. In 2019, right-wing activists and Eastern Orthodox priests threw stones at film attendees and burned a rainbow flag while shouting at them.
Although discrimination is not allowed against LGBT people at the legal level, there is not a widespread notion of gay “pride” like in the United States and western nations.
According to a 2019 poll by OC Media, only 44% of Georgians believed that protecting the rights of queer people was important. While not a majority, the number of young Georgians who view queer rights as a priority increased.
Protests Against the Government
Following the death of Alexander Lashkarava, several thousand Georgians protested the government. They demanded that leaders of Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia resign.
Some Georgians and international observers believe that the government failed to prevent such attacks to take place against Georgia’s sexual minorities.
Following years of attacks against the LGBT community, many Georgians are tired of government inaction in protecting its own citizens.
Here is a tweet from Georgia’s president, Salome Zourabichvili:
While Georgia’s president condemned the violence, protesters believe that the prime minister should resign due to his public denouncement of the march.
A Brighter Future?
While some cultures take time to become more open-minded to ideas of progress, that isn’t an excuse for the violence we saw in Tbilisi. No nation is perfect, and societies are different.
However, government officials should be held accountable for what happened. The Georgians who attacked their brothers and sisters, killing Alexander Lashkarava had agency in their actions.
They acted out of their own will and should also be held accountable for their destructive decisions. The attacks were a dark threat to press freedom, individual rights, and global democracy, but my hope lies with the young generation of Georgians who in time, can change their society for the better.
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