Georgia Bracing for Trouble on Anti-Homophobia Day

With the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, already on tenterhooks for May 17, the International Day of Homophobia and Transphobia [IDAHO], tensions are rising over a media report that police officers allegedly demanded that one hipster Tbilisi cafe hand over the names and contacts of all its “gay, transgender, and lesbian" clients. The Georgian interior ministry denied the café-management’s allegation as “absurd.” 

Violetta Kolbaia, manager of the reputedly gay-friendly Gallery Café, wrote on Facebook on May 14, that the establishment had refused to hand over "any such information," Tabula.ge reported. “They told us not to post this [on Facebook] or they’d break the computer over our heads,” Kolbaia claimed.

In subsequent media comments, she alleged that the policemen had said the contacts were needed to create “a list.” It is not clear why the police would need such a list -- if, indeed, it is being compiled.

Some argue that it was likely intended to use against Tbilisi's LGBT community, while others wonder if it was to know whom to protect from possible attacks on May 17.

Last year, an angry mob led by priests overpowered police protecting a small rally marking IDAHO on Tbilisi's central Freedom Square. Amidst the violence, many were wounded.

Mindful of last year's controversy, the interior ministry roundly denied the café-manager’s report. They claimed that no police officers had been sent to her club, Netgazeti .ge reported. Kolbaia stood by her story, though she does not rule out the possibility that the police officers acted arbitrarily.

Several conservative groups, including some with a pro-Russia orientation, plan to take to the streets on May 17 to protest against the recent passage of a law that bans discrimination against minorities, and to promote "traditional values."

Some pro-LGTB-rights activists told EurasiaNet.org that they were advised by foreign diplomats and local officials against holding any event in Tbilisi, and that they do not plan to do so. They cited these individuals as allegedly saying that potential clashes may be used by forces looking to sabotage Georgia’s plans to enter into an association agreement with the European Union next month.

Many Georgian and European officials fear that the Kremlin is betting on the conservative views of many Georgians to help foil the landmark deal.

On the eve of May 17, a statement by the leadership of the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church described the LGBT community as “unnatural and perverted,” but called on believers to keep their protest peaceful.  The Church has declared the date "Family Day."

The interior ministry, for its part, has vowed to protect “everyone’s rights, with no exceptions” on May 17.

Georgia Bracing for Trouble on Anti-Homophobia Day

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