A mob of anti-LGBTQ extremists have attacked more than 50 individuals at a journalist office in Tbilisi, Georgia, violently beating journalists and activists who were working towards an upcoming pride parade. Camera man Alexander Lashkarva was severely beaten and sustained several injuries requiring surgery. Lashkarva later died after being discharged; his cause of death remaining undetermined. Police have launched an investigation into his death in which both President Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Garibashvili have reported as tragic. Following the attacks, the pride parade was forced to be cancelled.
Reporters Without Borders have expressed their condemnation of the attacks saying that journalists “sustained injuries that included concussion, chemical burns and broken arms.” Human rights activists in Georgia are outraged at Georgian authorities who have failed to keep activists and journalists’ safe by facilitating spaces for hate groups to commit such appalling acts.
Thousands have taken to the streets to protest the violence towards journalists and LGBTQ activists in Tbilisi, Georgia. Protesters have demanded that Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili step down, accusing him of being an orchestrator of the violence against the journalists. Garibashvili has labelled the death of cameraman Lashkarva, as an “unimaginable tragedy”, however has also made homophobic statements such as labelling the pride parade as a “propagandistic parade” and alleging that the pride parade march was organised by “radical opposition” in which he claimed to be the exiled former president.
Garibashvili and his Georgian Dream Party have been accused of supporting homophobic and nationalist groups in which have committed violent attacks on innocent journalists, as well as staging protests against pro-western opposition parties
Protestors and activists have questioned the lack of police protection towards these journalists, and have prompted authorities across the world to call on Georgia to ensure and protect the basic human right of freedom of expression and assembly. This attack is not the first incident of violence towards journalists and activists in Georgia. 40 journalists were injured by riot police in 2019 while they were covering an anti-government protest.
The pride parade co-organiser Giorgi Tabagari has highlighted concerns of the homophobic violence targeting not only LGBTQ people, but also the whole idea of progressive liberal minded ideas and institutions. Large portions of the Eastern European country are strictly religious, highly conservative and vulnerable to manipulation from its northern neighbour; Russia.
With Georgia yet to join the European Union, many activists are hoping that the geopolitics of LGBTQ in the region does not result in further setbacks for Georgian society, and that support to join the EU will result in positive outcomes and further protections for the LGBTQ community.