Members of the civil society platform No to Phobia issue this statement in reaction to the so-called March of Georgians to be held on 14 July 2017 according to the former Deputy State Minister for Diaspora Issues Sandro Bregadze, who announced about the march on 29 June 2017 on his personal Facebook page. We call on the Government to take adequate measures to ensure legal frames of the manifestation and to avoid all attempts of violence on racist and xenophobic grounds.
Sandro Bregadze, who was especially aggressive towards minority groups even while in the office of the deputy state minister, and was criticized on numerous occasions by civil society for use of hate speech and calls for violence, is now trying to entice racist and xenophobic sentiments among public by providing examples of illegal actions by aliens in Georgia. His announcement also featured pseudo-national sentiments and calls for public to participate in the so-called March of Georgians for demanding expulsion of ethnic Iranians, Arabs, Africans, etc. from the country. Other radical ultranationalist groups also joined the march.
The attempt to create enemy image of aliens in Georgia, in light of the strong racist sentiments that have unfortunately been encouraged by the authorities to a certain extent, strengthens xenophobic and racist sentiments among public, which essentially works against building of democratic, pluralistic, sympathetic society and values guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution and international human rights acts. In a multi-ethnical and multi-confessional country like Georgia, xenophobic and racist discourse can substantially harm the process of integration of non-dominant ethnic and religious groups and give rise to social conflicts.
Right to peaceful assembly and manifestation is certainly protected by the Constitution of Georgia and we would like to highlight that everyone including participants of the so-called March of Georgians have guaranteed access to the right. However, we’d like to remind the law enforcement authorities that the rally staged on 27 September 2016 at the same venue and for a similar cause was accompanied by numerous acts of violence and illegal activity. Just like in the previous case, because organizers and participants of the so-called March of Georgians represent radical ultranationalist groups and therefore, there is a threat of aggression and violence on their part. We urge:
The Ministry of Interior Affairs
-to take adequate measures for preventing any illegal activity during the rally and for ensuring legal frame for the manifestation, in order to avoid any manifestation of violence on racist and xenophobic grounds.
-to take effective preventive measures following the rally, for avoiding any fragmented incidents of violence against aliens in Georgia.
-to counter recent radicalized, ultranationalist, xenophobic ideas with effective educational/informational policy, aimed at strengthening the discourse based on the idea of human rights and equality, for creating the environment for a peaceful cohabitation of different groups.
Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)
Media Development Fund (MDF)
Georgian Reforms Association (GRASS)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Article 42 of the Constitution
Transparency International – Georgia (TI)