anti LGBT demonstrators Tbilisi 2013-05-17

A crowd of thousands led by Orthodox priests on May 17, 2013, violently disrupted a peaceful demonstration to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Human Rights Watch criticizes Georgia in its World Report 2014 for not having done enough to protect the rights of religious minorities and LGBT.

When it comes to religious rights, the organization points out that the Muslim minority has experienced a turbulent year and a half since the new government came to power.

One of the incidents mentioned in the report is the efforts by Muslims in the village Khela to erect a minaret, that was ordered taken down by authorities, but in the end put up again in November 2013.

HRW also points to Muslims being under pressure in Tetritskharo, and the conflict in Batumi about constructing a new mosque there.

“Orthodox Christian communities in several villages prevented, at times violently, Muslims from holding religious services in houses converted into mosques,” the report says.

The group criticizes Georgia for having taken little action to hold the offenders accountable, despite a number of statements by the prime minister condemning the violence.

Another incident mentioned is when a handful of military police verbally assaulted locals in a predominantly Muslim village in Adjara in April. The soldiers were under the influence of alcohol and arbitrarily stopped cars and searched people, calling them ‘Tatars’ and demanded that they show crosses around their necks to prove they were Christians.

The report notes that all of these military servicemen were fired.

HRW also criticizes the events on and around May 17, 2013, when Orthodox Christians violently disrupted a small peaceful demonstration to mark the international day against homophobia.

Rumours had spread through the Internet that it was to be a gay parade, and the police were badly outnumbered by thousands of Orthodox who physically attacked the small gathering of gay rights activists and sympathizers.

The report notes that the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II the day before publicly urged authorities to not allow the LGBT gathering, and called it an insult against Georgian traditions.

Among the violent incidents on May, HRW highlights the attack on a minibus carrying LGBT activists away from the crowd.

Two Orthodox priests and three civilians were charged for obstructing the freedom of assembly and for hooliganism.

After May 17, violence against LGBT people continued on an individual level in the streets. Identoba, which is an organization protecting the rights of sexual minorities, reported 34 such incidents.

“The group noted that many victims do not report homophobic violence due to fear of retribution and police failure to investigate adequately.”