TBILISI, DFWatch–The conflict at Tbilisi State University (TSU) seemed to be over a few weeks ago, but now Georgian intelligence has jumped into the fray, announcing that it hasn’t had agents at TSU since the beginning of this year.
The presence of agents at TSU was one of the contentious issues that led to a week-long sit-in and corridor clashes between two opposing blocs of students – the student union and an ad hoc group of students fed up with the first group’s wasteful spending and the presence of spies.
But Levan Izoria, the deputy head of the State Security Service, said at a meeting of the human rights, judiciary and defense committees in parliament that there are no spies, or so-called ODRs, at educational facilities anymore.
Izoria confirmed that there had been spies in such institutions, but that the practice ended by the end of 2015, out of respect for the university’s autonomy.
The student union, known as Tvitmmartveloba, is not giving up its demand of the rector’s resignation for not telling students about the spies sooner — members now plan a hunger strike to promote their demand.
The other group, called Auditorium 115, also warn of a possible new wave of protests if their demands are not met.
It began in early March as a student got hold of a document which proved that the student’s union, which is financed by the university, spent money on a training course at the winter resort Bakuriani. As the protests escalated, new issues were raised and a sit-in organized at TSU’s Building No 1.
On Monday, the student’s union declared that in the evening, at least seven of their members will go on hunger strike to demand the rector’s resignation.
“We will sacrifice ourselves to restoration of justice at the university,” Bakhva Kvirikashvili said.
He explained that when Vladimer Papava became rector, former officials from the times when Eduard Shevardnadze was president in the 1990s began working at the university. The student’s union has made a list of people they want to leave TSU.
“The rector imported those people to the university, which resulted in a three-year stagnation of TSU,” Kvirikashvili said. He claims the rector didn’t do anything to defuse the situation after protests broke out.
In the beginning, rector Papava confirmed the allegations that the State Security Service had so-called ODRs agents at the university, working in various positions in the administration. Removing the agents was one of the demands by both sides of students, but the student’s union, known as Tvitmmartveloba, didn’t like the fact that Papava kept secret the presence of spies for three years.
The other group of protesting students, who transformed into a movement called Auditorium No 115, held a press conference on Monday. They demand a reform of the student’s union.
“We don’t care about their position. We were promised by the Education Ministry that they would carry out radical reform of the students’ representations,” they said on a press conference.
They don’t recognize today’s student union as a lawful body.
Another demand is to announce a transition period at the university, amend the law about higher education and apply election procedures for electing a rector and members of the academic council.
“We have to elect new institutions by new rules in two months.”
Students want the rector and members of the academic council to resign as soon as new reforms are carried out.
At the parliament hearing, deputy chief of counterintelligence Izoria claimed that certain people at TSU have been incorrectly named as agents.
“Before August 2015, this person was part of our staff as ODR, but after 2015 he continued carrying out his duties as secretary of the university chancellor,” he said, adding that it was prerogative of the university to keep this person on its staff.
Izoria justified the use of agents at the university by saying that there are currently many students in Georgia who come from countries which have active terrorist organizations.
“What is their goal? Why did they come here?” he asked.