Georgia: LGBT charity director faces death threats

identoba1The director of Georgia’s leading LGBT organisation, Identoba, has reported fearing for his life after a campaign of death threats have left him at serious risk.

Irakli Vacharadze, who campaigns for gender and sexual equality in Georgia, began receiving threats from various sources following comments he made criticising a speech by the head of the Georgian Orthodox church.

The comments, shared on Vacharadze’s personal Facebook profile, criticised the Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia’s annual Christmas speech in which the religious leader is reported to have shared anti-abortion and anti-equality views. Vacharadze’s comments were quickly shared by pro-Russian news site GE World, after which the director began to receive threats of assault, torture, rape and murder.

Several of the threats were also made directly to Vachardze’s phone, and a number have included details of his house. Vachardze has previously been the victim of a hateful letter-writing campaign and it is believed that several anti-equality groups are aware of his home address.

Among those reported to have sent threats were a number of individuals described by Identoba as ‘well-known human rights offenders’. Included on the list were several religious figures, including ‘Father Antimos’, a Georgian Priest who was a leading figure in organising the violent anti-tolerance rally that left dozens injured in Georgia during 2013’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Shortly after the campaign of death threats began Giogri Gabedava, a Neo-Nazi sympathiser who has previously threatened numerous campaigners in Georgia, called for a protest outside the offices of Identoba. The protest, planned for January 10th, will see anti-equality individuals gather to demand the immediate dissolution of the charity.

Although it is uncertain how many people will attempt to attend the upcoming protest Identoba are concerned that any groups willing to gather at their offices intend to act violently towards their staff and volunteers.

In response to the threats made to their director Identoba called upon the international community to pressure the Georgian government into taking action.

Identoba have previously criticised government authorities of homophobia through their unwillingness to defend human rights and equality campaigners. Previous inaction from the government was reported to have contributed greatly to the violence seen during the 2013 demonstration.

Georgia is a highly religious country, with a largely conservative Christian community. A leading driver for homophobia in the country is the Georgian Orthodox Church, who hold a strongly anti-LGBT stance. The government of Georgia have also been criticised in the past of supporting the church over human-rights campaigners and of not providing adequate support for the nation’s LGBT community.

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