Civil Platform “No to Phobia!” expresses its concern about the comments containing hate speech on the ground of ethnicity made by Zaza (Zaal) Abashidze, the Director of LEPL National Center of Manuscripts, in the social media.
Declaration of Marneuli and Bolnisi a quarantine zone was followed by the aggression from the society towards the ethnic Azeri population. The Civil Platform has already made a statement on this fact and called upon media, politicians and public figures to disseminate non-discriminatory information and to support the ethnic minorities.
Unfortunately, the wave of aggression still continues. According to the spread information, the comment made via the personal Facebook page of the Director of LEPL National Center of Manuscripts, Zaza Abashidze, contained the statement that the residents of Marneuli village shall be “locked and destroyed” and the swearing. In another comment, Zaza Abashidze called the Marneuli residents the killers and the potential virus disseminators, swore them and repeated that they should be locked.
Besides, while commenting on the confrontation between the doctors and the residents of the village Mushevni, the Director of the National Center of the Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, stated that according to the information he was provided with, the local Mullah and Mufti had played a “bad role” in the quarantine zone. Later, Amiran Gamkrelidze apologized for these words and clarified that his main message aimed to raise the knowledge of the ethnic minorities on the virus and to enhance the provision of information for them in the language understandable to them with the participation of religious leaders and local public figures.
The comments made by Zaza Abashidze are totally unacceptable for the Platform. His position feeds the ethnic strife and reflects inhuman attitude towards the ethnic Azeris, thus promoting further alienation of already vulnerable minority from the society. It should be noted that Zaza Abashidze manages the LEPL National Center of Manuscripts which is a part of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia and is financed by the state budget, i.e. by the taxpayers and prior to this post, his had been a Head of the Russian-Georgian Public Center. One should state that the Russian-Georgian Pubic Center was established by the Gorchakov Pubic Diplomacy Support Fund, the Chairman of which is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov.
The initial statement of Amiran Gamkrelidze is also unacceptable for the Platform. By this statement he linked the conflict between the doctors and the residents of Mushevani village to the Muslim religious leaders which promoted the discrimination against the religious minority. One should welcome that later Amiran Gamkrelidze made clarifications regarding his statement; although, taking into consideration the raising wave of aggression, any statement promoting stigmatization of one certain group is damaging and unacceptable.
In the light of the current situation, when along with the protection of healthcare of the Georgian citizens it is crucially important to maintain the economic stability and care of the citizens left without an employment, the inhuman approach and attitudes containing the hate on ethnic ground furthermore aggravates the process. We call upon:
• The Government of Georgia/the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to immediately discuss the issue of removal of Zaza Abashidze from his position;
• The representatives of the authorities to make clear messages against the xenophobic wave and to respond to each of such facts, including the use of hate speech by the public servants;
• The public figures and the politicians to make the statements supporting the equality and thus to contribute to the integration on ethnic and religious minorities in the society.
Georgian democracy Initiative (GDI)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
Human Rights Center (HRC)