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SOU festival initiates campaign of solidarity for Youth Movement and LGBTQ+ community of Georgia

Following Saturday's raid at Bassiani and Café Gallery in Tbilisi, Georgia, SOU festival releases a statement of support

Following the armed police raids in the early hours of Saturday 12 May at club Bassiani and Café Gallery – both key spots in the Tbilisi dance music scene, with Bassiani home to the largest LGBT+ parties in Georgia – and the proceeding protests across the city, Tbilisi's SOU festival has released a statement of solidarity.

“SOU festival has initiated a campaign of solidarity for youth movement and LGBT+ community of Georgia,” founder and artistic director Sandro Lominashvili tells us. “Basically this campaign and statement is an act of support from [the] cultural sector.”

Support has already come from ICAS network, Tbilisi State Conservatoire, Ilia State University, Georgian Philharmonic and many more cultural institutions, and artists including Christopher Tignor, Jacob Kirkegaard, and Bjork.

“In these days, Georgian youth has responded to gross violence and restrictions of freedom of expression with love. Have a look at a small episode of the demonstration, which took place on May 12th and best reflects the content of the current events.

“Lay your love on me – according to the title of the song by Swedish pop group Abba, Sou festival initiates campaign for solidarity and equality.”

The joint statement reads:

“Recent special “anti drug” operation, that was carried out by police forces in the clubs Bassiani and Café Gallery resulted in an unprecedented protest of the thousands, mostly the young people, who took to the streets of Tbilisi. They reacted not only to the specific acts of violence but a long-term irresponsible attitude of the system, which instead of caring for people opted for their oppression as well. Content of the protest expanded beyond the issue of drug policy and united individuals under the umbrella of the most frequently articulated value of the recent days – the freedom: demand for justice and equality, longing for changes and diversity in life. The established situation revealed an existing crisis that operates on different levels and demonstrated inevitability of changes, for which fight continues.

“May 17 is an international day against homophobia and trans-phobia. Exactly five years ago a small group of people who gathered in Tbilisi to celebrate it, was attacked and became a victim of violence from the side of representatives of religious community. According to the statement of the LGBT+ community, today they decided to bear responsibility for avoidance of a civil conflict. They are forced to cancel the gathering in response to a threat of physical violence and attacks from the side of right-wing, neo-Nazi and religious conservative groups that besieged youth demonstration in front of the parliament several days ago. Unfortunately, in Georgia LGBT+ community still faces the violence and discrimination on an everyday basis. Prevailing negative attitudes towards these people hinder them from exercising the most important human rights, including the rights to equality, freedom of expression, peaceful gathering, education, employment, healthcare etc.

“SOU festival gives support and solidarity towards the youth movement, representatives of the sexual minorities and activists who fight for a better future on a daily basis and sometimes even jeopardizing their lives.

“We would like to address the representatives of the musical, artistic and academic fields who we did not have had time and opportunity to contact, to join the solidarity action through dissemination of this statement or by any other means.”