Organisers of a rally celebrating diversity and tolerance in the eastern European country of Georgia were forced to call off the event after it was falsely reported as a gay Pride parade.
The rally, part of the Council of Europe ‘All Different, All Equal’ diversity and human rights campaign, was cancelled when organisers, Georgian human rights group Century 21, received abusive telephone calls, emails and threats of violence.
“This was a demonstration targeted at youth for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, where children would have shown their mutual respect and love with their songs, pictures, and creativity,” said Paata Gachechiladze, head of Century 21.
He spoke to the Messenger, an English-language newspaper in the former Soviet state.
The abuse started after Georgian paper Alia reported that “pederasts” were getting ready for a parade in the capital, Tbilisi, based on what Gachechiladze says is an entirely fabricated interview with a member of staff at Century 21.
Century 21 shares a building with Georgian gay rights group Inclusive, and Gachechiladze says that the reporter from Alia conflated the two and unleashed a torrent of homophobia.
“Let’s just see how ready our country will be to host a gay parade,” said the report in Alia.
“But if the government gave them permission to do so, nothing can prevent them. Moreover, our police will defend the security of the pederast men decorated with jingling jewellery.”
Radio station Rustavi 2 aired a report claiming that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was “experiencing a strong allergy to all things Russian, old-fashioned, and imperial, will allow homegrown sodomites and a many-coloured assault of world pederasty on the streets and prospects of Tbilisi.”
The influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church, Patriarch Ilya, called the rally “an exhibition of Sodom and Gomorrah” and warned it would lead to violence.
“The nation that does not ban incorrect sexual orientation and lifestyles is always condemned by God,” he said in a statement, according to The Messenger.
“The filthy gossip of one journalist caused such a big mess,” said Mr Gachechiladze.
“That edition of Alia was removed from the stands after the article was printed, but the reputation and name of Georgia was insulted.”
Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values.
Although homosexuality had been decriminalised, gay people are still violently targeted.
During a visit to Georgia in February, Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said:
“Homophobia is not a part of a modern society which is oriented towards democracy and human rights’ protection.
“From this point of view, we think the government must be a leader in resolving problems. It must assist people in becoming more informed and educated in this area.”