(EAN) – The Trump administration’s foreign policy has been, to put it mildly, unpredictable. But when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Georgia, both sides strove to pretend that everything was normal. Pence, the most senior Trump administration official to visit…
A Georgian political party plans to ring in the New Year by planting weed as an act of civil disobedience against the Caucasus country’s stringent anti-drug policies.
Members of the party, which, incidentally, has the botanical name of Pine Cone (Girchi/გირჩი), are inviting likeminded individuals to join them in a pot-planting fest a minute before midnight on December 31. Anyone of age is welcome to come along, Pine Cone said in a press release.
The procedure, staged at the party’s main Tbilisi office, will be broadcast live in a bid to push the Georgian government toward the full decriminalization of marijuana use. The name of the broadcaster was not given.
A political crisis in the separatist entity of Abkhazia, which included coup rumors and Russia’s temporary detention of an opposition leader, has eased for now. But the sources of instability have not been fully addressed.
After large protests and counter-protests on December 15 in the capital, Sukhumi, the de facto president, Raul Khajimba, offered concessions to the opposition. But while this appears to have dampened tensions for now, Abkhazia seems likely to be gripped by uncertainty for months ahead.
So what set off this crisis? On November 30, the opposition party Amtsakhara announced that if Khajimba did not resign by December 15, it would convene a people’s assembly. The implicit threat was that this people’s assembly might seek Khajimba’s ouster. The government took the threat seriously, organizing a counter-protest, as well as a range of statements by political and civil society actors (including even former South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity) that uniformly appealed for unity. In addition, the State Security Service presented recordings it claimed featured certain opposition members discussing plans to forcefully overthrow Khajimba.
Georgian government initiatives, including legislation to criminalize domestic violence, appear to be having a positive effect in protecting women from abuse by spouses and relatives.
Data on domestic violence in Georgia is patchy, and in some cases raises questions. For example, while the Georgian ombudsperson’s office compiles figures for femicide – defined by the World Health Organization as “the intentional murder of women because they are women” – the Georgian Interior Ministry does not. Georgia’s criminal code does not recognize murders of females as a distinct crime.
In the past, as elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgian women tended to keep quiet about abuse by spouses, fathers or brothers. But now, to escape domestic violence, they increasingly are heading to four state-run shelters.
Georgia’s prisons used to be dirty and dangerous. Prisoners recounted beatings and NGOs reported institutionalised torture. But since 2012, there has been an amazing turnaround.
Georgia’s prisons once had a chilling reputation.
Former prisoners recount harrowing stories of institutionalised torture — beatings, simulated drowning, bones purposefully broken — at the hands of guards and other officials.
“[They] were beating me. They were insulting me…During torture they drowned [me] in [a] bucket full of water and threatened [me] with rape,” said one former prisoner in an anonymous testimony released by the government’s committee on human rights protection this year.
Amid heightened concern about Islamic militant activity in Turkey, questions are being raised about the border security of its eastern neighbor, Georgia.
Three incidents within the past six months involving the attempted smuggling of radioactive materials – uranium 235 and 238, and cesium 137 – are driving concerns about Georgia. Turkey was the materials’ presumed destination, some experts say.
Court proceedings in the first of the cases began on July 8. Those accused in the alleged smuggling schemes face prison terms of up to 10 years, if convicted.
Less than six months are left before Georgia’s parliamentary election, and a heated contest is expected. The parties of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition have decided to run independently, while several opposition parties are driving hard for public support.
Yet across the country, pessimism reigns. Nowhere is it felt more strongly than among Georgia’s 265,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), who largely hail from the now de-facto states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ethnic cleansing during the wars of the 1990s and later led to Georgian inhabitants of these territories fleeing for their lives. Poorly-integrated into wider society, many IDPs’ hopes for a brighter future have been dashed by successive governments and their failed promises to improve living standards — or to return home.