Radical Priests, Orthodox Christian Activists Shut Down Tbilisi Rock Festival

TBILISI – Several radical priests led several dozen ultraconservative Orthodox Christian activists on Saturday evening in an attempt to violently disrupt an open air international music festival on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi.

The organizer of the event Vladimir Unanyants told to local website Netgazeti that 30 minutes after the concert began a group of people led by Orthodox priests appeared and tried to force the concert to shut down.

"They were yelling and accusing us of organizing a mass sex orgy... Then, suddenly, the electricity went off. From what I’ve been told the owner of the venue cut it off," Unanyants said.

Unanyants added that the local Orthodox parish in the Tbilisi suburb of Zahesi demanded that the concert be down due to the fact the festival was desecrating a nearby cemetery.

JINJER, one of the rock groups performing at the festival, wrote on their Facebook page that the concert was stopped because a group of religious fanatics attacked the venue and cut the electricity.

“For the first time in several years, JINJER's performance was cancelled today due to an attack by a group of religious fanatics. Tbilisi JAM Fest was disrupted because a nearby monastery didn't like it. The priests brought an angry crowd of extremist supporters and attacked the festival area!!! It is sad to realize that in Georgia, a country that appears to be civilized, religion has more power than the law,” the band’s post reads.

The police eventually denied the protestors entry into the main staging area of the festival and convinced the priests to leave the area without further incidents.

Edita Badasyan, a concertgoer and witness to the events, posted on Facebook that the festival was immediately shut down after the power cut.

“The electricity suddenly went out and the power company‚Ä™ EnergoPro Georgia says they don’t have any information about the cut. P.S. New information. The festival has been shut down,” Badasyan wrote in her post.

The Tbilisi JAM Festival is an annual two-day open-air music festival that features rock bands from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Armenia and Georgia.

The organizers of the event said they are now are looking for an alternative site to stage the second day of the festival.

The incident is the latest in a string of cases involving fundamentalist Orthodox Christian groups and neo-Nazis who target venues or events that they consider to be Western cultural threats to Georgia’s deeply rooted conservative social values.

A group of meat hurling neo-Nazis on May 29 attacked a Tbilisi vegan cafe, demanding that the venue close and the mostly alternative, foreign and LBGT clientele leave the area.

Large numbers of Georgian priests have been known to take part in violent demonstrations against the country’s small LGBT community. In May 2013, hundreds of priests led up to 20,000 radical Orthodox protesters in a violent attack on gay rights activists that left at least 28 people seriously injured.

Police officials are often accused of making no attempt to stop the priests and their followers, which has led to charges that Georgia’s law enforcement officials either sympathize or are in collusion with the fundamentalist activists.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller


05 June 2016 14:53