The 19-year-old Azerbaijani man claims he awoke one morning in mid-August to the sound and feel of gasoline splashing on his body and his mother angrily screaming. Through a sleepy haze, he saw her burning a piece of paper. Suddenly, he alleged, his mother’s intentions became clear; he was about to be burned to death for being homosexual.
In the two-plus decades since the Soviet collapse, the Georgian Orthodox Church has emerged as one of the South Caucasus country’s most respected and influential institutions. But some observers and theologians now worry that ultra-conservative clerics within the Church are gaining too much power.
Georgia may be touted as the most pro-Western country in the South Caucasus, but the recent backlash against LGBT activists in Tbilisi underscores how wide the cultural divide is when it comes to defining democratic values.
In the aftermath of the May 17 mob rampage against gay-rights activists in Tbilisi, public discussion in Tbilisi is focusing on church-state issues, especially the question of whether the Georgian Orthodox Church operates beyond the reach of civil law.
A raging mob in Tbilisi chased away a downtown rally designed to commemorate the May 17 International Day against Homophobia. “Kill them! Tear them to pieces!” yelled the agitated crowd as police struggled to evacuate a handful of gay-rights supporters from the Georgian capital's central Freedom Square.