The Dispatch – June 4/5: Tumbling Walls –



Foster Home: Anger grows with new allegations – Pride week announced in July – ‘Charles Michel’ faction divides Republicans – Mysterious appreciation of GEL – Strikes continue

The drama surrounding the Church-run Ninotsminda children’s home is escalating, with some shocking allegations. The taboo is lifted, and pent-up systemic issues are pouring out, after being swept under the rug for years. Here is Nini with our usual updates from Georgia.

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  • Concerns over the situation at a church-run children’s home in Ninotsminda, Samtskhe-Javakheti, increase by an hour, with worrying revelations. Childcare homes in Georgia house dozens of children who cannot access family care, including orphans or abandoned minors. The existence of such institutions runs counter to international best practice, say human rights experts, and the process of “deinstitutionalization” is currently underway. The Ninotsminda facility, headed by Bishop Spiridon, came into the spotlight after the Public Defender sounded the alarm over the facility’s inability to access for years. It has now appeared in the media – and the Home Office confirms this – that several criminal cases have been pending for some time, involving violence and rape. These have not become public and drag on, fearing that the state is complicit in the cover-up (read more about the controversy here).
  • For days now, former residents of the foster home have stepped forward telling frightening personal stories, corporal punishment, sexual harassment and abuse. Guardians of the facility, including Bishop Spiridon personally, responded with tapes on social media, exclusive footage of hate TV channels in which current wards of the facility fiercely deny reports of abuse, accusing Public Defender of anti-Church bias.
  • The National Care Agency, which has a duty to ensure the protection of children placed in foster homes, apparently also had limited access to the Ninotsminda orphanage previously, without even being able to confirm the exact number. of children it shelters. The agency said on June 4, once its officers entered the facility, 6 wards have expressed a desire to leave, and the other ten will apparently follow soon. This was followed by a Facebook feed from Bishop Spiridon, who is seen making personal phone calls to the children’s relatives and asking them to confirm that they do not approve of the state taking the children away from them. Social workers are seen awkwardly seated at the table, while a visibly terrified child walks past them, tearfully defending their “benefactor”. It broke the roadblock: the health ministry said the footage violated children’s rights, the state inspector said he was investigating the dissemination of images with identifiable children’s faces and cautioned all parties against sharing such images because of the potential harm they can inflict on minors.
  • Amid the raging controversy, the government has come under fire for avoiding responding to allegations of abuse. The Ninotsminda foster home receives public funding, yet new allegations are emerging that it has violated state regulations – for example, regarding the number of children it can house – for years, but no ‘has never been realized. Ruling party MPs insist children are safe for now and promise access to ombudsperson – former ombudsperson Sozar Subari even counterattacking outgoing public defender Nino Lomjaria for not ringing the bell the alarm earlier.
  • Meanwhile, critics are targeting the government for its reluctance to act, for fear of angering the influential Church – which it needs support in the upcoming local elections. The usually fire-breathing president of Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze did not hesitate: “of course, we don’t want to spoil relations with the Patriarchate… harsh statements are not a solution,” he said.

HEDDUNIT! If you are worried for a moment – as we have been – about the emergence of the new, softer version of Irakli Kobakhidze, do not worry! His reservations apparently only concern the Church. Then comes the affairs of this sinful world, and it is returning to its usual form – now with the new prime target: former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Kobakhidze accused Gakharia of the ultimate crime – being in cahoots with Mikheil Saakashvili. Prime Minister Gakharia suddenly broke ranks by detaining MNU leader Nika Melia, Kobakhidze said, just as the Georgian Dream received the news “from our people in Kiev” that the MNU was preparing a coup, forming the “alternative government” with some police and security officials involved. “Draw the conclusions yourself!” Kobakhidze suggested.

PROUD ANNOUNCEMENT Tbilisi Pride, a local LGBTQ + organization, announced that “Pride Week” will take place July 1-5, involving “various political and cultural events.” The main event is the “March of Dignity” scheduled for July 5 on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, and people from various fields, including politics, are invited to participate. “Solidarity” will be the main message this year, say activists. Now, hate groups are expected to organize against the planned event, setting up yet another “puzzle” for the Home Office, which will face the challenge of protecting vulnerable people, rather than contributing to their oppression.

PERSONAL REFORM GROUP As the United National Movement refuses to sign the EU-brokered deal, other opposition MPs are trying to ensure that the European Council President’s essential mediation efforts are sufficiently appreciated, forming another faction with a funny name: Charles Michel reform group. Many were amused as the name sounds like the group is aiming to reform the outgoing chairman of EuCo. But how would President Michel react if he heard that the formation of a faction bearing his name had led to a split within another small Georgian opposition party?

1-1 SEPARATE Republican MP Tamar Kordzaia, a candidate for the 2020 elections in coalition with the United National Movement, said she was quitting the party after learning that Khatuna Samnidze, another Republican MP, had joined the Michel faction. Two Republican MPs “should have continued future cooperation with partner opposition parties without faction / through independent activities.” By expressing bold Republican ideas and fighting from the parliamentary podium, ”said MP Kordzaia. Soon Levan Berdzenishvili, a prominent Georgian politician and intellectual and founding member of the Republican Party, followed in MP Kordzaia’s footsteps, citing the same reasons.

MYSTERY GEL Georgian currency Lari (GEL) continues its rapid appreciation against foreign currencies as it only took a few days for the exchange rate to rise from 3.40 GEL / 1 USD to 3.10-3.05. Hardly anyone among the citizens expected such a drastic change after months of free fall. Experts argue that positive expectations along with the gradual lifting of the lockdown have supported the struggling Lari. Economy Minister Natia Turnava cited recent foreign currency inflows, foreign transactions, the reopening of tourism, business and investor expectations, as well as “unprecedented” economic growth rates, citing export growth 70% in April, as well as 44.8% per year. to-actual year GDP growth the same month (obviously this happened against the hard lockdown month of 2020).

MORE QUESTIONS Does Strengthened Currency Make People Happy? Happiness is dominated by a feeling of suspicion, insecurity and instability, but also by critical issues: many Georgians, who have to deal with rising prices of fuel, groceries and services on a daily basis Public – something believed to be due to currency crisis – now want to know if life is getting cheaper again.

STRIKE ON The strike season is not yet over in Georgia: workers at the Gulistani flour factory in Ozurgeti, Guria, continue their strike which started in early May, to protest, among other things, against wage cuts. Now the union says the “overseas employer” of Guria Express, a company that runs the plant, has said it will not address employee concerns and shut the plant down. The workers plan to lock down the plant on June 5, promising not to reopen unless they receive wages “which have been stolen and reduced by the company for 21 years.” In addition, a protest march will be held in Ozurgeti on June 5, joined by unions from various parts of Georgia. The strikers also addressed the Prime Minister, demanding the legal expropriation of the factory since the employer uses “such illegal methods of punishment” against Georgian citizens. Guria Express is wholly owned by Ismail BölükbaÅŸ, a Turkish citizen.

That’s the full cover for today. Celebrate the weird and curious about Georgian politics with us every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!


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