Priests led violent mob of 20,000 against gay protesters in (former Soviet) Georgia

The NYT reports that Georgian Orthodox priests helped lead the mob of 20,000 people that violently attacked a small group of gay rights protesters in the capital of Tbilisi on Friday.

What’s worse, a bishop in the church, Iakob Iakobashvili, who helped organize the counter-protests, refused to condemn the violence by his own priests.

Make sure to express your opinion about this on the Georgian Ministry of Justice’s Facebook page and Twitter acct: @justice_geo

And with Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Facebook, and on Twitter: @MFAgovge

You need to see the video of the mob of 20,000 to fully appreciate this:

I’m an orthodox Christian.  Greek Orthodox.  We’re part of the larger umbrella of faiths that make up the the Eastern Orthodox faith (which includes Russian Orthodox).  And to the notion that a priest would lead a violent mob, and then violently attack innocent people himself, is simply abominable.

And just as bad, the Georgian government appears to be nothing about the attack, even though there’s video – lots of video in fact, of the attackers.  They’re trying to tell us that the government and the church don’t know who these people in the video are – really?  In fact, they aren’t even trying to find out, according to the NYT story (“there are few signs that the investigation is moving forward”).

Here’s Bishop Iakobashvili refusing to condemn the violence:


Mob of 20,000 people violently attack mini-van carrying a handful of gay rights protesters in former-Soviet Georgia this past Friday.

“When there are so many people, it is difficult to speak only about Christianity and morals,” said the bishop, Iakob Iakobashvili, in his Sunday sermon in Tbilisi. “Many were not able to overcome their nature and saw enemies in the others, said bad words and punched them. I was told clergymen were among them. I am not able to either condemn or justify them. They are also humans.”

Yes, according to the Georgian Orthodox Church it’s only human to violently attack people because they’re gay.

Of course, the larger responsibility lies with the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, and with Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.  Ilia and Ivanishvili need to decide if they want Georgia to be looked upon as a banana republic or as a truly free successor to the hell-hole that the Soviet Union made it for 70 years.

Georgian Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani.

Georgian Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani.

Ironically, Georgia thinks it’s going to become a member of both NATO and the European Union.  While NATO might accept a banana republic like Georgia because of its strategic proximity to Middle Eastern hotspots, good luck with the EU.  The Europeans don’t tolerate hateful bigots nearly as much as we Americans do.  And if Georgia can’t even handle prosecuting violent mobs who don’t respect the rights of minorities, how does Georgia think it’s going to fit into Europe, which per se is an amalgam of multiple races, ethnicities and cultures?

Georgia is also working on a Free Trade Agreement with the US, so that we can ostensibly help them more effectively oppress their own people.

If Patriarch Ilia II, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, and President Mikheil Saakashvili don’t immediately condemn the violence and prosecute the men and priests behind it, then people should start organizing to cut foreign aid to Georgia (which has ranged from $95m/yr to $420m/yr over the past several years), and more generally stop Georgia’s bid for NATO, EU integration, and free trade in its tracks.

It’s not clear why NATO or the EU would want to deal with such a violence-prone and clearly clearly not-ready-for-prime-time country as Georgia.


If Georgia wants to mess with the gays, then let’s bring the gays to Georgia.  Keep in mind that Georgia really wants that free trade deal with the US, and they want NATO and EU membership, so make sure to hit on those points when you contact them.  Also, their government Web site makes clear that the Georgians are trying to dispel the notion that Georgia is a dangerous place.  And it clearly is, if mob violence is encouraged by the church and overlooked by the state.  No one should be visiting or doing business in such a dangerous country.

Make sure to express your opinion about this on the Georgian Ministry of Justice’s Facebook page and Twitter acct: @justice_geo

And with Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Facebook, and on Twitter: @MFAgovge

And feel free to send a note to the Georgian Embassy in Washington, DC, their UN mission, and their EU mission:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

(h/t JoeMyGod)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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61 Responses to “Priests led violent mob of 20,000 against gay protesters in (former Soviet) Georgia”

  1. BeccaM says:

    Well, I suppose him being dead is one way for that energy of hatred to have dissipated.

  2. karmanot says:

    It’s over, I guess when the energy is gone. I thought I would never say: “My brothers are dead to me.”

  3. Ninong says:

    Hey, CrossWinds, I hope you brought your rod and your staff with you for comfort because surely you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death when you venture here. You must have lost your way. Now bye-bye!


  4. Ninong says:

    Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups: [email protected]
    The e-mail address you entered couldn’t be found

    This Message was undeliverable due to the following reason:

    Reason: 5.1.1 unknown or illegal alias: [email protected]

    So those two links didn’t work. Anyway, this is what I told them:

    I was shocked to see violent mobs attacking peaceful human rights protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia. Is the Georgian government doing anything to bring those responsible to justice? Is that sort of criminal conduct condoned in Georgia? Apparently it is because it was led by clergy of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as acknowledged by Bishop Iakob Iakobashvili, who said he could neither “condemn or justify them.”

    I can’t believe a country such as Georgia that is this regressive actually expects to join NATO or the EU. That would be a complete disgrace. In fact, I am dismayed to learn that my government actually gives financial aid to Georgia. I have already sent letters of protest to the two United States Senators representing my state and to my Congressman telling them just how much I am opposed to any aid of any sort to Georgia. As far as membership in NATO is concerned, I believe NATO should uphold moral standards that would exclude countries such as Georgia.

    Lots of luck trying to get into the EU with your obvious lack of any respect for individual human rights.

  5. Ninong says:

    There is a similar problem with some of the rabidly homophobic evangelical Christian Russian-speaking immigrants living on the West Coast. That’s especially true in the Sacramento area where pure hate is preached from the pulpit every Sunday. There’s also a Russian language radio program there that preaches hate for gays.

    Five years ago there was an incident in a Sacramento park on a Sunday afternoon. A group of three straight couples and one openly gay man were celebrating his recent promotion at work. The gay man was reportedly flirting with the husbands in the group. I believe they’re co-workers, or mauybe the wives are his co-workers. Anyway, there was a small group of Russian-speaking men and their families nearby. A couple of the Russian-speaking men taunted the gay man and hurled anti-gay and ethnic slurs at him.

    Later, in the parking lot, as the group that included the gay man tried to leave, a group of Russian-speaking men — the two original men plus three friends they had called in to join them — blocked the gay man and his two straight male friends from leaving, saying that they wanted to get the gay man.

    One of the Russian-speaking men threw a punch that knocked out the gay man, who fell backwards, striking his head on the concrete parking lot. He died a few days later from brain damage.

    What is important about this story is that these Russian-speaking immigrants a extremely homophobic and they believe it is their duty to wipe out the gay movement, as they call it, in the liberal West Coast cities. All of that is spelled out in detail, including quotes, in the following article which is very informative:

  6. Ninong says:

    Bobby was just trying to convince people that he was hardcore Catholic all the way and no longer Hindu. That little amateur exorcism experience was early in his college days, not long after he converted to Catholicism in his freshman year in college.

    I think Bobby saw the light. It was going to take more than chaning his name from Piyush to Bobby if he wanted to succeed in politics in Southeast Louisiana. He needed to adopt the region’s predominate religion, too.

    By the way, he never did legally change his name. It still reads Piyush Jindal on his Louisiana driver’s license.

  7. BillFromDover says:

    Because this is what Jesus would do?

    Is it any wonder why the younger live-and-let-live generation is dropping from organized religion like the plague?

    When did the core belief of religions change from loving your brother to hating him?

  8. Naja pallida says:

    Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.

    Ezekiel 4:15

  9. BeccaM says:

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
    – Matthew 7:1-3

    “And as they continued to ask him, (Jesus) stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”
    – John 8:7

    “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him…”
    – Titus 3:10

  10. karmanot says:


  11. CrossWinds says:


    …..2 Timothy 4:7-9…….

    7…… I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

  12. NorthAlabama says:

    this news story is not new, only the church’s latest devolutionary step. my only surprise is that it’s been so long since a church was last reported using mob violence against “sinners”.

    onward christian soldiers?

  13. Naja pallida says:

    A shame, when they could just ask Bobby Jindal to come and perform an exorcism.

  14. Corey says:

    No one is dumb enough to put their lives on the line, and this country had little to die for, and look at how many people won’t join the military to fight fake wars then return home and have your own country u lost a limb for, treat u like shit when it comes to benefits. I sure the hell wouldn’t die for this country… I’d kill myself before if I were to be forced to

  15. Corey says:

    Any time minorities gain more equality the majority gets more violent. Here in the USA it has always been the conservative Christians who attacked and killed minorities and their supporters for getting more rights. Started with the Puritans and still going on today in the good ole USA.

    It’s the reason why these folks got labelled “The American Taliban” :

    ‘Quotes from the The American Taliban’

  16. Corey says:

    They burn them alive too, saw horrific video

  17. Corey says:

    Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: [email protected]
    Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:[email protected]


  18. BeccaM says:

    I was a little sad that we never made peace…but mostly relieved that I wouldn’t have to hide anymore.

  19. lynchie says:

    I think public opinion has been swayed because more gay people have shown the courage to come out. Now people are meeting gays and realizing they are just the same as they are. Debts, anxiety, concern for the future and downright peaceful compared to many in the straight group. Homophobia is all about fear and having to admit they have been lied to by the church (especially catholic), lied to by politicians to incite fear and loathing and they have nothing to fall back on. It may never be perfect, just like it isn’t perfect for the black community. The nice think is the continued marginalization of the GOP they just can’t stop running their stupid mouths against blacks, latinos, women, gays and all things not 1950’s.

  20. lynchie says:

    too true that

  21. dula says:

    Oh I remember now…Sarah Palin spoke in tongues with them.

  22. karmanot says:

    Remember that film of Palin in Church, which featured a visiting ‘reverend whose community of faithful did exactly that?

  23. karmanot says:


  24. karmanot says:


  25. karmanot says:


  26. karmanot says:

    That must have been terrifying, but I can see from your writing that great character and keen intelligence won the day. Isn’t true, how abusers still haunt us even after they are gone or die? People don’t like it when I talk ill of the dead. They have no idea what a celebration of relief it can be.

  27. karmanot says:

    Yep, Northern New England especially (except for New Hampshire). Go Vermont!

  28. BeccaM says:

    Already have.

  29. BeccaM says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite encouraged by the developments of the last few years, especially the reversal of public opinion on marriage equality.

    Unfortunately, we still have politicians and religious leaders who claim it’s their liberty being infringed upon when we try to pass anti-bullying and hate crimes laws, as if assaulting gay people is a core tenant of their beliefs.

  30. BeccaM says:

    In Africa, they hack accused witches to death.

  31. jixter says:

    I’m sorry that happened to you, BeccaM. I wonder what percentage of gay people have experienced ugly situations in the course of their lives. I can think of two that happened to me in San Francisco during the Summer of 1980 and two, in San Diego, in 1979.

    I got fired from a job in Massachusetts, in 1975, because somebody told my employer that I was gay.

    I spent a year living in anxiety and fear of being fired from Tower Records in San Diego because I knew that my work environment was hyper-phobic – despite its apparent (but false) public image of cool, cutting-edge hipness.

    I totally ‘get’ what you’re saying, BeccaM. Really, I do. Still, I’m also totally ‘jazzed’ at what I’ve watched happen over the years. The fight won’t be over until it’s over. We may not get to see that day – as MLK so eloquently stated, but if not, we’ll be there in spirit.

    I wish you well.

  32. pappyvet says:

    Everyone on the planet should read two books.

    The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood and
    The Chalice and The
    Blade by Riane Eisler

  33. jixter says:

    Well, that’s Virginia, I guess. Glad I was born and raised in New England.

  34. pappyvet says:

    LOL !

  35. karmanot says:

    No flies on the accessories either.

  36. karmanot says:

    a patriarchal hierarchy, whose stench contaminates the Old Testament with crimes of blood lust, injustice, murder, incest , infanticide, matricide,fratricide and worse. It’s corrosive influence poisons even the New testament with ignorant social engineering and blasphemy.

  37. karmanot says:

    I do understand, but as for Virginia—what they call up from their collective consciousness is separatist treason and racial capitalism (slavery).

  38. karmanot says:

    As close as it get is Matt Taibbi. Not a single youngen on MSNBC hasn’t sold out, including Maddow.

  39. dula says:

    They would still burn witches if they could get away with it.

  40. FLL says:

    I’m glad you mention that prescriptive religions are coercive, “even for non-believers.” That’s the worst of it. Followers of these religions are out to kill or imprison or fire anyone who doesn’t accept their faith, assuming that followers of the religion have assumed control of the political apparatus of the government, and sadly, their religious scripture tells them that it’s just fine to do that.

  41. BeccaM says:

    That’s an excellent distinction you make, between prescriptive and gnostic religions. I’d have to say my own belief systems are gnostic-based. I think ‘prescriptive’ pretty much is a requirement for that category I mentioned above — the ‘organized religions.’

    In addition to being coercive, even for non-believers, all of them also include a patriarchal hierarchy which invariably asserts infallibility.

  42. BeccaM says:

    I’m 50. I lived through most what you’re talking about. I remember Stonewall and the SF riots after Harvey Milk was murdered. I supported my brother-in-law from my first marriage when his partner was dying from HIV, called AIDS back then.

    We LGBTs don’t yet need a MLK or Gandhi of our own, although another Harvey Milk would be damned welcome. I was referring to the need for a figure to represent the compassionate side of faith, ardent seekers of justice for all rather than the status quo, as opposed to all the haters, bigots and those who seem to think the Enlightenment was a bad idea.

    Despite the ‘gobsmacking’ advances in LGBT rights in my lifetime, I nevertheless cannot forget that I myself was the victim of the extended hate crime of stalking and repeated death threats from one of my own family members after I came out to them.

  43. FLL says:

    I suppose there is some difference between prescriptive religion and gnostic religion. Prescriptive religion, like the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, center around some set of regulations about how people should live their lives; these religions seek to coerce people in some way or another, and therefore, they are indistinguishable from political and governmental systems. Gnostic religions, like some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism, are only concerned with techniques for attaining some sort of spiritual or mental development. Even monastic Buddhism is political and seeks to coerce people about sexual matters. Genuinely gnostic religions are few and far between, which is why secularism is becoming so popular. Can you blame people?

    Yes, most religious “scripture” is a list of often noxious opinion about how the authors thought that other people should live their lives. Although I’m secular, I’ve noticed one spectacular exception in religious scripture: the Rig Veda, which is the oldest Hindu scripture (circa 1500 BCE). The crown jewel of the Rig Veda is Book 9, which is actually a combination cookbook and documentary about how to grow, prepare and enjoy psychoactive mushrooms, and the ancient Indo-European tribes that migrated into India called this mushroom plant Soma. Modern scholarship has relied on the Rig Veda’s description of the plant, its growth process, preparation and effects, and they’ve pretty much nailed it down to a few species of psychoactive mushrooms. I couldn’t recommend Book 9 of the Rig Veda highly enough to Pat Robertson and his ilk. It couldn’t possibly hurt. Who knows? Bigots like Robertson might actually chill out for a change.

    Now I wonder why those Proto-Indo-European people who wrote the Rig Veda were so much fun. Or did they just wise up when they got to India? Who knows? Rumor has it that before they got to India, when they were still in Central Asia, their shamanistic clergy were transvestite males. In that case, the modern high clergy in the Vatican only imitate the fashion instincts of the shamans of ancient times, but not their common sense and tolerance. What a shame.

  44. jixter says:

    “This generation’s” or gay peoples’ MLK or Gandhi? The way that I see it is that that person hasn’t appeared because we haven’t needed her/him – and we haven’t needed her/him because we’ve been doing ok on our own. I’ve no idea what age you are, BeccaM, and I’m not asking, either – but from where I’m standing and looking back down the highway of life, I can see and appreciate that we’ve made (here comes a great British word!) ((((gobsmacking)))) advances in my lifetime – advances that would have been unthinkable to the 21 year old jixter who lived, a million years ago, in Provincetown, MA, the ‘gay mecca’ of ‘openness, acceptance and tolerance’.

    We’ve been blessed to have had momentary ‘spurs’ appear, from time to time, to nudge us along our way – I’m thinking of Harvey Milk, Anita Bryant, Sgt Lenny Matlovich, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King – and also, from a Massachusetts perspective, Elaine Nobel’s 1974 election as a State Rep

    I’m also thinking of every gay man who died from AIDS and every gay/non-gay person who rolled up their sleeves to help them.

    When and if the gay people in Georgia need an MLK of their own, they’ll call him or her up out of their collective consciousness to get their particular job done. Meanwhile, it’ll be baby steps for them, just like it was for us. It’s important, too, to keep in mind all of the silent Georgian citizens who didn’t show up to join the mob because they weren’t hateful and angry towards us.

  45. BeccaM says:

    Him, too.

  46. FLL says:

    Good question. Harvey Milk is sorely missed.

  47. karmanot says:

    Sisterhood and brother are excellent bonding principles. The problem lies with patriarchal power structures that discriminate against women and others. Priests in Russia were mostly uneducated, barbarians and Marx was correct about them. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union they are once again flourishing like mold.The liturgical music, however, is superb.

  48. BeccaM says:

    Where is this generation’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Gandhi when we desperately need one?

  49. BeccaM says:

    I have to conclude it can’t work that way because inevitably there come along those who say, “God told me to kill you, unbeliever, and my God is never wrong.”

    If we have any doubt this is how it is, we need only look at that video up there in the post.

  50. I’ve been reluctant to comment on religious matters here, partly because my own thoughts on the matter are hardly well organized, partly because I’m a little worried that if I express any sympathy even in a hypothetical way with religious belief I’ll just get myself into big trouble. But here goes anyway.

    One would think that a belief in a single Creator who is in some sense the father or mother of us all would be one of the greatest equalizing forces imaginable. Many peoples have identified themselves as united in some kind of brotherhood by more limited, humanly understandable measures–living in a particular place, speaking a particular language, claiming a common descent, other such things. But to be in a sense all brothers and sisters in the eyes of one Creator–surely that abstract idea should trump all others? Isn’t equality before God supposed to be a key unifying principle?

    But it’s never seemed to work that way. It’s hard not to conclude that for whatever reason it can’t work that way. Perhaps the idea is too weak, too insubstantial, in the end too unreal for anyone really to believe in it. The older-fashioned, time-honored methods of identifying oneself as belonging to “Us” and not to “Them” are just too strong to compete against a nebulous ideal.

  51. nicho says:

    Religion has always been “us against them.”

  52. pappyvet says:

    I cant stand the religion but I’m crazy about the clothes

  53. FLL says:

    If you follow the cyclical pattern of anti-gay violence in recent years, it’s very telling. Violence was at an all-time high during 2010, the year the repeal of DADT was being pushed through Congress. September of 2010 also saw the single largest increase in gay students and pupils committing suicide. You recently wondered whether 2013 should be called “the year of the gay” because of the non-stop string of victories this year. Anti-gay violence, often led by the clergy, is highest during those times when the cause of civil rights is experiencing the greatest success. The same rule operated during the Civil Rights Era of the early 1960’s. When civil rights wins, the thugs and nut jobs predictably freak out, and that’s when you see violent rampages like the ones we’re seeing now scattered across the world, e.g., in France, England, Russia and the Republic of Georgia.

  54. pappyvet says:

    I agree Becca. There is a huge differenc between walking a path and organized religion. I certainly do not need anyone to organize my beliefs

  55. karmanot says:

    Authoritarian death cults hidden in the cloak of love and peace.

  56. pappyvet says:

    Just commented on the Ministry of Justice facebook,wish I could read some of the comments. Might translate a few to see what I get

  57. karmanot says:

    Thanks for your passion on this issue John. It must be very painful as a member of faith to see and experience.

  58. BeccaM says:

    More and more I’m thinking that organized religion is one of the most evil things we humans ever created.

    Not ‘religion’ itself per se, and not so much people’s personal beliefs, but when like-minded people gather into groups, set up a hierarchy, and decide their truth is given to them directly by an infallible deity and that they have a duty to impose it upon others by any means deemed necessary, including violence. That’s the evil I’m talking about.

    As far as I’m concerned, a single act of willful violence motivated by religion, or worse, inciting others to violence, completely negates any claim to a compassionate and loving faith. It is proof of hate, not love, as the prime motivator.

  59. Indigo says:

    That’s exactly how the Christians shut down the universities of the ancient world. It’s always interesting to see what happens when one of their leaders gets in touch with authentic ancient Christian practices. Don’t pretend it was not so. Forcing others onto their paradigm is central to the Christian message.

  60. lynchie says:

    The blame lies with all church leaders regardless of what faith. Their belief in being a christian, muslim, hindu what ever lies not in violence but in peace. But then this has nothing to do with that it is about hate, pure and simple.

  61. Leota2 says:

    Just lovely. It seems the former Soviet Union (anti-religious) feels good about itself now with religion by imprisoning pop stars who “disrespect” the church; and now priests helping mobs attack gays.
    Organized religion sucks. There will never be total human rights with it among us.

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