Sunday, May 19, 2013

"A Decent and Free Life:" Gay Courage in the Streets of Tbilisi

I realize how abrupt this all is. I wanted so quickly to share with you all that I was hearing from the blood- marked streets of Tbilisi that I rushed to give you the letter from dear Zoe, whom we met during our visit in Belgrade, and from Mariam who marched in Tbilisi's streets. The same sex graffitti is from a wall on Rustaveli  Street in that capital city and the thousands massing above are the outraged at such love. Violence against LGTB women and men is not reserved for the streets of Georgia; in New York, a gay man was killed by a shot in the face and others had been beaten in the past week.

dear friends
I am so in admiration of the courage of my friends in Georgia,
for trying to organize Gay Pride in Tbilisi.
I am so so sad to see the same experience as happened in Serbia in 2001, 
where lgbt people are put on the table of the church and the government to  be eaten, to be killed, and to not have protection for our own lives.
So sad.
You can read more about what happened from this article
and here you can read Mariam Gagosh's experience, a great activist and brave woman.
i just have words of support and hope that we all will continue to fight for a decent and free life.
Your friend, Zoe

My experience on 17 May, IDAHO day, in Tbilisi

by Mariam Gagosh (Notes) on Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 8:59pm
On 17 May, IDAHO day, I was together with 20 other activists (18 women and 2 men) when counter-protesters attacked us. We were surrounded by police, who were in turn surrounded by a large number of counter-protesters. Even though their number and the aggression from them was growing (swearing at us and spitting in our faces), the police were repeatedly telling us to leave and not to escalate the situation. We obviously did not want to leave, because the aggressive crowd would attack us. Needless to say, we did not engage in verbal contact with the aggressors. We stood still. Some of us were demanding that the police takes special measures to protect us and we were requesting some transport. However, they were reluctant to provide so. We were trying to get hold of three contact persons provided by Ministry of Internal Affairs, but without success. 

Later two representative UN women joined us. They were showing their work ID to police and only after realizing that UN representatives were with us, did the police did take some steps. With the guidance of UN staff members, they led us to the entrance of the residential building, where we found a temporary shelter. On the way to the entrance, several of us got attacked by counter-protesters. Stones and plastic bottles full of water were thrown at us with full force. One of the girls had her head broken and bleeding. Police did see well who was throwing stones but did not do much. As far as I am concerned, nobody got did not do much. As far as I am concerned, nobody got detained by the police.

We spent some time in the shelter, where UN representatives were urging policemen to take measures. I believe that thanks to their efforts the police took steps and provided on yellow minibus for our evacuation. They made a corridor and we were evacuated from the building. Two policemen accompanied us into the minibus while the aggressive crowd tried to reach us and continued throwing stones, spitting and swearing.

The crows was preventing the minibus from moving. The counter-protesters attacked us from outside, threw stones, broke windows, bit us, grabbed our hair and bodies, three bottles, tried to drag us out of the windows, spitting and shouting all the time. The minibus was moving very slowly because of the crowd, but also because its front windows were damaged, preventing visibility. They also tried to get into the minibus and continuously tried to drag the driver out. The two policemen really did a good job in enduring that the minibus did not stop. I am grateful to both of them as well as the driver. 

We were taken outside Tbilisi to a safe place. Members of our group were safely delivered to their homes (or nearby streets) by police patrol cars.

As a result of this attack, one activist was injured in her head, cut and bleeding, two activists had concussions, others have minor injuries, bruises, cuts, clothes torn. Needless to say, everybody is shocked and psychologically devastated.

With full responsibility, I can say that the crowd gathered against us was more then ready to tear us apart and kill us. It was a matter of luck that we survived. If we stayed a minute longer in the minibus, I am sure we would have been stabbed to death.

Courage in the Region

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Take the Nakba into Your Heart, into Your Histories

65 years of exile, with keys rusting in old people's hands, with children turning over these relics of their exclusion, wondering what doors could be opened with these old heavy things, these iron reminders of a forced exodus not even allowed to be named in the school books of another people of the exodus. If the heart is locked against the pain of others, and arms rush in to crush the memory of home, if  the heart is locked against the  the sorrow of the Nakba, then all the haters have won. Where are the keys to our hearts, to the Israeli hearts that have no patience for the catastrophes of others, to the American hearts that keep the guns in the hands of the border guards, the bombs in the bellies of birds of war, where is the key to our own sense of how to end a misery beyond words, one that keeps exploding into more and more catastrophes. The children of the Palestinian refuge camps that sit in the sands of no return, no hope, can see only walls and soldiers, and yet they have heard that somewhere beyond their bereft camp, once a well ran with clear water and olive trees budded black sweetness in the sun, once their poet told them, white horses held the beauty of a free day in the curve of their proud necks and lovers sang Arabic songs in the gardens of homes, carved from ancient stone.

Can the human heart hold two histories in respect and dedication to ending suffering? Will it always be the shot blast, so certain, of armament, that reigns supreme. Will Miriam dance at her well knowing that the desert is home to many and that the human imagination can find a way of singing the possibilities of two histories, each needing a place called home. Can we find the key to this demand of us that we think in sorrow and with respect for the longings of others then ourselves? Longings that are like our own skin.

Translation by Edith Rubenstein, Women In Black, Belgium

Jeudi, 16 mai 2013 
Prenez la Nakba dans votre coeur, dans vos histoires
65 ans d’exil, avec des clés qui rouillent dans les mains de vieilles personnes, avec des enfants transmettant ces reliques de leur exclusion, se demandant quelles portes peuvent être ouvertes avec ces choses vieilles et lourdes, ces rappels en fer d’un exode forcé qu’il n’est même pas permis de nommer dans les livres scolaires d’un autre peuple de l’exode. Si le cœur est fermé face à la douleur d’autrui, et que des armes se précipitent pour broyer le souvenir de son chez-soi, si le cœur est fermé face à l’affliction de la Nakba, alors tous haineux ont gagné. Où sont les clés de notre cœur, des cœurs israéliens qui n’ont pas de patience pour les catastrophes d’autres, des cœurs américains qui maintiennent les fusils dans les mains des gardes-frontières, les bombes dans les ventres d’oiseaux de guerre, où est la clé de notre propre sentiment pour savoir comment mettre fin à la misère au-delà des mots, une qui continue à exploser en de plus en plus de catastrophes ? Les enfants des camps de réfugiés palestiniens qui sont assis dans les sables du non retour, sans espoir, peuvent seulement voir des murs et des soldats, et pourtant, ils ont entendu que quelque part au-delà de leur camp dépossédé, autrefois coulait un puits avec de l’eau claire et des oliviers bourgeonnaient en une douceur noire dans le soleil, autrefois leur poète leur a raconté que des chevaux blancs conservaient la beauté d’un jour libre dans la courbe de leur nuques fières et des amoureux chantaient des chants arabes dans les jardins des maisons, taillées dans la vieille pierre.

Le cœur humain peut-il garder deux histoires avec respect et dévouement pour mettre fin à la souffrance ?  Sera-ce toujours le souffle de l’explosion, si certain, de l’armement qui règnera en maître ? Miriam dansera-t-elle devant son puits sachant que le désert est le foyer de beaucoup et que l’imagination humaine peut trouver un moyen de chanter les possibilités de deux histoires, chacune ayant besoin d’un lieu appelé son chez soi ? Pouvons-nous trouver la clé de cette exigence de nous que nous pensions avec tristesse et avec respect aux aspirations d’autres que nous-mêmes ? Des aspirations qui sont comme notre propre peau.