Persistent reports of intimidation of opposition activists in Georgia’s regions.

Georgian media has over the last weeks carried a string of reports of intimidation, by officials of local authorities, of opposition supporters in Georgia’s regions. There are also reports of violence against opposition activists.

Rezonansi newspaper and other media outlets have reported the dismissal of more than twenty school teachers in the Shida Kartli region due to their support of opposition parties, or as in the case of Gori School teacher, Ia Bzhalava, because her husband was an activist of the opposition Free Democrats.

The web site Democracy and Freedom (DF) Watch also reported the case of Giorgi Beruashvili, former employee of Privat-Bank in Kareli, a village in Shida Kartli, who was fired only because his sister and mother were attending a Georgian Dream meeting. He told DF Watch that he was considered as one of the bank’s most valued employees before that presentation, and no one had ever mentioned that he was in danger of being fired. But the day after the presentation, he was told that he was fired, because ‘members of his family think in an opposition way.’

Tsisana Javakhishvili says she was the only biology teacher at the public school in the village Nikozi near Gori. She was fired only because she held different views; her husband participated in the local elections in 2010, representing the Free Democrats. The official reason for her firing was lack of experience. But it later emerged that the headmaster directly told her she had to leave her job because of the political views of her husband, because ‘he didn’t need an oppositional [person] at school.’

DF Watch contacted the education ministry for a comment as to why the teachers were fired, but its press office told us that ‘the ministry doesn’t do comments on issues like this.’

In the meantime, Interpressnews (IPN), quoting sources close to the Free Democrats reported that party supporters who travelled to Dedoflistskaro from various villages of Kakheti region to participate in the opening of the Free Georgia office in the district were subject to pressure by local administration officials. The party has formally protested about the incident.

Another incident involved an activist of the Georgian Dream coalition in Samagrelo Region. The Coaltion reported that on May 20, at 00:45 a.m. in the Village of Nojiskhevi (Khobi region) near the railway passage, 4 unidentified persons attacked the Head of its’ Khobi regional Office Mamuka Kardava. The attack was severe and Karadva was hospitalised.

The situation in the regions of Georgia is very different from that in the capital Tbilisi. Politically appointed Governors hold absolute control over all aspects of the lives of citizens. The matter of the schoolteachers is very relevant to the election process. In Georgia many schools serve as polling stations during elections and many teachers are part of the election administration process during the poll. The firing of teachers in Shida Kartli may therefore be an attempt to “clear the decks” ahead of elections in October.

Source: CEW with various media outlets