Early this week, a young woman was murdered in her home in Tbilisi, Georgia. As with all victims of violence, we are deeply saddened by this news and send our condolences to her loved ones.
But we are also outraged. This horrific crime – the victim found locked inside her burned down apartment – is more than an act of violence. It is a reflection of deeply held hatred and fear toward sexual and gender minorities around the world. This young woman was transgender. And for that, she lost her life.
One week away from Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, we are left with another name to add to the list:
Sabi Beriani. Tbilisi, Georgia.
And while a suspect has already been taken into custody, Georgian officials have yet to factor the victim’s gender identity and expression into the investigation. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists in Georgia in urging officials to treat this murder as a hate crime.
In Georgia, despite progressive anti-discrimination laws, 88 per cent of the population view homosexuality as unacceptable. In May 2013, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), a mob numbering in the thousands broke up a small rally in Tbilisi advocating for LGBT rights. This year, Georgia’s LGBT rights activists declined to protest; instead, they left 100 empty pairs of shoes on Pushkin Square to represent the invisibility felt by this extremely marginalized group.
Sabi was a strong young woman and an important voice in the fight for LGBT rights in Georgia, appearing on several TV shows advocating for sexual minority rights. She was brave in both finding the courage to live her life in the face of daily discrimination in Georgia and in using her voice and experience as tools for change. Her murder is a huge blow to other LGBT individuals in Georgia seeking to find their voice in a society determined to silence them.
Our grantee partner in Georgia, StudioMobile – Accent on Action, is working to ensure these voices are not silenced. They are providing a place for LBT women to convene and to learn about their rights and the services available to them in their community. They are advocating for changes to policies and laws and are using film-making to shift homophobic and transphobic attitudes in communities across the country. They employ creative strategies to share the stories of the LBT community in a way that does not compromise the safety of those involved.
During that 2013 riot on IDAHOT in Georgia, StudioMobile was there. While trying to capture the scenes of violence and discrimination on film, counter-protesters destroyed their video camera equipment. By providing StudioMobile with funding for their work, The MATCH Fund — and the Canadians who support us — are ensuring that the stories of LGBT communities in Georgia do not go unheard.