Mikheil Saakashvili’s statements are xenophobic and also damage Georgia’s tourism potential
The ‘No to Phobia!’ civil platform is responding to a xenophobic and anti-social statement of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia and leader of the United National Movement political party, which he made on November 4, 2018. We, member organizations of the platform, call upon him, as well as other politicians, to refrain from using hate speech and, moreover, to actively contribute to the establishment of political ideas that are based on equality, tolerance, and human rights in our society.
In the statement, Mikheil Saakashvili pointed out: ‘We need rich tourists from all regions. When these pauperized, sorry to say but ugly people, enter the country, bringing their own sausages and tinned food with them, this won’t help us become rich. We need tourists from the UAE, not those from Bangladesh...’
We believe that this statement encourages discrimination of people on ethnic and social/class grounds and deepens the marginalization of migrants from African and Asian countries, who already constitute vulnerable social groups. Such statements have a negative effect on equality and on the creation of a political environment on the basis of social consolidation, and contribute to strengthening and politicization of xenophobic attitudes in our society.
It should be noted that this is not the only recent statement by Mikheil Saakashvili which contains hate speech. The statements he made on Rustavi 2 on July 31, 2018, and on his Facebook page on August 31 and September 1 and 9, 2018, were also distinguished by xenophobic ideas. In these statements, he emphasized ethnic origin when talking about poor tourists and said that visits of such people contradicted the state interests. ‘The statistics clearly show that Iranians, Turks, and other foreigners have taken jobs away from Georgians. Instead of rich investors who were supposed to employ Georgians, we got poor migrants who hardly manage to find jobs for themselves,’ he declared. Anti-migrant rhetoric is part of the agenda of ultra-conservative political groups that have been empowered in recent years, and it is unfortunate that such ideas are also actively introduced to Georgian politics. In a situation where a large part of our population lives in extreme poverty, creating an image of an enemy out of migrants belonging to such low social classes and mobilization of hatred is an attempt to artificially divert attention away from social injustice to cultural issues and, generally, causes the ostracism of people of low social classes.
Unfortunately, it’s a fact that politicians use xenophobic statements in the pre-election period with the aim of electoral mobilization and, by doing so, they contribute to intensification of social conflicts and strengthening of xenophobic, racist attitudes that already exist in the society and to bringing them openly into the realm of politics, which obviously contradicts the idea of Georgia as a democratic and human rights-oriented state.
We call upon political parties not to use hate speech in their public statements and conversations with voters and to actively support the principle of equality with the aim of raising public consciousness.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)
Media Development Fund (MDF)
Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Article 42 of the Constitution
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)