“We will continue until the law is withdrawn, we are not afraid! »

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Protesters carrying Georgian and European national flags march against “Russian law” in central Tbilisi, Georgia, May 3, 2024. ZURAB TSERTSVADZE / AP

Like every evening for three weeks, thousands of people marched in the center of Tbilisi on the evening of Friday May 3 to protest against the bill on “foreign influence” adopted on Wednesday in second reading by Parliament. “No to Russian law! », “Europe is the only path to civilization!” »chanted the demonstrators, gathered in the early evening on Freedom Square, opposite the Paragraph hotel, one of the properties of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder and current leader of the Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia Since almost twelve years.

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Qualified as “Russian law” by its detractors, the text is similar to that which the Duma adopted in 2012 to muzzle opposition to the regime of Vladimir Putin. In Georgia, as in Russia, the law requires independent media and civil society organizations to register as entities “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

“Being labeled a “foreign agent” in your own country is humiliating, it amounts to making us traitors”, laments Kety Gujaraidze, an environmental specialist at the local NGO Green Alternative. For three weeks, this 52-year-old activist has been at all the rallies, believing that the future of her country is currently being played out in the streets of Tbilisi. “In 2008, Russia invaded us, they were the enemy, it was simple. Today we are under attack from our own government which seeks to muzzle civil society and cut us off from the European Union. We are not going to stand idly by.”she promises.

“We feel European”

Youth is the driving force behind the protest. Georgian flag on their shoulders, Nia, Salomé, Tengo, Nodariko, students or high school students, hardly feel attracted by the Russian model. “Our government is subservient to Moscow, not us. We feel European”says Salomé Aladachvili, a 16-year-old high school student. “We will continue until the law is withdrawn, we are not afraid! », exclaims her friend, Nia Khourstsilava, 15 years old, her baby face framed by two brown braids. The law, she believes, “shatters the European dream” of the country and “compromises the future” of the youth. How ? “All areas, the media, NGOs, education will be affected. In particular organizations which ensure student exchanges, for example within the framework of the Erasmus programme. Our relations with the European Union will weaken, that’s what the government wants. »

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