The small nation of Georgia has a long and storied history. Lying where Europe starts to merge into Asia, it has been a stop along the ancient Silk Road. Today, this nation that was once dominated by the U.S.S.R. has again reclaimed an identity. It’s one place where residents are still trying to figure who they are and how to govern. Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi is home to over a million people. It’s an area where divisions can bubble up again in some very unexpected ways. While many Georgians adhere to traditional, conservative values, there are people in Tbilisi who look for places where they can break free and find a different path. One nightclub has proven to be both a flashpoint of tension and yet a world that allows for incredible self-expression at the same time.
Released From Below the Surface
Years of tight rule by the Soviets had the effect of tightening dissent. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, people here have found it possible to think about who they are. For members of the community’s gay and lesbian residents, this process has been freeing and scary. The state’s Georgian Orthodox church is ruled by those who are harbor homophobic views. Last May 17, they led a large crowd down the streets of Tbilisi along with homophobic banners to celebrate something they called Family Purity Day. It was a parade intended to express disgust at the city’s pride march.
Finding a Haven
Despite these jeers, gay and lesbian residents have found one place where they can find a measure of safety from the society’s conservative leaders. One space is a hugely famous techno club. People come here from the globe to party hard. Its owners decided it was time to take a chance, speak out and fight what they see as the city officials and their unfair crackdowns on freedom of personal expression. In pursuit of that aim, they have created a night once a month known as Horoom. It’s a carefully vetted night for gay and lesbian people in Tbilisi to let go of the pressures of living in the community.
Many Security Measures
Protecting people at the club on Horoom is the major aim of the night. Anyone who wants to attend must submit a Facebook profile. They get a code and agree to avoid taking photography that could otherwise potentially reveal people who not yet out to a society rife with homophobia. This event has been in place for over three years. About a thousand people come here to let go in an event that was given the name of a famous Georgian war dance. It’s also a chance for people to fight against other customs in the area they find deeply unfair.
Georgia is also home to some of the strictest drug laws in the world. As a result, more than a third of the nation’s prisoners are behind bars for drug offenses considered minor in many other places. The owners have been very vocal in their support for an organization known as White Noise. This organization aims to reduce the reach of such strict laws including rules that allow anyone to be stopped and asked to take a urine test by getting patrons involved in local anti-extremist drug laws protests.
Clashes With Others
After the Georgian police invaded the club, it was clear this was a conflict between multiple groups. People danced in front of the city’s parliament to protest their treatment during the raid. They were met with an organization with ties to the Neo-Nazis calling the dancers drug dealers and gay slurs. Government leaders and the leaders of White Noise suggested that everyone leave the area. Government official has condemned right-wing violence and threats. The owners report ongoing efforts at harassment by far-right groups in the area. Still, they remain committed to what they have started. The club will continue to provide Tbilisi’s gays and lesbians at least one night a month where they can free safe and happy. It’s a mission they consider an essential part of their lives as community activists.
Hamed Wardak currently splits his time between his home in New York City and On the island of Puerto Rico. (Hamed) Wardak is the son of a former defense minister for Afghanistan. Hamed Wardak is an entrepreneur and recently joined the techno music world, creating, producing, and performing his new artistry in underground techno clubs all over the world. Hamed Wardak is known as Valen of Wicked.