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Georgia: ‘Broom Revolution’ as Elections Approach

Thousands have protested in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, after videos showing physical abuse in the country's prison system aired on some television stations and were shared on YouTube. Although widely detailed in various human rights reports, the footage surfacing on 18 September, 2012, was the first that many Georgians had actually seen.

This video showing the physical abuse of a prisoner was uploaded to YouTube by  on September 18 [WARNING: Graphic content]:

Social media reactions

According to media reports, Georgia has the sixth-highest prison population per capita in the world along with a high mortality rate. Commentary on Facebook reflected the widespread anger at the videos while others such as Eka Rostomashvili ‏updated followers on Twitter as to developments during the first evening of protests.

@ERostomashvili: Horrific, inhuman things happening in Georgian penitentiary. Ppl gather outside Philharmonics to protest against violence in prison #Tbilisi

@ERostomashvili: Protestors have blocked Melikishvili. Drivers don't seem to object terribly and turn around. #Tbilisi #gldaniprison

@ERostomashvili: Journalists estimate 500 ppl are protesting against violence in prison outside Philharmonics. #Tbilisi #gldaniprison

@ERostomashvili: Protestors request resignation of ministers of interior #Akhalaia + penitentiary #Kalmakhelidze. #Tbilisi #gldaniprison

@ERostomashvili: Protestors ask drivers to join them. Estimated turnout at the moment: 1000 people. #Tbilisi #gldaniprison

@ERostomashvili: Protestors take turn to make speeches. Emotional speech was made by a mother of two prisoners. #Tbilisi #gldaniprison

@lingelien: Famous Theater director Sturua comments on prison abuses: “We, the Georgian people, are deeply shocked by the events. ” (1) #gldaniprison

‘Broom Revolution’

The following day, with momentum building behind calls for the resignation of high profile ministers, the protests increased in size and were also reported in other urban centers in Georgia. Referring to scenes of a prisoner being raped with a broom handle, Georgian Photographers, as well as others, dubbed the protests a “Broom Revolution.”

It was the video broadcast On TV about prison torture in Georgia.

Footage shows prisoners being beaten, kicked and abused by a group of staff members.

Additional footage allegedly shows prisoners being sexually assaulted.

Hundreds gathered in central Tbilisi today after two pro-opposition channels broadcast the video.

In case you are wondering why BROOM revolution. One of the videos shows half-naked man, crying and begging for mercy as he is beaten and after raped with a broom.

Protesters burn brooms in Tbilisi, Georgia © Georgian Photographers

Protesters burn brooms in Tbilisi, Georgia © Georgian Photographers

Protesters burn brooms in Tbilisi, Georgia © Georgian Photographers

Protesters burn brooms in Tbilisi, Georgia © Georgian Photographers

With the Minister of Corrections, Probation, and Legal Assistance resigning a day after the videos aired, The Young Georgians updated its readers to new demands from protesters:

Thousands of students marched in streets of Tbilisi on Wednesday to protest abuse and rape in Georgian prisons. Disturbing videos of prisoners being tortured by guards leaked on TV and immediately sparkled Georgians to come out and stand against violence. A protest was organized by the Tbilisi State University students, however they were joined by all major universities. At 3:30 pm students moved to the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) where they demanded the later to air abuse videos. After negotiating with the General Director of GPB students marched towards the Ministry of Internal Affairs where they were joined by drivers and local neighbors. Students demanded the Minister of Internal Affairs Bacho Akhalia and several other officials to step down. Protests were held in all major Georgian cities and across Europe.

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Tamada Tales reported that their demands were met:

In a move signalling the seriousness of the political crisis facing the Georgian government over videos documenting the sexual and physical abuse of Georgian prisoners, Georgian Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia late on September 20 submitted his resignation to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Rustavi2 television reported.

[...]

The news of his resignation was greeted by raucous cheers and car-horn-honking from outside Tbilisi's Philharmonia, where a late-night protest was underway.

As did Twitter:

@ZoeReyners: Resignation of the minister of interior Akhalaia

@SabineICG: Significant: MIA Akhalaia who is resigning was head of prisons during last prison scandal in 2006 when 7 died. End of impunity? #Georgia

Global Voices’ outgoing Caucasus Editor, Onnik Krikorian, also documented the protests, especially those involving students. Meanwhile, at time of writing and despite visibly reducing in size in the evenings, protests continue.

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian 2012

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian 2012

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

Gldani Prison Abuse Protest, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian

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