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Zourabichvili Wants to Meet NGOs after They Accused Her of Being Xenophobic

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, October 9
Independent Presidential Candidate Salome Zourabichvili expressed readiness to meet the non-governmental sector after they accused her of making xenophobic statements during her election campaign.

Zourabichvili, who is supported by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party, says it is unfair that the NGOs “express hatred towards her” while she is “eager to protect human rights.”

“This is not a criticism; it is a direct defamation when it does not have any basis. I am ready to meet NGOs not only because I respect the non-governmental sector, but also, as a president I will need to communicate with them," the presidential candidate stated.

Salome Zourabichvili made a statement on xenophobic content when she was meeting her supporters from Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda on October 2 and in the negative context mentioned e-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s action of granting Georgian citizenship to Turks.

"One president whose representative is my opponent granted citizenship to many Turks but not to you,” Zourabichvili addressed the local ethnic Armenian citizens in Ninotsminda.

After such a statement, 15 NGOs released a statement regarding Zourabichvili, saying state officials, also election candidates and leaders of various political parties often use hate speech and disseminate intentional xenophobic statements.

“However, the statement of the ruling party- supported presidential candidate proves to be extremely alarming, undermining state interests. The statement also contains the signs of illegal canvassing,” the third sector stressed.

According to the organizations, the Electoral Code of Georgia reads the candidates have the right to present a program for their further activity, however the election program shall not contain propaganda for war or violence, appeal for change or overthrow of the existing state and social order by violence, for violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia, for national strife and enmity, or for religious or ethnic confrontation.

“We consider, that the above-mentioned statement of the presidential candidate incites hatred, contradicts the principles of liberal democracy and equality, invokes the historic conflict in the modern Georgian political reality and employs all of it against political opponents,” the NGOs claimed.

They added that this is not the first xenophobic and racist statement disseminated by Salome Zurabishvili. They say on January 31, 2013, Zurabishvili posted on her Facebook page: “Chinese people never die. Several members of a family use one ID card or passport, who can see any difference? You may think that ten persons have entered [the country], but in reality, 100 persons have crossed the border.”

According to her another statement “Shardeni and Agmashenebeli streets should not be turned into the streets of hookahs,” the NGOs stated.

“We consider that in order to ensure healthy pre-election environment, campaigns should be based on the protection of human rights, equality, and principles of integrity,” the statement of 15 NGOs reads.