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Clashes between students take place in Tbilisi State University

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, March 16
Protest rallies of students and unrest continue at Tbilisi State University (TSU), even though the main demand of the TSU students was satisfied and the candidate for the chancellor's posiition, Giorgi Gaprindashvili, withdrew his candidacy on March 14.

The students, calling themselves Auditorium 115 , are not going to stop protest rallies until their other demands are met. Namely, these are: the reorganization of the Student Government (known as Tvitmmartveloba) and launching an investigation into the presence of intelligence agents, so called ODRs, at TSU.

On the other hand, the members of Tvitmmartveloba have formed another group, opposing Auditorium 115. They demand the resignation of the University Rector, Vladimer Papava, and the restoration of order at TSU.

It should be noted that Giorgi Gaprindashvili also used to be a member of Tvitmmartveloba. The opposition students claim that the Student Government should not have access to University resources, saying they are misspending the budget.

Both groups held rallies in the university yard and the situation became tense when they all broke into the building and gathered in front of the rector’s office. University security guards and patrol officers managed to control the clash. However, according to the protesting students and the reporters, several people with covered faces went to the protesters and acted aggressively. The reporters say these people took their recordings and materials and broke their cameras.

On March 15, TSU Students Government members broke into the Rector’s cabinet. According to the President of the Student Government, Shalva Sabauri, if Papava does not manage to control the situation they will not allow him to enter the cabinet. They still demand the rector’s resignation, unlike Auditorium 115, who support Papava.

A former member of Tvitmmartveloba, Giorgi Gaprindashvili also called on the rector to resign. He said that Papava is responsible for the recent developments at the university and as he has done nothing to avoid the further escalation of the situation, he should resign.

However, TSU Principal Vladimer Papava does not plan to quit his post. He believes that the problems are being orchestrated by a certain political power.

“Before the election period, some forces are interested to rule political processes by using the university, and unfortunately this will bring disastrous consequences,” Papava said, adding that he is not going to leave his position.

Moreover, several lecturers supporting Vladimer Papava started a hunger strike. They express solidarity with the rector and demand the restoration of the studying process.

“We started a hunger strike in support of Vladimer Papava. As for the Tvitmmartveloba students, they are being provoked by outer forces,” the lecturers stressed.

Members of the Student Government are also going to start a hunger strike.

Ilia State University students, as well as those at universities in Kutaisi and Batumi, expressed their solidarity with the protesters. The movement was also supported by a number of Non Governmental Organizations, feminist and LGBT groups, the Tkibuli miners, and the Railway Workers Union.