Georgia, 04 May, 2024 As the sun sets over the Caucasus Mountains, Tsotne Jafaridze finishes his day’s work crafting wine and heads back to Tbilisi, the bustling capital of Georgia. But there’s no rest for him yet. Equipped with goggles, a gas mask, and provisions, he joins the throngs gathered outside the parliament building, ready for another night of protest.

Jafaridze is just one of many voices raised in opposition to a proposed bill that has sparked outrage across the country. Dubbed the “foreign agent” law, it bears striking resemblance to measures seen in Russia under President Putin’s rule. The bill, currently undergoing legislative scrutiny, mandates that organizations receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad register as “foreign agents” or face hefty penalties.

For Jafaridze, who relies heavily on foreign income for his travel business, the implications are dire. Yet, it’s not just entrepreneurs like him who stand to lose. Critics argue that the bill’s true targets are Georgia’s independent media and civil society, a move perceived as a bid by the ruling Georgian Dream party to cling to power ahead of looming elections.

This isn’t the first time such legislation has been proposed. Last year, similar efforts were met with widespread resistance, prompting a retreat by the government. However, the bill resurfaced in March, signaling a determination to push it through despite mounting opposition.

The protests, growing in intensity by the day, have been met with a harsh crackdown by the authorities. Reports of police brutality and excessive force have raised alarm both domestically and internationally. Yet, the resolve of the protesters remains unshaken.

In the midst of the turmoil, figures like Bidzina Ivanishvili, the influential founder of Georgian Dream, have emerged, stirring controversy with their rhetoric and actions. Ivanishvili’s recent public appearance and his inflammatory remarks have only fueled the flames of dissent.

As tensions escalate, international observers are closely monitoring the situation. The United States, in particular, has voiced concerns over Georgia’s trajectory, warning against measures that undermine democratic principles and Western values.

Despite the challenges, the people of Georgia stand united in their resistance. For Jafaridze and countless others, this is a battle for their future, a defiant assertion that Georgia is not Russia, nor is it Belarus. It’s a nation fighting to uphold its sovereignty and democratic aspirations in the face of adversity.