Culture minister urges Tbilisi theatre actor to quit after domestic abuse allegations

Culture minister Thea Tsulukiani made her comments around the #metoo moment involving the theatre actor on Friday. Scrrenshot from video., 16 Apr 2021 - 16:43, Tbilisi,Georgia

Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia Thea Tsulukiani has urged Beso Zanguri, an actor at the Rustaveli Theatre troupe in Tbilisi, to "immediately leave the theatre" following allegations of domestic abuse dating back 11 years and made against him by on Rustavi 2 channel on Monday.

Tsulukiani made comments about the allegations that sparked wider public debate and involved reactions by people from the theatre company on Friday. The minister called Ninutsa Makashvili, a former actor of the troupe who made the allegations, to cooperate for launching an investigation into the matter and added "it would be right if [Zanguri] leaves the theatre today, immediately, in the meanwhile."

Zanguri rejected the allegations earlier in the week and said they were part of a concerted campaign. The actor also said he would be ready to "provide answers to an investigation". However, Makashvili, who was invited by the interior ministry for an interview on the matter, said she was not willing to discuss the matter with police and had not intended to pursue charges against her former spouse.

Makashvili made her allegations on the channel, telling programme host she had suffered repeated domestic abuse from Zanguri, including during her pregnancy. The statements sparked an outcry on social media and reactions from Rustaveli Theatre troupe, where actor Tamta Inashvili said she would refuse to go on stage with Zanguri in solidarity with Makashvili following the #metoo moment.

In the divided debate Zanguri found support from Robert Sturua, an internationally acclaimed director who cast the actor with Inashvili in the production Somewhere Beyond the Rainbow, staged at the theatre. Sturua made controversial remarks on his social media account, likening the allegations with "women starting 1937 [Soviet] repressions", which intensified the public argument and saw social media users level sharp criticism against the director.

Tsulukiani said she would not appeal for Sturua, known for his controversial comments on public matters, to resign his position at the theatre. Sturua himself had announced he would only leave the company if fired from his job.

In her comments the culture minister added she believed both sides of the allegations should cooperate with an investigation into the matter, adding it was "never too late to speak about experiences of violence."