Meet Tinatin Khidasheli from Georgia
“I am not simply a conscious liberal,” says Tinatin Khidasheli, Georgian human rights lawyer, academic, politician, and an ex-Defence minister – the first female one her country and the Caucasus has seen. “I am an instinctive liberal – it is not just from reading books, it happened to me naturally.”
Currently, she heads a Georgian think-thank, Civic IDEA, fighting the soviet legacy in Georgia, confronting Russian propaganda, and advocating for a sound defence and security policy for Georgia while also teaching in academia. Before that, she chaired a Parliamentary Committee for European Integration as well as an Inquiry Commission into Violations of Freedom of Speech and Telecommunication Laws at the Parliament of Georgia. Even earlier, she was an elected member of the Tbilisi City Council.
But her public image will be forever be shaped by her younger years, when she found the largest Human Rights advocacy group in the entire post-Soviet space, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, as well as her landmark defence of the basic rights of people who have suffered from police abuse and of persecuted religious minorities.
“I was so different from the mainstream understanding of these matters in my country, despite being from a famous Orthodox family. It was unacceptable that I was defending such people. Then there was the fight against the death penalty,” she recalls.
Her political career, which reached its high point around 2015-2016 when she became Defence Minister, took her away from the street battles against communist police and the court battles against injustice into a new battlefield. In the masculine world of Georgian politics, being a woman was an aggravating circumstance by itself. “When I was Minister of Defence the only comments I heard were about the size of my earrings and what kind of lipstick I was wearing,” she recalls.
Yet, she never abandoned her credo that it is equal opportunity that is worth fighting for, even when it comes to cross-gender relations. “I don't believe that strong, qualified conscious leadership depends on the gender. I think it comes from the honesty and professionalism of the person,” Khidasheli states.
As for who has got her back, Khidasheli is clear – her husband, also a lawyer and politician, and two boys. “My family made it possible for me to become who I am,” she says. The simple principle they follow is that they should be happy with what they do, be it in their personal or professional lives. “The only reason why nothing broke my family is that we always did what we were happy doing, regardless of all the pressures we had to endure because of our public lives.”
She holds an LLM in International Law from Tbilisi State University and MA in Political Science from Central European University (CEU) in Hungary. She is a Yale World Fellow and a fellow at the Prague Civil Society Center and at CEVRO. Khidasheli was presented the Freedom Fighter Award by President George W Bush and earned CEU’s Impact award for outstanding Career Achievement.
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