In August 2011 the Ministry of Justice made digital ID cards available to everyone obtaining an ID card for the first time or renewing their old one. The government decided to promote these new ID cards because they are very difficult to falsify, as they allow people to have their own digital signature. Moreover, people can now do their online banking, pay bills, buy bus tickets, and even check their grades and register for classes with the new cards. They are modern and comfortable, and students even gain access to dozens of discounts with them. Despite all of these advantages, the Church opposes the adoption of these cards.
Violation of freedom
Some of the main ID opposition leaders are Tea Gegia from the Orthodox Collective, Father Zosime from the Quashveti Church in Tbilisi, and lawyer Irma Bandzeladze. Following the most recent protests on 21 November, the organizers were invited to discuss their position on the radio. Lawyer Irma Bandzeladze claims that the ID cards violate people’s freedom, as everyone’s personal information is held in one centralized system. This argument, however, is not very rational, as the government and banks already store everyone’s information, and no one has opposed this until today.
What is even more troubling is that the Church representatives claim to speak for the entire community. Currently, only 100,000 people have signed a petition stating they do not want electronic ID cards, but Georgia has a population of around 4 million people. Despite these figures, Irma Bandzeladze claims that 99% of Georgians want their former ID cards back.
Second coming of Christ
Religious fanaticism is common in Georgia, and those who oppose the ID cards use superstition as their main argument against them. Father Zosime claims that the electronic ID cards signal the second coming of Christ. He also believes that using a barcode for products purchased in the supermarket is a sign of the coming apocalypse. If the electronic ID cards are abolished, this group of religious representatives also plans to demand that Georgians no longer use the personal numbers on their IDs, or any identification number at all.
While the Georgian government has tried to engage with the opponents of electronic ID cards, no consensus has been reached. With the hope of raising awareness about the harmless nature of this innovation, the Minister of Justice has given several informative TV appearances regarding the new ID cards. She even issued a 5-minute informative video about ID cards, presenting strong arguments from IT technicians and computer experts stating that there is no sign of a biblical antichrist embedded in the microchip that has become an unfortunate symbol for Georgia’s ultra-orthodox groups to latch onto. Despite this effort, the ID cards’ opponents show no signs of giving up.