Archive for the ‘Gay Russia’ Category

Religious and Nationalist Groups call for the ban of St Petersburg Pride

Sent by Nicolas Alexeyev

Extracts of a letter addressed to the Governor of the City.

A group of Religious and Nationalist organizations sent a common letter to the Governor of St Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko, asking her to prohibit any gay pride march in the city.

The letter of which ‘rusk.ru’ received a copy says:

“We are categorically against holding any public events, which in any way present a propaganda of sexual perversions.

“Any parade is a demonstration – demonstration is a form of propaganda. As a result, a gay pride is a propaganda of homosexuality.

“Love between a man and a woman exists only for one purpose – to give birth to a new life but gay pride is the propaganda of death”

“But why does no one remember that holding these actions grossly violates the right of the majority and is doubtful from the point of moral action?

“After all, for the majority of our country and, in particular, for our city, homosexuality is an unacceptable deviation from the norm, a moral rejection and a disgust.

“We are constantly told that democracy is the government of majority, but it turns out that the interests of the majority would be sacrificed to a handful of people with unnatural sexual orientation”

The statement is signed by several nationalists and religious groups among them “Intellectuals of the Orthodox Church; Russian Imperial Movement; Movement “For Faith and Fatherland”, “People’s Cathedral”, “Imperial Russia Union”.

The first official gay pride in St Petersburg is scheduled on June 26.

GayRussia.Ru

http://www.gayrussia.ru/en/news/detail.php?ID=15227

Russia denied registering a Gay Group campaigning for Marriage Equality

Sent by Nicolas Alexeyev

The Russian Ministry of Justice turned down the application of a group of gay and lesbian activists to register the first All Russia NGO dedicated to support the campaign for Same-Sex Marriage.

“Your organization cannot be registered on the basis that its aims contradict the law on NGOs and provisions of the family code which define marriage as a union between a man and a woman“ says the letter received by the board of the organization.

The board said today that “we asked today the Russian justice to reverse this illegal decision, and we will go all the way up the European Court of Human Rights if necessary”

‘Marriage Equality Russia’ is backed by a group of Moscow and St Petersburg LGBT groups as well as individuals, also heterosexuals.

The campaign is already running since last May when the group helped a lesbian couple to register their union in Moscow. After getting a denial from the Civil Registrar, the couple entered into Marriage last October in Toronto.

The couple is about to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after the Russian justice twice upheld the denial.

One of the spouses, Irina Fedotova (Fet), a board member of ‘Marriage Equality Russia’ said about her participation in the organization:

“This campaign is not only about my marriage with Irina. We want to bring our contribution to help opening the way to marriage to other gays and lesbians and not only in Russia”.

Nikolai Alekseev, spokesman for ‘Marriage Equality Russia’ said:

“Russia is a country where you cannot hold a march in the streets if you openly advertize it as gay, and this is the same with registering an openly gay organization”

“We could probably succeed in registering a NGO and remain discreet on its aim or organize a march without applying it as a gay march, but there is simply no sense in staying in the closet. Only the fight for visibility gets you in the media and help with time to make more people open about us.”

“Knocking at each door in secret and quietly explain what is homosexuality is not going to take us anywhere in a country of 141 million”

Last October, a group of UN experts found that discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation is “systematic”.

Marriage Equality Russia

Logo of the organization available on line at: www.marriageequality.ru/en
Photos and videos of All Russia’s marriage campaign available on www.marriageequality.ru/en

“This is our caricature for GayRussia.Ru on Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who called this week to punish gays and gay parades: “It’s high time that we stop propagating nonsense discussions about human rights, and bring to bear on them the full force and justice of the law”. He knows he will loose… agony…”Nicolas Alexeyev

Mayor Luzhkov Has Again Hits Out at Gay Pride Parade in Moscow, Calling it Satanic

Organisers vow to go ahead and will return to the streets of the capital on May 29

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has fiered his customary broadside at the Russian Capital’s annual Gay Pride, repeating his usage of such descriptions as “satanic”.

Speaking at the opening of the XVIII Christmas Educational Readings in Moscow, Mayor Luzhkov, said that for several years there had been unprecedented pressure to hold a Gay Pride Parade.

“[The parade] cannot be called anything but a Satanic act, the Mayor said. “We have prevented such a parade and we will not allow it in the future. Everyone needs to accept this as an axiom.

“It is high time to crack down on the parade with all the power and justice of the law, instead of talking about human rights.

“We need a social whip or something like that, not a liberal ginger cake,” the Mayor said in a speech that closely resembled his remarks about Gay Pride a year ago to Christmas Educational Readings.

He coupled what he called the “open propaganda of same-sex so-called love”, with such “social ills” as drug abuse, xenophobia and ethnic hostility.

“There was nothing in Luzhkov’s speech that we haven’t heard before,” Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev said this afternoon.

“All the same medieval and homophobic rhetoric, under the obscurantist sauce.”

According to Mr. Alexeyev, the approaching inevitability of gay pride in Moscow is not a theorem and an axiom.

“Our axiom is much stronger than Luzhkov’s because ours is based on the law and the European Convention on Human Rights,” he pointed out.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg will, in the next month, be considering the cases against Russia of the banning by Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow Gay Prides 2006, 2007 and 2008, along with other bans affecting the capital’s gay community.

Mr. Alexeyev pointed out that the Strasbourg Court has given Russia until February 20, to justify its position on the bans.

And he added that when he was in London in 2007 attending an “M4” meeting with the mayors of Berlin, London and Paris, Mayor Luzhkov promised to respect the decision of the court.

There are some doubts that the decision of the European court of Human Rights will be announced in time to put Luzhkov to the test following his 2007 promise for this coming May’s Moscow Pride.

Mr. Alexeyev confirmed that as far as organisers are concerned, Moscow Pride will go ahead as planned on May 29. He added that a number of well-known politicians and activists from Europe and the USA had already indicated that they will be present.

Full Article on GayRussia

Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko, Russian Lesbian Couple Just Married in Toronto by GayRussia.Ru.

The couple intends to start a legal battle to have their union recognized in Russia.

Despite all obsticles and legal restrictions in Russia, a lesbian couple entered into same-sex marriage in Toronto yesterday. Numerous media and local activists were present at the ceremony during which Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko exchanged woes.

The wedding was held by Harvey Brownstone, a well-known openly gay judge at the family court of northern Toronto. The newly wed couple received their marriage certificate which they intend to use upon their return to Russia to have their Canadian marriage also recognized in their home country.

The couple together with their lawyer and organiser of Moscow Gay Pride Nikolai Alekseev as well as local activists hosted a press conference at the Toronto City Hall before the ceremony during which Canadian gay activists spoke about their struggle for marriage equality stressing the importance of supporting similar movements in other countries, including Russia. They compared the fight for same sex marriage in Russia with a similar campaign which started in Canada two decades ago.

After the press conference, Toronto Mayor David Miller congratulated Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko and thanked the couple for having chosen Toronto for their marriage. Later he wrote in his Twitter blog: “Just met Irena and Irena from russia here to get married; then going home to fight for human rights. Well done women, well done”.

Mayor Miller commented: “They’re so happy you can feel their happiness. And what a great statement from our city that we can lead the world in human rights and that people will come to Toronto to seek equal treatment and respect and joy and love”.

On Friday night dozens of people attended the wedding reception which was held in a restaurant of the gay village of Toronto. During the party, the audience watched pictures of the couple’s attempt to register their marriage in Moscow last May, as well as a video footage of this year’s Slavic Gay Pride in Moscow.

Nikolai Alekseev said on Friday: “We are delighted with the warm welcome in this wonderful country and in this stunning city of Toronto. Even though it is not my marriage, this is a day I will hardly forget. We are grateful to the Canadian LGBT organization EGALE for helping us in organizing the wedding of our Irinas in Toronto”.

Organizer of the Moscow gay Pride stressed: “Many in Russia, including in the LGBT community, think that same sex marriage is impossible but the fight for marriage equality in Russia today is an investment in a democratic and free future of the country. We know that we will get it one day and this is the reason why we have to start now”.

“I salute the courage of Irina and Irina who are showing today that there are no barriers to love. They give a great message of hope”.

Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko explained during a press conference after the registration of their marriage, that they intend to fight to have their marriage recognized in Russia. They stressed that “This is only the beginning of a long journey of recognition of family rights for same-sex couples in Russia.”

The couple explained that “We get a lot of mails and messages of congratulations from gays and lesbians in Russia who also want to have their union recognized but most of them are not able to fight for their rights. We are confident that our struggle will soon benefit to them”.

On Saturday, Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko will celebrate their union in Niagara Falls – a place famous with honeymooners.

On May 12, the Tverskoi Registry Office refused to register the marriage of Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko arguing that under the Family Code a marriage can only be registered between a man and a woman. A judge of the Tverskoi district court upheld the refusal on October 6. The couple appealed the decision and further announced that they are ready to take their case up to the European Court of Human Rights.

GayRussia.Ru

More photos of the wedding:
Photos from the ceremony presided by Judge Harvey Brownstone:
Photos with the Mayor of Toronto David Miller who congratulated the girls in his Twitter:
Video report from Toronto Sun:
Video report from City TV:

gaybielo

Gay Russia and Gay Belarus to host largest Ever Gay Human Rights Conference in Belarus.

The event will take place on September 26 in Minsk.

MINSK, September 25, 2009 – Almost 100 participants are expected to take part in a gay human rights conference in the Belarus capital tomorrow (September 26).

Over 30 NGOs and LGBT groups have registered to speak at the one-day event. And this has caused a problem for the organisers in finding a room large enough.

“It is challenging, but not impossible, to organize a human rights conference in Belarus,” one of the organisers commented. “But, when it turns to be a LGBT rights conference, then, no one is ready to rent you a place anymore.”

For months, the organisers attempted to book different venues. But their requests were always turned down. Finally, they managed to find a venue, but are not yet disclosing where – even to the delegates.

Sergey Androsenko, a conference co-organiser and leader of the local advocacy group GayBelarus, said that many do not really know what are the demands and the challenges face by the LGBT community.

“We cannot let them think any longer that gays are boys dressed like girls just because they saw one singer in woman’s clothes on TV. We have to be visible, so that people hear us and see us as we are really.”

Thirty years ago, Harvey Milk expressed the same view:“We are coming out to fight the lies”.

Tomorrow’s event has been made possible as a joint project, funded and supported by the LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru.

It will be held under the patronage of the IDAHO Committee – the Committee of the International Day Against Homophobia.

This is not the first event held by the IDAHO in Eastern Europe. In May 2006, the IDAHO Committee supported the First Moscow Pride Festival, an event that marked a breakthrough after 12 years of silence of the LGBT community in Russia.

Louis-Georges Tin, the President of the IDAHO Committee sees in the conference as “a step that will help local activists to raise awareness for their struggle”.

“It is our duty to help and support activists especially when they ask for our help. It is a unique chance for LGBT activists to discuss and express their demands,” said Mr Tin.

The conference will show reports from different activists and the plan is to strengthen discussion between the LGBT movements and other Human Rights NGOs. This is why the subject of the conference is LGBT Movement and NGOs: Prospect for Cooperation to Overcome Homophobia in Belarus.

The conference is also supported by Hamburg Pride and the Swedish Embassy.

Attending will be mainly Belarus people, but activists from Russia, Germany, France, Switzerland and Sweden are travelling to Minsk to show their support – and share their experiences.

“We are here to facilitate the dialogue between human rights groups and the LGBT movement,” said Alekseev of GayRussia and chief organiser of the Moscow Pride. “We are happy to bring our support and knowledge in organizing such large scale event.

“In less than a year during which we were actively working with our Belarusian colleagues, we have helped them to get more visibility at the international level,” Mr Alekseev added.

Russian and Belarusian LGBT movements ‘twined’ last November and associated their efforts in their joint struggle. The conference is one more step after the first Slavic Pride that they organised last May in Moscow – and the next one that is planned in Minsk in 2010.

The Embassies of three European Union countries – Sweden, Hungary and France – as well as the European Commission’s delegation in Minsk have said they will participate.

The presence of the EU diplomacy is seen as key by the organisers. “Firstly, we want them to monitor any attempt to disrupt the event, and secondly, we want to ensure that LGBT rights will not be forgotten in the human rights dialogue that the EU holds with Belarus,” said Mr Androsenko.

“The LGBT movement in Belarus is just being built. We want to show that we exist and we want to have our place in the human rights discussions in the country.

“For too long, we have been left aside. This is now going to be past,” he added.

GayRussia.Ru

See Also: ILGA Europe

MitvolGayClubOleg Mitvol entering gay club on Friday evening

State Duma Deputy sues Moscow Prefect over allegation he was protecting a gay club

As the story developed today, it turned that the club became the hostage of the electoral fight in one of Moscow’s constituencies for the upcoming City Duma elections.

“It’s not a question of a gay club, it’s not a question of the society of blind people, it’s not a question of sexual minorities, it is a question of an electoral campaign which started and in which I am running in the same constituency than the Prefect,” declared tonight Oleg Smolin, deputy and member of the Communist party.

The deputy announced that he will sue the Prefect in court over an attempt to spoil his reputation in the upcoming electoral campaign.

Mr Smolin claims 5 million roubles (approx 109’700 EUR) from the Prefect and 1 rouble from each TV channel which reported the story.

Mr Mitvol and Mr Smolin are running in the same constituency in two opposed lists.

Last Friday, the Prefect of the Northern administrative district of Moscow accused Mr Smolin of protecting the interests of the club “Body&Soul (ex-Chance)”.

“The Duma deputy of the Communist Party is protecting the interests of this club. Is it moral?” Mr Mitvol asked the journalists last Friday.

The same day the Prefect raided the club at night joined by the anti-drug police and the prosecution department, arresting two clients.

At the end of July Mr Mitvol initiated a campaign for morality in the city targeting gay clubs, saunas and love hotels saying that “such places which lead to the moral degradation of citizens and become the source of troubles should be closed”.

Citing complaints from residents to his office, Mr Mitvol received an unsurprising backing of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) which gathered 70 persons during a protest held in front of the club “Body&Soul (ex-Chance)” on Saturday. The action was authorized by the city authorities.

Earlier today, the LGBT Network, asked the Criminal Prosecution to open an investigation against the Prefect for incitation to hatred and degradation of human dignity.

“There is nothing in the words of the Prefect which can lead to his prosecution on the basis of Article 282 of Russian Criminal Code”, declared head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru Nikolai Alekseev.

“In comparison to what we heard in 2005 from the Mufti Tadjuddin and in 2008 from the Governor of Tambov region Oleg Betin, Mr Mitvol did not call to beat or kill gays and lesbians”, Alekseev added.

Following the request, sent to the prosecution, the Prefect declared tonight that “gays have started a campaign to support communists and became their lawyers”.

Mr Mitvol’s campaign for increased morality targeted only one gay club.

Local observers mention that surprisingly the Prefect targeted so far only a gay club which happens to rent its hall from an organization of which the Vice President is Mr Smolin, his direct competitor in the upcoming elections.

Mr Smolin said tonight that his complain to court will argue that the words of the Prefect saying he protects a gay club is an attempt to spoil his reputation over the electoral campaign.

This case will not be a premiere in Russian court history.

In September Moscow Court will hear the complaint of a former participant in the Russian version of Big Brother’s TV show against the newspaper “Express Gazeta” and the gay internet portal Gay.ru

Vasiliy Pechen is suing over allegation in which he was described as gay and working as a male prostitute. He told the journalists that he was refused several jobs after the allegations were published.

The claimant is seeking financial damages of 3 million roubles (approx 65’800 EUR) from “Express Gazeta” and 1 million roubles (approx 22’000 EUR) from Gay.ru. In addition, Mr Pechen demands a refutation to be published by the defendants.

“Sexual orientation on its own should not be considered as spoiling a reputation. This goes exactly against what we are fighting for,” said Nikolai Alekseev, before adding that “being gay is not unlawful in Russia”.

“However, information that someone is getting money for sex services is a different story especially since prostitution carries an administrative fine according to the law,” he added.

GayRussia.Ru

Russian Gay Activists Appeal to the European Court Over Banned Public Actions in Ryazan

They claim compensation of 100,000 Euros

In 2006 Ryazan, a city 180 km from Moscow, became the first and only region of Russia to adopt a law that forbids any form of propaganda of homosexuality to minors.

In March 2009 LGBT Human Rights Projects GayRussia.Ru initiated a campaign asking the law to be repealed after two of its activists were arrested by the police for showing posters “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud to be homosexual” near the local children’s library. A local court sentenced Nikolai Baev and Irina Fet to a fine of 1,500 Roubles each (approx. 33 euro). Later the appeal court confirmed the decision.

The same day the activists informed the city authorities of their intention to host two public actions in Ryazan.

The first one was a picket, scheduled on 4 April aimed to ask the repeal of the law of 2006. The second was a march in support for tolerance and respect for the rights and freedoms of homosexual people in Russia planned for 11 April.

Both applications were turned down by the city authorities on the basis that such events would contradict with the law of 2006 as they could be seen by children.

The authorities further stated that the events could be seen by the population as “an insult to their morals and religion” which creates threat to the security of the participants.

On 23 April a local judge said that the decision of the authorities was lawful. The appeal of gay activists was also rejected on 1 July.

“This regional law breaches the Russian Constitution and our campaign is directed at making it repealed either via a decision of the Constitutional Court or the European Court” said Nikolai Alekseev in April.

On 5 August gay activists appealed the bans of their events in Ryazan to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) asking for the compensation of 100,000 Euros.

After Moscow, Tambov, Saint Petersburg and Liski, Ryazan is the fifth Russian city to officially ban a public action organized by the LGBT community.

To date, several cases concerning the bans of Moscow Pride 2006, 2007, 2008 as well as other public events in Moscow and Tambov are awaiting consideration by ECHR.

GayRussia.Ru

Slavic Pride: Thank you Mayor Luzhkov by Peter Tatchell© Reuters – Denis Sinyakov

Thank you Mayor Luzhkov

Moscow’s mayor tried to crush the city’s gay pride parade. In so doing, he did the cause of gay rights in Russia a huge service.

By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

The Guardian – Comment is Free – London – 19 May 2009

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/19/russia-gay-pride-luzhkov

Russian gay rights campaigners are toasting Moscow’s homophobic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, after he ordered the banning and violent suppression of last Saturday’s Slavic gay pride parade in the Russian capital – just hours before the Eurovision song contest was staged in the city.

“Luzhkov has done more than anyone to publicise gay rights in Russia,” beamed Nikolai Alekseev, the gay parade organiser, as we chatted on Sunday afternoon following his release from nearly 24 hours of police detention:

By stopping the gay parade he has provoked massive media coverage of our fight against homophobia. The Russian media has been full of reports about gay issues for the last week. This has hugely increased public awareness and understanding of gay people.

Slowly, we are eroding homophobic attitudes. Through this media visibility, we are helping to normalise queer existence. After our successive gay protests in Moscow since 2006, people are less shocked about homosexuality. We have a long way to go, but gradually we are winning hearts and minds, especially among younger Russians.

We ought to give Luzhkov an award. His violation of our right to protest has given us a remarkable platform, with day-after-day of publicity about lesbian gay human rights. It is the equivalent of about 200m roubles (£4m pounds) in free advertising.

After spending five days in Moscow, helping prepare for the parade and then participating in the brutally curtailed protest, I am awestruck by the masterful strategy and tactics of the organisers.

They had previously tried writing letters and seeking meetings with the Russian government in a bid to get action against the homophobic discrimination, harassment and violence that is widespread in Russian society. Every approach has been rebuffed. Both the federal and city authorities have refused to meet representatives of Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They will not introduce laws to tackle anti-gay violence and to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Faced with this intransigent refusal to engage in dialogue or legislate, what are Russian queers to do? Stay silent? Do nothing?

The gay parade organisers realise that the conferences, glossy reports and low-key vigils of other Russian and international gay organisations have little or no impact on the government – or on public consciousness.

It is only visible and challenging actions, like the gay parades, that put queer issues on the public and political agenda.

The same has been true all throughout history. It has been direct action by radical campaigners like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King that has most dramatically and effectively overturned injustice.

By adapting their tactics, the Slavic Pride coordinators ran rings around the Russian and Moscow authorities and put them on the defensive.

“Luzhkov walked into our trap. We offered to meet him last week to work out an amicable solution. He refused. His refusal and the subsequent police repression of the parade gave us masses of publicity and made him look aggressive and tyrannical,” said Alekseev.

As well as being full of admiration for the organisers’ tactical savvy, I was also immensely impressed by their ingenuity in outwitting the Moscow police and the Federal Security Service (the successor to the Soviet-era secret police, the KGB).

Moscow’s gay parade was planned like a military operation and executed with more than a whiff of James Bond-style daring and evasion. The authorities were determined to stop the protest before it happened. They put activists under surveillance and planned to pre-emptively arrest Alekseev. To prevent this, he went into hiding a few days before, moving from house to house, switching cars and trains and changing mobile phones.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Moscow+Police+Spying+On+Gay+Groups-a01611814149

Over 60 gay activists joined the parade, with others acting as logistical support, arranging transport, accommodation, food and security. They came from far-flung regions of Russia, plus a 15-strong delegation from Belarus. Most were in their early 20s. There were a few older veterans from the underground Russian gay rights movement in the 1980s, including a member of the Academy of Sciences and a nuclear physicist. Their bravery and fearlessness was totally inspiring. All of them were ready to risk being arrested, beaten, jailed, sacked from their jobs and evicted from their apartments.

On the day of the parade, we converged on the protest location – the gardens in front of Moscow State University. To fool the riot police, we arrived in limousines, disguised as a wedding party, complete with bride and groom (Alekseev).

There were three successive protests, one after the other. First, the Belarusians kicked off with chants against homophobia, which is when I was arrested for holding a placard with “gay rights” written on it in Russian and English. After we were dragged off, another group unfurled a 25-foot banner: “Gay Equality. No compromise.” Then, finally, Alekseev and his “bride” were bundled into a police van. Several people were arrested for simply speaking to the media. Nearly all those detained – including myself – report being arrested with excessive force.

http://www.gayrussia.ru/en/news/detail.php?ID=13465

All in all, it was a PR disaster for the Russian and Moscow authorities, ensuring that Eurovision 2009 will be forever associated with police brutality, government homophobia and the suppression of a peaceful protest.

It is good to know that Russian gay campaigners are having the last laugh. In March, the then Moscow police chief, Vladmir Pronin, had promised there would no protests at all. No gay demos would be allowed to mar Eurovision. He boasted of “tough measures” and that protesters would be “torn to shreds.” No person would be brave enough to risk the wrath of his riot police, Pronin warned.

http://gayswithoutborders.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/moscow-police-chief-says-gay-pride-is-unacceptable/

He was wrong. There was a gay protest. Gay people had the guts to defy his uniformed thugs. By so doing, they not only defended gay human rights, they defended the right to protest of all Russians, gay and straight.

You can follow Peter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell or join the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Campaign Facebook group at http://tinyurl.com/cj9y6s

Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
www.greenoxford.com/peter and www.petertatchell.net

Gays Without Borders

See Also:

Gay Pride in Moscow: Report from a Chicago Activist

Gay Pride in Moscow:
Report from a Chicago Activist

By Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network

01._andy_thayer_in_red_square-1Andy Thayer of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network on Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral, midnight, upon arrival in Moscow, May 13th © Gay Liberation Network

“I [only] made the conclusion [to come to Gay Pride in Moscow] on the 12th of May because I was really very frightened about myself and my friends. I know that there is some information that Pride is going to be canceled, and more than this, that Pride participants are going to be beaten.”

And why did you decide to come anyway?

“Because this is my fight really. If I don’t go to the pride parade, who will go there? My reasons to come was to support my friends and of course to support gay rights.”

Sergio Yenin, 19-year-old gay activist from Minsk, Belorussia

Thursday, May 14

MOSCOW — After 14 hours of flights, last night I found myself in Eastern Europe for the first time in my life, warmly greeted by lesbian and gay activists who, despite state repression, are organizing their fourth annual pride event in this city. This year’s event is dubbed “Slavic Pride,” denoting the significant participation of activists from around the region.

The previous three years’ events have gone forward despite bans from the authorities and violence from neo-fascists in Russian orthodox and skinhead garb. This year the authorities not only banned the Pride event, but for good measure, approved the anti-gays’ application to hold their own event this past Tuesday.

That same day, our Moscow friends countered with their own unsanctioned action at the Department of Registration of Acts of Civil Status — an attempt by two lesbian activists to get a marriage license. Leading Slavic Pride activist Nikolai Alekseev said the action was inspired in part by a February civil disobedience action at a marriage license bureau in Chicago. The Moscow action received widespread international press coverage, including from the New York Times.

As I shadowed Alekseev around the city last night, press coverage if anything seemed to build, with Nikolai’s two cell phones ringing incessantly and meetings with Finish and Slovenian journalists held near midnight just outside of Red Square.

02._nikolai_alekseev_with_slovenian_journalist-1Nikolai Alexseev, chief organizer of Slavic Pride, being interviewed by a Slovenian journalist just outside a Eurovision reception being held near Red Square © Gay Liberation Network

Slavic Pride is slated for this Saturday, amidst the big “Eurovision Fest” being hosted this year by Moscow. For those not familiar with what Eurovision is, think “American Idol” times ten, with a profusion of media coverage and street banners that puts Chicago’s 2016 Olympics bid hype to shame. While our specific plans for Saturday are necessarily secret at this time, the aim is to cause maximum embarrassment to the government if they attempt to arrest us or allow the neo-fascists to attack.

In response to Moscow activists’ application for a permit this year, police chief Vladmir Pronin told the Russian news agency Interfax that gay pride parades in the capital are “unacceptable – gay pride parades s houldn’t be allowed.”

“No one will dare to do it, such ‘brave-heart’ will be torn to shreds,” he added. “The West can say we’re bad guys, but our people will see it is right. Our country is patriarchal, that’s [sic] sums it up… I positively agree with the Church, with the Patriarch, politicians, especially with [Mayor] Luzhkov, who are convinced that man and woman should love each other. It is established by God and nature.”

However, Moscow Pride organizers have vowed to move forward with this year’s Pride event despite the police chief’s threats.

“Mr. Pronin already showed his incompetency last year when his services were unable to prevent us unveiling a banner directed against the Mayor, right opposite his office,” said Alekseev. The main pride even t successfully took place nearby at the monument to the famous Russian gay composer, Peter Tchkaivosky, while the authorities and neo-fascists were hoodwinked into thinking that it would take place outside of homophobic Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s office.

Today at the start of a gay rights conference at an undisclosed location east of the city, I was joined by British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and LGBT activists from around Russia and Belorussia – Minsk, Rostof, Sochi, Ufa, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Ekaterinbourg, Volgodonsk, Ryazan and of course Moscow.

03._peter_tatchell-1Peter Tatchell, Britain’s foremost LGBT rights campaigner, on the coach to today’s Slavic Pride conference © Gay Liberation Network

04._on_the_coach_to_slavic_pride_conference-1Nikolai Alexeyev, Irina Fet, on the bus to Slavic Pride © Gay Liberation Network

05._irina_fey_lesbian_bride-to-beIrina Fet, one of the two lesbians who attempted to get married in Moscow on Tuesday © Gay Liberation Network

As we gathered on a coach to go to the conference, Moscow activist Nikolai Baev explained how a group of young activists from Ryazan, about 200 miles south of the capital, got involved in organizing this year’s Slavic Pride:

“There is a very discriminatory law in the Ryazan region which proh ibits so-called propaganda about homosexuality and among minors. The law passed in 2006 and we had pickets that said that homosexuality is absolutely normal and we are proud of our situation. We picketed in front of schools in Ryazan and we were detained because it was illegal.”

06._peter_tatchell_left_with_nikolai_baev_moscow_gay_rights_campaigner_rightPeter Tatchell (left) with Nikolai Baev (right) of Moscow © Gay Liberation Network

Two people were found guilty and fined 1500 rubles (about $45 US) each. Alekseev came to Ryazan to help in the campaign and in the appeal of their cases to the Constitutional Court of Russia.

Sergio Yenin, 19, explained how he became involved in gay rights organizing in Belorussia:

“I felt myself to be gay from my early childhood. Last year I came to Minsk and there I got acquainted with some gay activists and I thought it would be great if I fought for my gay rights. There are a lot of people who don’t fight for their rights, who don’t participate in such activist movements, and they just consume our achievements. For example, we fought for our gay club, our one gay club in Minsk. It was in danger of being closed [by the government], but it still exists due to us.”

07._sergio_yenin_belorussian_gay_rights_activistSergio Yenin, 19-year-old gay activist from Minsk, Belorussia © Gay Liberation Network

I asked Sergio if he had participated in Minsk Pride events before.

“Yes, of course. The most outstanding Pride parade took place in 2001. But I didn’t participate because I was only 11 then. There were over 300 people participating in this event and 300 watching. This was fabulous. This was an historical moment in Belorussia.”

“The last one took place in October of 2008. It was named Queer Walk and it took place on the 11th of October 2008, the international day of coming out, and we organized a pride parade. It was a rather private, intimate event, there were fifty participants because we cannot organize such a public event because of our government. If we applied for an event, we would be denied.”

“There is an action that takes place [each year] called Chernobyl Way, and all of the opposition parties take place there, and our LGBT group participated last year and this year. Last year we raised the rainbow flag and there were a lot of bad comments about it, there were a lot of threats [of violence]. There were such political parties as Right Alliance, and they threaten us all of the time. This year we didn’t raise our rainbow flag because the organizer of the Belorussian National Front, the main opposition party, they coordinated a call to us, do not raise your rainbow flag, not because we have anything against you, because our fight for clean air, free of radiation will turn into a fight for gay rights.”

08._peter_tatchell_left_with_sergio_yenin_rightPeter Tatchell with Sergio Yenin © Gay Liberation Network

I asked Sergio why he personally joined the 15 others for the ten hour train ride from Belorussia to join this Saturday’s Slavic Pride:

“I [only] made the conclusion [to come] on the 12th of May because I was really very frightened about myself and my friends. I know that there is some information that Pride is going to be canceled, and more than this, that Pride participants are going to be beaten.”

And why did you decide to come anyway?

“Because this is my fight really. If I don’t go to the pride parade, who will go there?&nb sp; My reasons to come was to support my friends and of course to support gay rights.”

(Please note that all photos are free of copywrite, but please credit Gay Liberation Network, www.GayLiberation.net)

This article and accompanying photos are free of copywrite, but please credit the author. Medium resolution photos can be immediately downloaded from the following URL:
http://chicago.indymedia.org/newswire/display/86605/index.php

Higher resolution photos are available upon request:

Send an email to LGBTliberation@aol.com with the subject line, “Send Slavic Pride Photos”

Andy Thayer

See Also:

Russian Gay activists unveil plans for their Slavic Pride on Eurovision

nikolai-alekseev1

Nikolai Alekseev

“Gay Equality, No Compromise”

MOSCOW (GayRussia.Ru) Yesterday (05.05.2009) in Moscow took place the annual press conference of the Moscow Pride movement. For two hours, organizers of the event answered questions of local and foreign journalist about plans for the May 16 Slavic Pride march but also about Gay Rights in Russia.

slavic-pride

Speaking at the press conference where Nikolai Alekseev, chief organizer, Irina Fet, Sergey Androsenko, Maria Arbatova, feminist and writer and Eduard Murzin, former deputy and head of center Tolerance.

Like every year, the press conference showed a massive interest with more than 50 journalists packed in the room.

“Moscow Pride is an incredible platform which allows us to speak and get attention from the public not only about Freedom of Assembly but about gay rights in general in Russia every year” said Nikolai Alekseev in introduction.

“There has not been any more powerful initiative to put gay rights in the society in the history of the Russian LGBT movement” he added.

2009 sees the fourth attempt to host a March for the Rights of Sexual Minorities in Moscow. This year, the event which is to be held together with Belarusian activists has been re-branded as the “Slavic Pride”. It is also expected to take place next year in Minsk, Belarus, for the first time.

slavicpride1Nikolai Alekseev further explained that this year’s march on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest Final is planed on purpose:

“There will never be a better time to raise the question in this country” said Nikolai Alekseev.

“If Medvedev and Luzhkov position Russia as a European country and invite Eurovision, the question of [gay] rights should proceed in a European way.”

“It does not make sense that Russia would accept to watch gay singers performing on the stage, and ban gay activists from marching.”

Organizers applied for 4 public actions to take place in Moscow on May 16th giving a wide range of variants to the authorities to allow at least one of events.

A march was applied at the City Hall, and 2 pickets were applied at the Central Prefecture.

In addition, they asked the President for permission to hold a march in the garden adjacent to the walls of Kremlin.

Leonid Krutakov, a spokesperson for the City Hall said last week that “all attempts to hold such events will be firmly stopped by the authorities”.

However, speaking to AP last night, Mr Krutakov seemed to have softened his position explaining that the decision will be taken only by the Mayor of Moscow.

Activists told journalists that their action would take place irrespective of the decision of the authorities. Right to peaceful marches and Freedom of Assembly is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and the European Convention for Human Rights.

Several cases are pending at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the 2006, 2007 and 2008 banned Moscow Pride but the Court is not expected to take any decision before another 3 to 4 years.

In March, the organizers appealed to the Spanish Presidency of the Council of Europe to remind Russia of its obligations towards Freedom of Assembly for all.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is known for its opposition to permit gays marching in his city. In January 2007, he qualified gay prides as “satanic gatherings”.

Officially, President Medvedev has never expressed a position on gay rights. Last year, his services denied answering a similar application to hold a march next to the Kremlin. A case was recently filed with the ECHR.

“President Medvedev’s position on gay rights is a well kept secret behind Kremlin’s wall. At the State level, we only know the relatively neutral position of former President Putin after he answered a question from journalists in 2007” said Nikolai Alekseev.

Asked about possible trouble with the police and protesters, Nikolai Alekseev answered:

“Several Embassies are concerned about the safety of their nationals who will travel to Moscow to attend both our actions and the Eurovsion. I know that these concerned have been raised officially with the government.”

Speaking about the actions planed around the Slavic Pride, the organizers explained that they will associate gays and lesbians from all Russia.

A series of talk shows will be broadcasted from May 13 to May 17 on Gay-Radio.Ru, the first Web Gay radio in Russia and a partner of the Slavic Pride. Freedom of Assembly, Family Rights, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia are among the issues to be discussed.

irina-fet

Irina Fet

“Broadcasting our events through the web will make them accessible to those who are far away from Moscow and who cannot travel or who are just not ready to take part in a public action.” explained Ira Fet.

Ms Fet also told journalists that she will apply together with her girlfriend for a marriage on May 12 in Moscow.

Nikolai Alekseev explained that if the Moscow authorities deny registering the marriage, the couple will wed in Canada and seek recognition of their union in Russia.

“Everything is ready, and we are both very excited” said Ms Fet.

The Slavic Pride Festival also welcomes this year foreign activists like Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer from Gay Liberation Network in Chicago.

Tatchell and Thayer will speak “Live from Moscow after the Slavic Pride” on Saturday 17 giving a summary to the international community before the Eurovision ceremony. The program will be accessible online via Gay-Radio.Ru

“More than ever, this year we want to celebrate gay activism and courage. Our determination to fight for our rights is unchanged since we started in 2005” said Nikolai Alekseev.

This year’s Moscow Pride slogan “Gay Equality, No Compromise” is also the name of a new campaign launched by the organizers. The fight for same sex marriage in Russia is the first initiative of this campaign.

Activists will also remit the award of the “Rainbow Hero of the Russian Gay movement” which will celebrate the most courageous activist selected by a Russian panel.

maria-arbatova

Maria Arbatova

sergey-androsenko

Sergey Androsenko

eduard-murzin

Eduard Murzin





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