Archive for the ‘Irina Fedotova’ Category

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

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:

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

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Behind the Scenes Story Of 2009 Gay Pride in Moscow by Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network

A member of OMOH, Russia's SWAT policeA member of OMOH, Russia’s SWAT police © Gay Liberation Network

Sunday, May 17, 5 PM local time

MOSCOW – By the time I am finally posting this, many already know the basic story of violent government repression of Saturday’s Gay Pride Parade in this city.

The delay in this post comes as a result of being participant in the action. Several hours were lost due to police detention and then feverish attempts to help our Russian and Belorussian colleagues facing far more serious situations. Finally, our Moscow police friends are now in the possession of a very fine Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ6 memory card, so this story is mainly illustrated with the help of another photographer who would lose her job if credited properly for her work.

I’ll therefore concentrate on the parts of this remarkable story that people who saw the news reports still don’t know:

* the bizarrely extensive lengths that the authorities undertook to pre-empt our action

* the tactical finesse shown by Pride organizers that allowed us to dodge that pre-emption, and

* my personal experience as a participant in the action.

But first and most importantly, here is the latest news on the situation facing our Russian and Belorussian friends:

Around mid-day today, Moscow Time, all of our people were finally released. Holding him and other key activists well past the mandated three hour time limit, the Russian authorities are trying to make an example of Moscow Pride’s foremost organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, by slapping multiple charges on him beyond the traditional “demonstrating without a permit” violation.

Even though he is finally released following a hearing this morning, Alekseev’s attorney Dmitri Bartenev told me that the exact nature of the charges against Alekseev aren’t clear, except that since he has been released, he cannot now be sentenced to jail time. Bartenev and the public were barred from this morning’s hearing. Alekseev faces trial on May 26.

Despite the violent attack by OMOH cops, the Russian equivalent of SWAT police, fortunately no one was seriously injured. Also, after some initial very worrying reports about threats to deport our Belorussian friends, who might in turn face incarceration by their country’s dictatorial regime, we’re happy to report that they have been released.

The Russian State vs Gays:
The bizarre lengths to which they will go

As noted in an earlier post, days before Saturday’s Pride action we learned that the authorities were planning a pre-emptive arrest of lead Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev. This was forestalled by having the entire group decamp to a rural location outside of Moscow, rather than at their usual homes and workplaces.

Round 1: Pride organizers

Discussions

Preparing for the action

The day before the action we learned through a reliable press source that the authorities were planning on blockading the main roads into Moscow. Despite having more than10 million inhabitants, there are only seven main roads into the city, and the police20were on the look-out in particular for a bus with some of the usual suspects plus a generous gathering of 20-something activists.

Map Preparation

To a Westerner this story sounds like the product of feverish paranoia, but to those who live in what can at best be described as a quasi-democracy, such a report can’t be dismissed out of hand. So with the help of friends in other vehicles, the story was checked out in person and yes, police were stopping and searching almost all vehicles coming into the city limits. Another activist reported seeing police in possession of photos of key activists.

Showing remarkable poise the Pride organizers quickly changed transport plans, switched us from coach to a commuter train just outside the check points around Moscow’s ring road, directed us to take the train for one stop inside the ring road, then switched to a group of vans to take us the rest of the way to the protest site.

Round 2: Pride organizer

One of the main difficulties in organizing a public action in a police state is deploying the action to the press and public before the authorities round everyone up. But with an extra bevy of cameramen, sound people, still photographers and print people in town for the huge Eurovision music festival, to say that they can’t blend into a crowd is an understatement. Add to this the fact that while our side has sources in the media, the police do as well, especially all of the Russian-based broadcast media, who are a virtual telegraph agency to the other side.

The media have to be advised of the specific time and location of the action at the last possible moment, as any gathering of them tips off the cops that something is about to happen. Anyone in proximity to them is of course suspected of being an illegal demonstrator despite not showing any banners or signs.

05_press_call_--_an_arrest2

So we came to a popular bluff on the Moscow River overlooking the city, where lots of weddings take place, camouflaged as … a heterosexual wedding party. The groom? Why, of course, Nikolai Alekseev! And the bride walking arm-in-arm with “her” man? A young Belorussian gay activist dressed in a fine wedding gown. “She” and the groom passed very well, thank you, including through a few ranks of loitering policemen en route (thanks also to their rented limousine). Other groups of the “wedding party” converged from other directions.

As a rank and file participant in the protest lacking even basic Russian language skills, I didn’t know the overall plan until it unfolded in a rolling manner, with groups of activists unfolding banners, flags and signs to a forest of media cameras. Shortly after each group revealed itself, Russian OMOH cops (their equivalent of SWAT police) waded through the sea of press and violently arrested the protesters.

06_omoh3

07_nikolai_baev_l_and_edward_murzin_r_talk_to_the_press

08_another_arrest2

I was taken into custody for holding up a bilingual sign and rapidly taken to a waiting Moscow squadrol. I was soon joined by a few other protesters, at which time the police checked our identification documents. Apparently the police decided it was too much of a hassle to deal with a foreign national from the west, and they released me.

Not seeing the error of my ways, I went right back to a nearby corner where about 50+ press personnel were milling about filing their reports, identified myself to one of them as a protester, and began speaking to her about why I was proud to participate in the protest. This rapidly drew a gaggle of dozens more press around me. They knew better than I that speaking out in favor of gay rights on a street corner of Russia was a civil liberties train wreck waiting to happen, and they wanted to film it as the inevitable happened.

After a sentence or two praising the courage of Russian and Belorussian LGBT activists, I began speaking about how the police attack on gay and lesbian rights should be a concern of all Russians as it was an attack on their democratic freedoms. At just that point the OMOH cops grabbed and dragged me away, making my point much more effectively than any words I could have uttered.

By cleverly timing their event to coincide with Eurovision, which is probably Europe’s highest-profile annual cultural event, Pride organizers scored an unprecedented victory for LGBT rights in Russia. Alekseev reports that this year’ s Pride gathered far more press than the very heavily covered events in previous years. By coinciding Pride with Eurovision, an event which should celebrate free expression not just in the arts, but everywhere, Pride organizers helped drive home the danger of the government’s prohibition on the right of assembly for Russian gays and lesbians. The 4th annual gay Pride in Moscow was an unqualified success, with the political points of its organizers broadcast around the world, which can only serve to help isolate the anti-gay regime.

As I write this Sunday afternoon at the dining room table of Russian flat, I’m surrounded by a joyous gathering of Russian LGBT activists celebrating the release of the last of the imprisoned, talking rapidly in Russian with me not understanding a word. That’s okay. Their spirit is infectious, their determination to continue fighting clear.

09_nikolai_celebrationNicolai Alekseev celebrating his release with friends

10_celebration

I learned a ton from our Russian and Belorussian friends over the past few days. To say that it was a useful political organizing experience is a huge understatement.

SIDE-BAR
Edward Murzin:
A ‘Politician’ Who Gave More For Gay Pride
Than Most Gays Themselves

In the Spring of 2008, Edward Murzin was a member of a provincial Duma, the Russian equivalent of a state legislature. In Russia’s increasingly undemocratic political structure, that made his seat more secure than the most gerrymandered, “safe” U.S. Congressional district.

11_edward_murzinEdward Murzin serving up barbeque on the first evening our two-day conference outside of Moscow © Gay Liberation Network

But he did an unusual thing for a politician – something that marked him as not a politician at all. He listened to a persecuted minority within his district and despite their unpopularity, he stood up for what is right, and paid a higher price for fighting against inequality of gays than most gays themselves.

It’s not like he set out to become a martyr. In his humility, he freely admits that he didn’t know what he wa s getting into when he, as a politician, stood up for gay equality in anti-gay official Russia.

“I didn’t know [that] it would be so unpopular. I wasn’t so aware. I didn’t know what would happen if I protected gay rights. I had people in my region who are gay, and they asked me to protect their rights.”

“I [knew] I could go to the election, and all the people in my section would vote for me. They’re not going to change their minds because I protect gays, but the authorities didn’t like that.” They refused to allow him to run for re-election and he lost his job.

“Now I feel that homophobia is real (he laughs). And I will participate next year in gay actions like Slavik Pride because I think it is one of the main points to change society.”

For doing the right thing he paid a high price. He lost his job and is unemployed in a region of the world where unemployment and destitution far surpasses what most of us in the United States experience.

“Now I work as an [unpaid] human rights20activist. I’m not a politician anymore.”

And his concerns are not limited to gays alone.

Fascist violence against national minorities in Russia is endemic, with “non-white” peoples of Asian Russia and the Caucuses routinely subjected to unofficial violence and official harassment. The blatant discrimination is so rife that even a few of the guidebooks to Moscow that I purchased before my visit specifically warned people who couldn’t pass for European, that they would likely face harassment by police on the streets of the city.

“Every year, violence in the field of xenophobia rises in Russia, 18% or 20% per year,” said Murzin. “We have to be more tolerant to survive, because in Russia we are multinational. I am a human rights activist.”

A far more honorable “profession,” albeit poorly paid.

Previous posts and photos in this series can be seen at:
http://chicago.indymedia.org/newswire/display/86605/index.php
and
http://chicago.indymedia.org/newswire/display/86617/index.php

This article and the photos referenced below are in the public domain. However, please credit them to Andy Thayer / Gay Liberation Network

Andy Thayer

See Also:

We wanted to thank the 50 people who made a protest in Berlin at the Russian Embassy today. Also, to the activists of Tapages who in Strasbourg organized a die-in at the Russian Consulate in the afternoon.
We also want to thank German MP Volker beck who managed from Germany to ask his Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make a diplomatic action in Moscow early sunday morning with the names of the organizers still detained.
We are extremely disspointed that the EU Embassies (UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland) which had been invited by the organizers to monitor the events on the spot, concluded that despite witnessing the action, they did not find any ground to make a diplomatic actions. It shows that it is easier to act for the EU Embassies in smaller countries such as Latvia where several EU Embassies brought support but when it turns to be in Russia, things are different.
We will raise this point with the EU Commission shortly as well as the denial by the Belarusian Embassy to grant any assistance to the Belarusian activists on the motives that they were taking part in the Slavic gay pride.
The UK representative gave consular assistance to Peter Tatchell very fast after he was arrested while the US Embassy did not go to meet Andy Thayer and was actually not planing to do it before monday morning.
Most of all, we want to thank all the medias and journalists who made the 4th Moscow Pride moe covered than its first violent edition in 2006. If the participants of the Eurovision clearly put the human rights in their pockets after they landed in Moscow, the journalist mentioned our struggle in all the articles about the Eurovision.
A bit disapointed by the Dutch Gay Contestant, Gordon, who told us that he will be in the pride and who said at a press conference on thursday that he finaly decided not to take part in the pride because the organizers told him not to join. This is actually a lie as we have never be in direct contact with him. We are a bit disapointed to see that this singer used the Slavic pride for his own PR.
Lastly, we welcome the statement from the Slovenian Presidency of the CoE which was released last night which at least once, his expressing a clear and strong message. It seems that the pressure we put on this institution over the last months started to work.
See you next year in Minsk for the second edition of the Slavic Gay Pride (middle of May, date to be confirmed) in Belarus and in Moscow on May 29th 2010 for the 5th Moscow Pride.
Nikolai Alekseev
Nikolai Baev
Ira Fet
Vlad Ortanov

Slovenia Expresses Concern Over Moscow Gay Pride Parade

LJUBLJANA, May 17, 2009 – Samuel Žbogar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovenia and chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, last night expressed his concern about the action taken against the organisers of the Slavic Gay Pride parade in Moscow.
“People belonging to sexual minorities enjoy the same right to freedom of expression and to freedom of assembly as any other individual within the jurisdiction of a member state of the Council of Europe,” a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Department in Ljubljana.

“According to the established case law of the European Court of Human Rights, peaceful demonstrations cannot be banned simply because of the existence of attitudes hostile to the demonstrators or to the causes they advocate.

“The fact that this is not the first year such a situation has developed is of concern to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,” the statement concluded.

Russia is a member country of the Council of Europe. There are currently some 150 cases pending in the European Court of Human Rights against Russia over gay rights issues.

Gay Russia

Photo of the Action in Strasbourg – TaPaGes Strasbourg

2009-05-17_moscou_04

TaPaGes Strasbourg

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Threats Mount Against Gay Pride in Moscow

By Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network

02._moskovskij_komsololetsMoskovskij Komsololets article about first equal marriage action in Russia © Gay Liberation Network

Original Article on Chicago Indymedia by Andy Thayer

Moscow – 15th May
One Day Before Slavic Pride

A front page headline in Moskovskij Komsololets, one of Moscow’s major dailies, on Wednesday read “Lesbians Came to Marriage Registration Bureau Before Gay Pride,” with a sub-headline of “In Moscow, rise in publicity about gay pride.”

A few pages inside, another article countered with a headline of “Homosexualism ‘Weakens Power of Fist’: Activists Against Gay Pride Threaten Violence.”

The second article told of a press conference by fascists in which they promised that 1000 of them will protest against gay pride this Saturday and would physically attack it if possible. In previous years they violently attacked gay pride participants, sending German European Parliament member Volkhart Beck to the hospital in 2006, doing the same to veteran British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in 2007. This year the Pride event has been banned once again, with the Moscow police chief threatening to arrest all of the participants.

On Thursday a reporter for Moskovskij Komsololets told gay organizers that police had told them that they would arrest lead Moscow organizer Nikolai Alekyeev today, attempting to decapitate the leadership of our “Slavic Pride” action on Saturday.

03._nikolai_alekseev_l_confers_with_other_activistsNikolai Alekseev confers with fellow activists © Gay Liberation Network

Fortunately, Alexyeev and his colleagues anticipated the government’s action, and the last place you will find him and any of the other key organizers is at their flats or workplaces. All likely means of tracing their locations have been disabled, thus far forestalling pre-emptive government repression against tomorrow’s Slavic Pride action. “Security culture” has been carefully and calmly organized, with all of us sequestered at a safe location while we hold a two-day conference and training session for tomorrow’s pride action amidst the high-profile “Eurovision” song contest.

04._going_to_the_conferenceWalking to the conference © Gay Liberation Network

05._strategy_session1Strategy session © Gay Liberation Network

The first day of the conference featured political discussions about Slavic Pride — why we are doing the action and how it came to be. Several speakers noted that in each country there is a basic political division among gay organizers between those who see the need to take action against the political repression of gay rights organizing, versus those who say that it is enough to simply allow “gay culture” – clubs, coffee houses and the like — to proliferate, and that this alone would be sufficient change. “The gay movement in Belorussia is also separated into separate blocs, some [who] are in favor of action, others [who] are not,” said Belorussia leader Sergey Androsenko.

06._belosrussian_activists_practice2Belorussian activists practice for Saturday’s action © Gay Liberation Network

In the United States, this same debate is mirrored between those who say that we need to organize actions against things like Proposition 08 and proactively organize sit-ins and the like, versus those who say that gay marriage is “inevitable,” with the implication being that all we have to do is wait, or passively support politicians who will bring the change for us.

“You can’t change the community by closed situations, only [the] open fight for your rights can change [the] situation in society,” said Alekseev. “If you aren’t open, your relatives, the media doesn’t know, they need live examples.” Tatchell, noting the enormous progress that LGBT people in Britain have made over the past few decades, explained that how they got there was by “Doing many direct action protests and like Slavic pride, getting lots of publicity which raised public awareness, provoked public debate and put pressure on the authorities. So the tactics that you are using here today in Moscow are similar to the ones we used successfully in Britain — direct action and public protest get results.”

Those in the “change is evitable ” camp fail to understand that history does not always move forward, unerring moving towards greater rights. In my greetings to the conference from Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, I noted that the economic crisis gripping the world poses additional challenges for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) rights organizers. Far right organizers, such as those we likely will encounter tomorrow, are dangerous enough during “normal” times. When large numbers of people are losing their jobs and savings, history has shown that fascist organizers can gain many more adherents and greatly increase the threats they pose to sexual, national and religious minorities. Organizing bold pro-equality counter-messages becomes that much more important.

Doing so amidst state repression and limited openings for democratic organizing of any kind is a real trick. “We want to minimize the negative consequences” to the Pride participants, said Alekseev. Today’s part of the conference will be aimed at carefully organizing and training ourselves for tomorrow’s action so that we get “maximum exposure of mass media and=2 0minimum consequences to the participants.”

Some of that was already achieved by the action of two lesbians at the Moscow equivalent of a marriage license bureau. While a press conference by the fascists the same day was relatively downplayed, the marriage license bureau action, “the first attempt at homosexual marriage in Russia” had “about 40 [still] cameras and 30 TV cameras,” said Alekseev.

Moscow organizers noted that the numbers of fascist counter-protesters have diminished at each of the previous three Pride events in the city, with 1000 violently attacking the event in 2006, two hundred attacking in 2007, and only about 50 counter-protesting last year. What effect the economic crisis and the government’s heightened belligerence will have on tomorrow’s Pride event is anyone’s guess.

Regardless, veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell in his greetings on behalf of Britain’s OutRage! direct action group, aptly saluted the bravery of tomorrow’s Pride participants, most of who appear to be in their early 20s. “We had police harassment [in Britain], but nothing on the scale that you have experienced here and in Belorussia. And so all my comrades in OutRage! want to say to you, we send you our solidarity, we salute your courage, and we together are part of a world movement that will win queer freedom.”

Already some progress has been made. Gay rights organizing in Russia did not begin with the Moscow 2006 Pride action. In 1986, Vladmir Ortanov founded Russia’s first gay newspaper and in 1991 Russia saw its first Pride festival in St. Petersbu rg, even though homosexuality was still illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison. Even though young people are the overwhelming majority at today’s conference, veterans like Ortanov shared their history so that the younger activists could see how tomorrow’s action fits into the larger picture of struggle for gay rights and democracy in Russia.

07._vladmir_ortanovVeteran Russian gay activist Vladmir Ortanov © Gay Liberation Network

“We are on an historical mission, it is a huge responsibility,” said Alekseev. “The evolution of LGBT rights in Russia will depend on what happens on 16 May.”

Despite threats of arrest and physical attacks by fascists, Slavic Gay Pride will take place at 1 PM tomorrow (Saturday) at a soon-to-be-disclosed location in downtown Moscow.

The eyes of much of the world’s media are already on Moscow covering the finals of the Eurovision Festival. President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and Mayor Luzhkov will have the choice of either confirming the world’s worst suspicions about Russian “democracy” by arresting the participants, or they can step away from that abyss by allowing LGBT people to assemble without state repression.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

This article and the photos referenced below are in the public domain. However, please credit them to Andy Thayer / Gay Liberation Network
Photos are available at the following URL:
More photos and the first story in this series can be found at:

Update by Nikolai Alekseev

Like in the previous years, GayRussia twins with UKGayNews.Org.Uk
Live coverage can be followed at the following page :
Info will be updated as available during the day.
www.gayrussia.ru/en will not be updated in English today.
Photos will most likely first appear from Reuters, AP and AFP at Yahoo!
Tonight, if possible before the Eurovision Song Contest, Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer will broadcast a program on www.gay-radio.ru over the internet, in English, to give their impression of the event and explain how it was. Exact time and link to access the program will be sent on these lists in the afternoon.

See Also:

Nikolai Alexeyev Arrested 2007Russian police officers arrest Nikolai Alexeyev in Moscow, 27 May 2007. Russian police arrested Russian gay rights activists and a leading British campaigner Peter Tatchell as they demonstrated outside the Moscow mayor’s office.
(Photo credit:  AFP Photo Maxim Marmur, Getty Images)

Slavic Pride Update From the LGBT Moscow Wires

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov Refuses to Speak to Organisers

Three arrested but organisers vow to march regardless of threats

Moscow – 15 May 2009 by Peter Tatchell

Various senior Russian sources are reporting that Moscow police are today attempting to arrest Nikolai Alekseev and other key Slavic Pride coordinators, and are also attempting to track down and arrest British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in order to prevent Slavic Pride going ahead.

Mr. Alekseev, Mr. Tatchell and others have been transferred to a secure location. In case of arrest, several contingency plans have been prepared so that the Slavic Pride march will not unravel should the police catch the main coordinators, adding to the number of campaigners already arrested.

The Embassies of UK, France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and the USA have all been notified of the plans and the risk that some of their nationals could be arrested and detained tomorrow and could require consular assistance.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov pointedly refused to speak to organisers or acknowledge the offer of compromise.

However, commenting on the increased number of Russians who are planning to attend this years Pride march, Slavic Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev said

“We are glad to see that this year this event is organised, led and populated by local Russians and Moscowvites. After years of silent oppression, we are finally creating a generation of LGBT activists that are becoming bolder and are ready to step up to demand equal rights.

“The presence and solidarity shown by British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Thayer here in Moscow sets a good example for the local people who have braved the violent threats and taunts from Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and police chief Vladmir Pronin.”

Meanwhile, in the run up to Saturday’s march, Peter Tatchell was awarded the International Award of Slavic Pride for his active support of Slavic LGBT campaigns. Mr. Tatchell was selected by a jury that included notable human rights campaigners Sophie Int Veld, Volker Beck, Bertrand Delanoe and Louis Georges Tin.

Vladimir Ivanov, the film director who produced ‘Moscow Pride 06′, a documentary about the violent repression of the 2006 demonstration that was premiered at the Berlin film festival in 2007, was awarded the International Award of Russian Pride. As well as a film director, Mr. Ivanov has been one of the main organisers of Russian LGBT public campaigns over several years.

Additional

Diplomatic sources report that the Moscow Embassies of the people involved in Slavic Pride are concerned about people who are arriving in Moscow to attend the Eurovision celebrations and join the Pride march being beaten or arrested. They are monitoring the situation and, if necessary, it is reported that they are planning to make a joint diplomatic announcement later.

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 Lesbian Couple, Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko, Denied Marriage License

IrinaFedotova-Irina -Shipitko

The attempt to marry went incredibly well and drew a large crowd of journalist, even more than for the Pride Issue. LGBT journalists can use the photo on the below link with copyright “GayRussia.Ru“. More photos will come on GayRussia.Ru. The couple will wed in Toronto, Canada in June. The denial received today will be appealed in Russian court up to Strasbourg.
http://www.gayrussia.ru/events/detail.php?ID=13432

Nikolai Alexeyev

Russian lesbian couple denied marriage license

By Mansur Mirovalev – 12 May 2009

MOSCOW (AP) — Supporters considered it a historic moment: two radiant women applied for a marriage license in a Moscow government office, claiming to be the first same-sex female couple to try to marry in Russia.

But a flustered-looking official denied their application Tuesday, a move that gay rights activists say symbolizes the refusal of many Russian officials to recognize the rights of the country’s gay and lesbian communities. Registry office director Svetlana Potamoshneva, seemingly embarrassed, handed them a written rejection and said Russian law recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman.
Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko said they would not give up.

“We won’t stop in midstream,” Fedotova told journalists later, saying she and her partner plan to get married in Canada. She said Russia recognizes marriages registered abroad, thus allowing the couple to formalize their relationship.

The event was the first of two this week that will put the issue of gay rights — which many Russians regard as controversial — on the public stage in Moscow.

Fedotova and Shepitko sought to marry ahead of a gay pride parade Saturday, scheduled to coincide with the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. Gay rights activists hope the media covering the event also will focus on their cause.

Radio Netherlands reported Monday that the Dutch singer Gordon would boycott the contest if parade is broken up violently.

Moscow authorities have banned the march, and religious and nationalist groups said Tuesday they have asked for permission to hold a counter-demonstration in central Moscow.

“The gay parade is … an act of spiritual terrorism,” said Mikhail Nalimov, chairman of the Union of Orthodox Christian Youth.

His deputy, Dmitry Terekhov, said the parade was in part aimed at converting people to homosexuality. “This must be stopped by radical methods, but without violence naturally,” he said.

In some countries, gays have won increasing acceptance — including the right to marry — but in many nations of the former Communist bloc homophobia remains rampant.
Decades of official persecution of Russian gays ended in 1993 with the decriminalization of homosexuality, but opposition to gay rights remains widespread. Russian spiritual leaders have claimed that homosexuality threatens the country’s traditional values.

There are no official estimates of how many gays and lesbians live in Russia, and only a few big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg have gay nightclubs and gyms.

Russian gay rights movement leader Nikolai Alexeyev said several gay male couples have attempted to wed since the mid-1990s, but officials rejected those efforts.

In 2006, gay activists trying to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin wall were arrested by riot police and harangued by religious and ultranationalist group members.

Last year, at least one gay rights activist was assaulted during a small protest in Moscow while uniformed police officers stood by and watched.

Dancer and singer Boris Moiseyev, one of Russia’s few openly gay pop stars, said in March he received death threats from Muslim activists. His extravagant shows have been banned in several Russian cities, and the Orthodox Church condemned him for “propagating sodomy and sin.”

Meanwhile, despite their rejection of a marriage license in Moscow on Tuesday, Fedotova and Shepitko — wearing suits and bow ties and holding flowers — held hands and kissed. They said they would continue to fight for recognition of gay rights in Russia.

Fedotova, a 30-year-old public relations consultant, said she has lived through years of threats and intimidation and wants to a marriage equal to that of heterosexual couples.
She said she met Shipitko, a 32-year-old fashion designer, five years ago and they have both “reached marriage age for sure.”

Associated Press writer Peter Leonard contributed to this report.

See also :





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