Archive for the ‘GWB’ Category
Scout children to be hanged under proposed law
World scout movement urged to expel Uganda
Call for UK Scout Association to sever links with Uganda scout movement
London, UK – 16 February 2010
“The leader of the scout movement in Uganda is demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts,” reports human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“Chief of the Scout Board of Uganda, David Bahati, is proposing that all serial homosexual offenders, including scouts and scout leaders, should be hanged – even children.
“Mr Bahati is a Ugandan MP. His Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently before the Ugandan Parliament, stipulates the death penalty for repeat same-sex relations and life imprisonment for all other homosexual acts, even for mere kissing, touching or caressing.
“Scout leaders who fail to report gay scouts to the police will face three years in jail. Any scout leader who provides supportive advice to a gay scout will be jailed for five to seven years.
“This Bill is an expression of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence, contrary to scout principles,” said Mr Tatchell.
See a summary and link to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill here:
Mr Tatchell has written on behalf of OutRage! to the Chief Executive of the Scout Association UK, Derek Twine.
A copy of this letter follows below.
Mr Twine has already referred OutRage!’s concerns to the General Secretary of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.
“I have asked the Scout Association UK to press the world scouting movement to disaffiliate the scout organisation of Uganda, on the grounds that its leader has violated scouting values by proposing the execution of gay people, including gay Ugandan scouts and scout leaders,” added Mr Tatchell.
“My letter calls on the British scout organisation to condemn Mr Bahati and his Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and to refuse to host him again in the UK.
“The British and world scouting movement cannot remain silent, given this threat to kill its members in Uganda. They must break all links with the Ugandan scout organisation while it remains under the leadership of David ‘kill the gays’ Bahati.
“The international scout movement has a duty to defend its values of universal respect, equality and brotherhood,” concluded Mr Tatchell.
What you can do – see the end of this email.
Copy of Peter Tatchell’s email to the Scout Association UK:
The Scout Association
London E4 7QW
11 February 2010
Dear Derek Twine,
Uganda Scout leader David Bahati and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Your letter dated 21 January 2010 – Ref: DMT/AEB
Sincere thanks for your reply to the letter of my OutRage! colleague, David Allison.
We are most appreciative of the efforts made by the Scout Association UK to ensure equal opportunity and non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, such wisdom and fairness is not replicated by the leader of the scouting movement in Uganda, David Bahati MP. As you know, he is head of the Scout Board of Uganda; in effect Chief Scout.
He is calling for the execution of lesbian and gay scouts, and other lesbian and gay Ugandans.
His Anti-Homosexuality Bill, currently before the Parliament of Uganda, proposes that repeat homosexual acts will carry a sentence of death, and that anyone – gay or heterosexual – who advocates gay equality or offers welfare support to homosexuals will be sentenced to five to seven years jail. A person in authority – a parent, teacher or scout leader – who fails to report a gay person to the police within 24 hours will be jailed for three years.
Mr Bahati’s proposals to persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are a complete contradiction of scouting values and of the fundamental principles of equality and human rights, as enshrined in international humanitarian laws, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I am most grateful that you have referred our concerns about Mr Bahati’s plan to execute LGBT Ugandans, including lesbian and gay scouts, to the General Secretary of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM). Please advise me of the reply you have received.
While we appreciate that every National Scout Organisation (NSO) is independent, we also understand that the WOSM membership of each NSO is conditional on them conforming to the WOSM’s scouting values.
David Bahati, the leader of the Uganda scout movement, is promoting hatred, discrimination and the state-sponsored murder of LGBT Ugandans – some of whom will be scouts and scout leaders. His stance and actions are incompatible with scouting values.
If the leader of a NSO was advocating racism and the execution of black people, I am sure the WOSM would take swift steps to rule that the NSO’s membership of the WOSM could not continue while such a person remained in a position of authority within the NSO.
FIRST: We therefore request that you ask the WOSM to disaffiliate the Ugandan scout organisation from the WOSM, until such time as David Bahati ceases to hold office in the Ugandan scout movement or until he withdraws and renounces his Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This is something that the UK Scout Association and the WOSM can do. It is within your powers.
SECOND: We realise that the Scout Association UK is not in a position to intervene in the internal affairs of the scouting organisation of Uganda. However, we do believe that the British Scout Association can and should issue a public statement deploring David Bahati’s homophobia and his Anti-Homosexuality Bill; making clear that his views and his Bill are incompatible with scouting values and are likely to lead to the persecution of Ugandan LGBT scouts and scouting officials. We respectfully ask you to do this.
THIRD: We reiterate our request that the Scout Association UK announces publicly that it will refuse to host Mr Bahati again in Britain (I believe that you did host him at the time of the 2007 Jamboree), as you would refuse to host an anti-Semitic scout leader who advocated the execution of Jewish people. Again, this is a reasonable and justifiable sanction that is within your powers.
The core of the issue is this: Mr Bahati wants to execute lesbian and gay scouts and scout leaders, as well as other lesbian and gay people. He is Uganda’s head scout, and while he remains head scout his actions reflect badly on the whole international scouting movement. It is imperative that the British and world scouting authorities speak out against him and his bill which, if passed, will have deadly consequences for scout members in Uganda.
The reputation of the scout movement depends on action being taken against those in positions of leadership, like Mr Bahati, who abuse and violate scouting values.
Please advise. Thank you.
OutRage! – The LGBT Human Rights Campaign
What you can do
Please ask your MP to sign EDM 575 on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
You can email your MP direct via this website:
Just click on the link and enter your postcode. It will tell you who is your MP and you can email him or her direct.
All you need to do is write as follows:
Draft letter to your MP
Dear (insert your MP’s name),
As one of your constituents, I urge you to sign EDM 575, tabled by Harry Cohen MP. It condemns Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This Bill proposes the death penalty for some same-sex acts and life imprisonment for others. The Bill also proposes up to seven years jail for anyone who advocates gay equality and three years jail for parents who fail to report their gay sons or daughters to the police.
See a copy of the Bill here:
And a summary of the key points of the Bill here:
Please also consider writing to the Uganda High Commissioner in London:
Her Excellency, High Commissioner Joan Rwabyomere, Uganda High Commission, Uganda House, 58-59 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DX. Phone 020-7839-5783, Fax 020-7839-8925 or E-mail: email@example.com
Insert your name, address and email
If you would like to contact Peter Tatchell, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naser rejected asylum by Finnish Government
By Ms. Ahmad and Sengupta, IRQR volunteers
Naser fled Iran because he feared for his life. As an Iranian queer, Naser was left no choice but to leave his family and whole life behind. In Iran, he was obligated to marry, but when he did, his ex-wife found out about his past relationship with another man. After finding out his sexual orientation, Naser was reported to the authorities and was tried for his sexual orientation. During the trial, there were a number of witnesses used against him, one of which was his former boy-friend. With the statements made by the witnesses, he was sure to be found guilty for his actions, which may have led him to death.
He fled Iran to Dubai, where he found a new life. He knew of the dangers that existed there however, he hoped to live as well as he could. After 8 years of establishing himself, he was reported to authorities in Dubai. Once again, he escaped for fear of his life. He traveled to Germany, where he held a visa, but continued on to Finland to seek refuge. He applied as a refugee to seek asylum in Finland however, he was denied on the basis that his claim was not sufficient enough. The Finnish government like many other European governments recommended Naser to return to Iran and keep his identity a secret.
In his plea with Finnish court officials, Naser states, “I cannot return to Iran because of the laws that exist against homosexuality. The strongest proof I have for my case is ME! I am homosexual and being homosexual is against the law in Iran and I will be persecuted by the government”.
Naser currently lives in fear of returning to Iran. He keeps his immediate family notified of his situation but cannot return because the government knows of his departure.
In the phone interview with Naser, he spoke of hope for a better future in Finland. He hopes to live with all the rights he deserves as a human being and hopes that the Finnish government will honour that. To the world today, Naser would like to say that “Iranian queer exist! They are real and I am proof of the struggles they face. Please do not turn your gaze away! Please do not deny us! We need the world’s support to change the circumstances we are in and will continue to struggle until freedom is in our grasp.”
On one hand, in Iran, Naser must hide his identity to live a safe life; and on the other hand, the European government requires him to prove his identity to live a safe life. Naser is in limbo and desperately needs help because of his risky situation. Naser is just one of many Iranian queer refugees who is in this situation. Like Ashgar, who is facing deportation in Norway and other Iranian queer asylum seekers in Europe, Naser must prove his sexual identity in Finland in order to grant asylum. Please show your support by contacting your members of parliament, government and politicians to revise these regulations.
Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees – IRQR
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill – Briefing
Death penalty proposed for consenting same-sex relations
Misreported & unreported aspects of the legislation
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
London, UK – 11 January 2010
Below is a full and comprehensive briefing on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently before the Ugandan Parliament and which proposes the death penalty for certain consenting homosexual acts.
Sponsored by the Ugandan MP, David Bahati, the Bill is expected to be debated and voted on in the coming weeks.
This briefing includes details of the already existing extreme homophobic laws in Uganda and their hateful social effects, a link to a full copy of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and my summary of its key elements.
Although there have been reports that death penalty clauses will be dropped, to date the Bill has not been amended, watered down or scrapped. All the original provisions, including the death penalty, remain.
Indeed, the Bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, said late last week that he stands by the Bill and will not withdraw it.
Read the full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Summary of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Peter Tatchell of the London-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group OutRage! said:
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposes the death penalty for two classes of same-sex acts.
“First, for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, which is defined as gay sex with under 18s or disabled persons and gay sex by a person in authority or by a person with HIV, even if they use a condom.
“Second, for ‘serial’ homosexual acts, meaning for persons who have repeated same-sex relations ie. more than once or twice.
“The Bill extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for same- sex intercourse to all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have homosexual relations.
“Life imprisonment is also the penalty for contracting a same-sex marriage.
“Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit homosexual acts will be punishable by five to seven years jail. These new crimes are likely to include membership and funding of LGBT organisations, advocacy of LGBT human rights, supportive counselling of LGBT persons and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people.
“A person in authority – gay or heterosexual – who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.
“Astonishingly, the new legislation has an extra-territorial jurisdiction. It will also apply to Ugandan citizens or foreign residents of Uganda who commit these ‘crimes’ while abroad, in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda.
“This bill is even more draconian than the extreme homophobic laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“It is part of a wide attack on civil society and is symptomatic of Uganda’s drift to Mugabe-style authoritarianism,” added Mr Tatchell.
Read this report by me on the tyranny of President Yoweri Museveni’s Ugandan regime:
Existing anti-gay laws in Uganda – and their consequences
The Uganda Penal Code Act of 1950 (Chapter 120) (as amended)
Section 145. Unnatural offences.
–Any person who– (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Section 146. Attempt to commit unnatural offences.
–Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 145 commits a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Section 148. Indecent practices.
–Any person who, whether in public or in private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person or procures another person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or her or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with himself or herself or with another person, whether in public or in private, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
“The current anti-homosexual laws were originally imposed on Uganda by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century, during the period of imperial subjugation. They are not authentic Ugandan or African laws,” added Peter Tatchell of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group OutRage!
“The consequences of this already existing legislation can include long terms of imprisonment for homosexual relations between consenting adults in private.
“Criminalisation also often results in the failure of police to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of mob violence. It gives a green light to blackmailers and to the police harassment of LGBT people, including the framing of LGBT Ugandans on false charges.
“The outing of LGBT people by the Kampala tabloid newspaper, Red Pepper, has resulted in some victims losing their jobs and homes. Others have been disowned by their families and forced to go into hiding.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is just the latest of many attacks on the LGBT community of Uganda.
“In recent years, the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni has passed a law banning same-sex civil marriage, fined Radio Simba for broadcasting a discussion of LGBT issues, and expelled a UN AIDS agency director for meeting with LGBT campaigners.
“Some years ago, a heterosexual Anglican bishop of the West Buganda diocese of Uganda, Christopher Senyonjo, was denied the right to preach and denied his pension by the Church of Uganda after he defended the human rights of LGBT people,” said Mr Tatchell.
See photos of the London protest against the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill on 10 December 2009:
These photos are free to use. Please credit Brett Lock of OutRage!
See videos of this London protest:
These videos are free to use.
UK urged to act on Malawi arrests
Foreign Secretary receives OutRage! appeal for action
Tatchell letter delivered to jailed men
London, UK – 8 January 2010
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband is being urged to press the Malawian government to release two men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who are being held on remand over their alleged homosexual relationship, to drop all charges against them and to repeal the country’s anti-gay laws.
Mr Miliband is also being asked to seek a halt to the arrest and prosecution of three Malawian human rights campaigners, who publicly defended the jailed men and secured them legal representation.
The call comes from the London-based LGBT human rights group OutRage! Spokesperson, David Allison, has written to the Foreign Secretary, appealing to him to make representations to the President of Malawi, his Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
A copy of Mr Allison’s letter follows below.
Meanwhile a letter of “support and solidarity” from OutRage!’s Peter Tatchell is being delivered to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Chichiri Prison, Malawi. The two men, who were arrested following their engagement ceremony late last year, are being held on remand on gay sex charges ahead of their trial on 15 January
A copy of Mr Tatchell’s letter follows below.
For background on the Malawi arrests, see here:
Protest to the Malawian High Commissioner in London:
His Excellency Dr. Francis Moto, High Commission of Malawi, 70 Winnington Road, London N2 0TX, United Kingdom. Telephone: +44(0) 20 8455 5624, Fax: +44(0) 20 3235 1066. Email: email@example.com
Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Malawian human rights group CEDEP
Copy of the OutRage! letter to David Miliband MP, British Foreign Secretary:
David Miliband MP
Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
6 January 2010
Dear Secretary of State,
This letter is in support of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, citizens of Malawi, who are being held in custody in Chichiri Prison, Malawi, and denied bail, on charges of consenting adult homosexuality following their same-sex engagement ceremony.
In doing so they have committed no criminal offence under the laws of Malawi. The ceremony is legal in Malawi and no laws were broken by the two participants.
The news release below provides more comprehensive details about their case.
We ask you to intercede with the President of Malawi, his Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to urge that these two men are not ill-treated while in prison, to urge that they are swiftly released on bail and to urge that all charges against them are dropped.
We further ask you to press the Government of Malawi to initiate moves to decriminalise homosexuality in accordance with the equality and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Finally, we ask that you call upon the Malawian government to halt police harassment and legal proceedings against HIV educators and human rights defenders from the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP); three of whose workers have recently been arrested following their public defence of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga and following their HIV education work with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
I hope that you feel able to make these humanitarian representations to the leaders of Malawi and that you will advise us at your earliest opportunity.
OutRage! – The LGBT Human Rights Campaign
Copy of Peter Tatchell’s message the jailed men, Tiwonge and Steven:
Dear Tiwonge and Steven,
May 2010 bring you and all Malawians justice, freedom and equality.
Congratulations on your courageous witness for gay human rights, as you battle for your right to be accepted, without discrimination.
Millions of people around the world know about your arrest and detention. You have received worldwide news coverage.
Stay Strong. We are with you in this period of trial and tribulation.
You are inspirations to us all. We salute you.
Take heart. You will win in the end. Justice and freedom will triumph.
You follow in the footsteps of the Malawians who fought against colonialism and the South Africans who battled against apartheid. They were arrested and persecuted, but they were victorious eventually.
Tell the judge that Malawi’s anti-gay law was not devised by Malawians. It is was devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi,
there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.
You are making history, and history will honour you.
I send you love and solidarity!
Peter Tatchell, OutRage! London, UK
Donate to the Malawi Defence Campaign
To make a donation from a UK bank within the UK, make an electronic bank transfer to OutRage!
Account name: OutRage!
Bank: Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank, Bootle, Merseyside, GIR 0AA
Account number: 7780 9302
Sort code: 72-00-01
For electronic transfers from abroad, please ADDITIONALLY quote this:
Or post a cheque payable to “OutRage!” to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence Campaign. OutRage! will pass the money donated to the LGBT campaign team in Malawi. Thank you.
OutRage! – 0208 240 0222 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Malawian human rights group CEDP
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!
Malawi ‘gay marriage’ trial on 15 January
Defendants refused bail, face gay sex charges
Human rights defender arrested on false porn charges
London – 5 January 2009
A Malawian court yesterday refused bail to two men who celebrated their engagement to be married in a traditional African ceremony, which they held late last year.
Giving his ruling at a court in the city of Blantyre on Monday 4 January, judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa claimed Steven Monjeza (26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20) were at risk of mob violence and would be safer in custody – a claim rejected by the defendants and their lawyers.
In Malawi, even people accused of serious crimes like violent robbery and assault usually get bail.
The same day the police arrested a worker from the human rights group CEDEP, which assisted the detained men and secured them legal representation.
“Steven and Tiwonge are the first same-sex couple to begin the process of getting married in Malawi,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage! in London, who has been liaising with human rights defenders inside Malawi to support the detained men.
“The two men have been returned to Chichiri Prison pending their trial on charges of homosexuality, scheduled for Friday 15 January in Blantyre,” added Mr Tatchell.
“They face a maximum sentence of 14 years jail, under Malawi’s anti-gay law, section 153 of the penal code, which was originally imposed on the country by the British colonisers during the nineteenth century.
“Both men deny the charges and will challenge the prosecution on the grounds that it is illegal under the equal rights and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution.
“Tiwonge and Steven are quite fearful and dejected. They were jeered in court and have been disowned by their families. Conditions in Chichiri jail are appalling. They say they have been beaten in prison and they are now threatened with forced intimate medical examinations to determine whether they have had sex.
“Visitors have taken them food and clothing and given them some money. They encouraged them to stand firm and reassured them that they have support inside Malawi and worldwide. This has lifted their spirits.
“Steven and Tiwonge now have a good legal team, including Mauya Msuku, Felix Tandwe and Noel Supedi.
“They also have the support of the Malawian human rights group, the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), which works to defend the welfare of marginalised communities, including prisoners, sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Ominously, the administrator of CEDEP was arrested on 4 January on trumped up charges that the group’s safer sex HIV education materials are pornographic. His arrest is almost certainly in retaliation for CEDEP’s public support for Tiwonge and Steven. There are concerns that the Executive Director of CEDEP, Gift Trapence, may now also face arrest by the police.
“This prosecution is illegal. It is contrary to section 20 of the Malawi constitution, which outlaws all discrimination and it violates the equal treatment provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold.
“Malawi’s anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws,” said Mr Tatchell.
See details of the Malawian constitution and African human rights law below.
Donate to the Malawi Defence Campaign:
To make a donation to support the jailed men, post a cheque payable to “OutRage!” to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence Campaign. OutRage! will pass all money donated to Tiwonge and Steven’s defence team in Malawi. Thank you.
OutRage! – 0208 240 0222 and email@example.com
Gift Trapence, Executive Director of CEDP
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!
Constitution of Malawi – Article 20:
1. Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are…guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – Articles 2, 3 and 4:
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law. 2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.
Gay City News Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010
In the Republic of Georgia, a muscular December 15 raid by homophobic security forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) on the country’s LGBT organization, the Inclusive Foundation, resulted in the arrest of founder and president Paata Sabelashvili. The officials framed Sabelashvili on trumped-up drug possession charges.
In an exclusive interview with Gay City News by telephone from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital and largest city, with one million residents, the 31-year-old Sabelashvili said that 13 lesbians present at the Inclusive Foundation’s offices were roughed up and strip-searched by the MIA officers, who hurled homophobic insults at them and “threatened to photograph them and out them to their families.” The officers seized computer disks containing some of the organization’s files, though it is unclear whether they obtained its membership list. “We don’t know what they took off the computers,” Sabelashvili reported.
The warrantless raid, during which police officers refused to give their identities, was denounced by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association as riddled with illegalities and part of “a campaign against NGOs [non-governmental organizations] recently.” The Lawyers Association called for an official investigation and disciplinary procedures against officers involved in the raid, saying that in addition to numerous violations of Georgian law, “we consider that abasement of dignity of sexual minorities by MIA officers during fulfillment of their duties, as well as the use of uncensored vocabulary, threats made against foundation members, use of homophobic expressions intended to intimidate them, is directed against ethical norms and is discrediting MIA at the same time.”
Sabelashvili, who speaks excellent English, told this reporter that he was arrested “the day after I had returned from Brussels, where I had been attending a seminar run by ILGA-Europe [a branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association], ironically on the topic of ‘Hate Crimes and Cooperation with the Police.’” Sabelashvili, who is a member of ILGA-Europe’s board of directors, said the MIA police accused him of “having smuggled significant quantities of LSD, ecstasy, and other illegal hard drugs into the country” on his return from Brussels, although no such drugs were found during the raid or subsequently. The police claimed to have found a tiny quantity of marijuana, “enough for five or six joints,” in an unlocked drawer of one of the desks, Sabelashvili said, but he suggested the pot may have been planted there, as the desk was easily accessible to any of the many visitors to the Inclusive Foundation’s offices. The group runs a resource center, book and video library, and drop-in counseling service there, and also serves as a safe space for meetings of LGBT Georgians.
“Sure I smoke pot, I didn’t deny it, but smoking pot is not a crime, only a civil code violation punishable by a fine of around 200 Euros [or about $288],” Sabelashvili told Gay City News, adding that “drugs are always a very convenient excuse for this kind of raid.” He unequivocally denied having smuggled marijuana or any other kind of drug into the country, saying, “I’d never be so stupid as to do that, especially when abroad as part of my work for ILGA-Europe and the Inclusive Foundation, as I would never expose the organizations I love to any danger.”
Sabelashvili said he was incarcerated for 12 days under conditions he described as “very humiliating and disgusting. First, I was interrogated for six hours, then I was put in a small cell designed to house only six people but that had 28 people stuffed into it, and I was constantly subjected to anti-gay name calling. When after three days I was transferred to prison, the police told the other prisoners I was gay, so they all knew. I was hit by police during my transfer to the prison.”
Speculating on the timing of the MIA raid, Sabelashvili noted that just two weeks before, he’d resigned his full-time job as a program officer for the Georgian office of the Danish Refugee Council, where he had been employed for six-and-a-half years, to devote full time to his LGBT work, “and they probably waited until I was no longer working for the Danes so as not to arouse an international outcry.” Sabelashvili learned that after he left his job with the Danish organization, he was the target of an intensive police investigation; “they interrogated my neighbors about me,” he said.
But Sabelashvili, a well-known figure among human rights activists in Georgia, said that since his arrest the Inclusive Foundation had already heard from both official European bodies and from the political officer at the US Embassy in Georgia, and that he has a meeting scheduled for January 8 with Washington’s deputy ambassador.
Georgia is one of the most culturally homophobic countries among the former republics of the Soviet Union; four-fifths of its population of some 4.3 million people are faithful to the Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the country’s most influential institutions and one militantly opposed to homosexuality. Even after the USSR legalized homosexuality in 1923, it remained a crime in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. (Homosexuality was re-criminalized in the USSR under Stalin in 1933.)
In a recent poll of Georgians by the Caucuses Research Center, when asked, “Would you be on friendly terms with gays?,” 81.4 percent replied “No,” with 71.4 percent responding “No” to the question, “Would you work with a homosexual?” Sabelashvili described gays and lesbians as “the most despised and stigmatized group in Georgia,” with sneering, homophobic media attacks launched with regularity.
Georgia legalized homosexuality in 2000, but only to meet the requirements for its membership in the Council of Europe, a body composed of the foreign ministers and parliaments of 47 nations which since 1949 has worked for European integration, and which emphasizes human rights in its work. (Membership in the Council is important for trade and commerce among its members under treaties it sponsors, and is a necessary first step toward membership in the European Union. A number of former Soviet satellites, including Bulgaria and Romania, also decriminalized homosexuality only in response to European pressure.)
There are no gay bars or explicitly gay-oriented businesses in Georgia.
Georgia’s Inclusive Foundation was founded three-and-a-half years ago by Sabelashvili and a handful of friends and acquaintances, with sponsorship from a five-year Central Asian Project run by the Dutch LGBT group COC, the world’s oldest queer organization, founded in 1946. Other countries included in this COC project were Moldavia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Sabelashvili said that the Inclusive Foundation has an annual budget of between 70,000 and 80,000 Euros (or some $100,000 to $115,000), most of which comes from the Dutch government, with other support coming from the Swedish Development Corporation and ILGA-Europe.
The foundation has a small, part-time staff, including three program staffers, two lawyers, two doctors (a medical doctor for AIDS counseling and a psychologist), a webmaster, and a graphic designer for its magazine ME (“that’s pronounced ‘may’ in Georgian,” said Sabelashvili, “and means the same as ‘me’ in English, a name chosen to emphasize the personhood and human equality of all people, including LGBTs.”)
ME, Georgia’s only LGBT publication, with a print and PDF circulation of about 3,500, is published in both Georgian and English, with funding from COC and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Germany, founded by the German Green Party and named after the 1972 Nobel Laureate for Literature and noted peace activist.
The Inclusive Foundation has been under frequent attack by the Georgian Orthodox Church, and because the level of homophobia is so high and most LGBT Georgians are in the closet, large public meetings are difficult to hold. The last public event was a May 20 meeting marking the International Day Against Homophobia, which was disrupted and brought to a halt by thuggish members of the Orthodox Parents Union. “It drew an audience of 50 people — and for us Georgians, that’s large!” Sabelashvili said with a chuckle.
“A lot of our public work consists of sending guest speakers to events organized by other groups,” the Inclusive Foundation’s president said. “For example, we recently sent guest speakers to a non-curricular seminar organized by second-year law students — it was an ice-breaking experience, for there was a lot of negative attitudes at the beginning, but by the end of the discussion, which was supposed to last only an hour, it had gone on for over three hours, and people were very interested in learning more and taking our materials.”
Sabelashvili said he decided to become a gay activist when studying international relations in Hungary under a scholarship to the Central European University, founded two decades ago by Hungarian-born US philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Institute to encourage democracy in former Soviet bloc nations. At the university, he made friends with a gay-friendly young American woman and eventually joined an LGBT club that held weekly meetings. “The university was a pretty safe space, and I came out in Budapest,” he said. On his return to Georgia, Sabelashvili said, he “decided to use my organizational skills and my knowledge of writing grant proposals to do something to fight for gay people. I’d always been involved with the causes of marginalized people. But it was not easy to get people together to start Inclusive.”
Sabelashvili said he was released from prison only when, in a plea bargain, he signed a statement, “on the advice of my lawyer,” admitting to having brought a small quantity of marijuana into the country on a previous trip abroad, with a fine of 1,600 Euros (roughly $2,300) and a five-year suspended sentence, during which he is subject to re-arrest and imprisonment for any violation of law. Even though he says he committed no wrong, Sabelashvili said, “I signed because I just wanted to get out. I didn’t think at the time that I was getting any help, and it seemed the only way to avoid a prison sentence. Only after I got out did I learn of the considerable international attention that my case was receiving, and that’s probably why that authorities agreed” to the plea bargain.
The raid and Sabelashvili’s arrest have already had a chilling effect on the Inclusive Foundation’s work. The activist says that “two of our board members have resigned, and some of our volunteers have dropped out — especially after police were spotted by two of our members who were in a café making post-raid nocturnal visits to our closed office and a group of four other police were stationed outside it to follow our members and visitors as they left.”
The Inclusive Foundation’s bi-lingual magazine, ME, is available online in at
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association statement detailing the illegalities in the police raid on the Foundation is at http://tinyurl.com/yc8cyae
(Click through to the report from the lower right hand portion of the page)
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at
Photo: Across Africa, gays and lesbians are fighting prejudice and demanding equality (Reuters: Antony Njuguna) Source
A Commonwealth of homophobes
Despite the Commonwealth’s commitment to human rights, its member states include prominent anti-gay tyrannies
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
The Guardian – Comment is Free – London – 26 November 2009
The Commonwealth is tainted. More than a few of the leaders who will dine with the Queen this weekend at the Commonwealth nations summit in Trinidad and Tobago have blood on their hands. They abuse the human rights of their own citizens. Some retain the death penalty and condone torture and detention without trial. Others muzzle the opposition, media and civic organisations. A number are mired in corruption; having amassed huge personal wealth while most of their people live in dire poverty.
In too many countries, the key principles of the Commonwealth – human rights, equality, non-discrimination, opportunity for all, liberty of the individual and personal dignity – are routinely violated.
And what does the Commonwealth do? Mostly nothing. No expulsions, no sanctions. Not even a condemnation.
Typical is the Commonwealth’s indifference to the widespread homophobic persecution that exists in most member states. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Commonwealth citizens are at risk of arrest, torture, rape, imprisonment and extra-judicial murder.
The Commonwealth secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, has failed to speak out. In particular, he has ignored requests to condemn Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality bill, which proposes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and “serial offenders”.
This is par for the course. For two decades, successive Commonwealth leaders have shown a systematic, persistent failure to challenge homophobic discrimination and violence – no matter how extreme.
The Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, last year promised “stricter laws than Iran” and began his witch-hunt by ordering LGBT people to leave the country and threatening to “cut off the head” of any gay person who remains. The Commonwealth leadership did not rebuke him for his murderous threats.
Around 80 countries worldwide continue to outlaw homosexuality, with penalties ranging from one year’s jail to life imprisonment – and even execution. More than half of these countries are former British colonies. A majority are members of the Commonwealth, headed by the Queen.
Of the 53 Commonwealth member states, more than 40 still criminalise same-sex relations, mostly under anti-gay laws that were originally imposed by the British government in the 19th century, during the period of colonial rule.
These homophobic imperial laws, which were forced on the colonies and then retained after independence, are wrecking the lives of LGBT people throughout the Commonwealth. They criminalise otherwise law-abiding citizens and contribute to a hostile social atmosphere that demonises LGBT people as unnatural, abnormal, marginal and criminal.
This renders LGBTs liable to blackmail, imprisonment, mob violence, rejection by their families, excommunication from their faith, eviction from their homes, dismissal from their jobs; making many of them high risk for depression, mental illness and suicide. Such bigotry and ill-treatment is a stain on the Commonwealth.
According this year’s global survey by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, some Commonwealth nations rank among the most homophobic on Earth. Same-sex relations carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment in Uganda, Bangladesh, Guyana and Sierra Leone. It is 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia, and 14 years in Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi and Papua New Guinea. Twelve states in Nigeria have sharia law and the death penalty.
Earlier this month, I wrote an open letter to the Commonwealth secretary general, pointing out that he is “entrusted to defend and promote the Commonwealth’s humanitarian values” but was neglecting to so, on LGBT human rights and on a range of other humanitarian issues:
It is extremely disappointing that the Commonwealth leadership appears to not regard LGBT rights as human rights and that it has neglected to protect LGBT citizens in the Commonwealth family of nations. This inaction is de facto collusion with victimisation.
The most homophobic Commonwealth country is Uganda. The anti-homosexuality bill, currently under consideration by the Ugandan parliament, proposes the death penalty for certain homosexual acts and life imprisonment for all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have gay sex. Life imprisonment is also the penalty for contracting a same-sex mariage. Membership of LGBT organisations and funding for them, advocacy of LGBT human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people will result in a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of seven years for “promoting” homosexuality.
A person in authority who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will incur three years behind bars. Astonishingly, the new legislation has an extra-territorial jusridiction. It will also apply to Ugandans who commit these ‘crimes’ while living abroad, in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda.
The Ugandan bill violates the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Uganda is a signatory. These breaches of international humanitarian commitments undermine the right to privacy and individual liberty and thereby set a dangerous legal precedent which threatens the human rights of all Ugandans. They are part of a wider drift towards an authoritarian state. President Museveni is fast turning into another Robert Mugabe.
The anti-homosexuality bill has been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists and the World Aids Campaign. You can lobby the Commonwealth secretary-general here. Homophobic and transphobic persecution in Uganda and other Commonwealth states breaches international human rights law. It is time the Commonwealth took a stand against it. Over to you, Kamalesh Sharma.
Vice Chancellor urged to resign, after ignoring complaints
Student’s Union backs hosting Islamist hate-mongers
London – 24 November 2009
“University College London is planning to host an extremist Islamist preacher, Abu Usamah, who endorses the murder of gay people and of Muslims who give up their faith. He also encourages the beating of little girls who refuse to wear the hijab,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“The university would never allow a lecture by a white supremacist who used racist abuse and advocated the murder of black people. Why the double standards?” queried Mr Tatchell.
Abu Usamah has been invited to address the Islamic Society at University College London next Monday, 30 November.
On 4 November, he was given a similar platform by City University.
“The Vice Chancellor of City University London, Julius Weinberg, should resign. He has ignored student’s complaints after the Islamic Society organised an on-campus meeting addressed by Abu Usamah.
“It is utterly disgraceful that the student’s union has defended the hosting of this hate preacher, and that the Vice Chancellor has not responded to protests from students. This violates the equal opportunities policies of the university and the student’s union,” added Mr Tatchell.
Abu Usamah was recorded for Channel Four’s television documentary, Undercover Mosque, as saying: “Do you practice homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man ….and throw him off the mountain…. If I was to turn around and I was to call homosexuals perverted, dirty filthy dogs that should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech isn’t it?”
On Muslims who leave the faith he said: “Kill him in the Islamic state…If the Imam wants to crucify him, he should crucify him. The person is put up on the wood and he’s left there to bleed to death for three days.”
Abu Usamah was also filmed by Channel Four deriding women as “deficient”, inferior to men and religously and intellectually “incomplete.” He advocates violence against little girls who refuse to wear the hijab: “She should start hijab from the age of seven, by the age of ten it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.”
Another speaker given a platform at the same City University event on 4 November, Murtaza Khan, was also caught on the Undercover Mosque documentary calling Jews and Christians “enemies” and non-Muslims “filthy”.
“The Vice Chancellor seems unwilling to uphold the university’s equal opportunities policy. He has failed to defend Muslim, Jewish, Christian, gay and women students and staff against these hate-mongers. Having neglected to ensure that the university is a safe, non-threatening place to work and study, Julius Weinberg should stand down,” said Mr Tatchell.
A copy of the City University newspaper news report and editorial on the case follows below.
Peter Tatchell – 0207 403 1790
Fran Singh, Editor, The Inquirer
0781 799 8889
A copy of the City University newspaper news report and editorial on the case:
Storm over extremist preachers
The Inquirer, City University London newspaper
18 NOVEMBER 2009
By Gemma Meredith
Lesbian and gay students have condemned City’s Islamic Society for hosting an extreme Islamist preacher at a campus event.
Abu Usamah spoke at the Islamic Society’s charity fundraising event “The People of Paradise and Hellfire” on Wednesday 4 November. He is notorious for his appearance in a Channel 4 documentary two years ago making inflammatory comments about homosexuals, women, non-Muslims and those who have left the faith.
The film recorded him saying: “Do you practice homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.” On Muslims who leave the faith he said: “If the Imam wants to crucify him, he should crucify him. The person is put up on the wood and he’s left there to bleed to death for three days.”
He also claimed on the record that women were inferior to men: “Allah has created the woman, even if she has a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete. Deficient. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man.”
The City University Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Society released a statement on Usamah’s appearance, saying: “Providing publicity for extremists who preach hate risks not just freedom of speech, but all human rights, democracy and ultimately, the well-being of students at City University.
“We strongly oppose the decision to invite extremist Abu Usamah to speak at one of the largest lecture theatres at City University. Inviting such a controversial extremist who has previously expressed offensive views about homosexuals, women and non-Muslims to our university campus is morally and ethically wrong.
“Events such as this, led by a speaker who shares generally immoral views including homophobia, is likely to lead to an already increasing rise in hate crime in London.”
Usamah avoided controversy at the City event, delivering a moderate speech. Although he condemned killing in the name of jihad (holy war), he also said: “Jihad is from our religion. We will not renounce our religion.”
It is not only Usumah’s appearance that has caused concern. The opening speaker, Murthadah Khan, was also caught on the Undercover Mosque documentary calling Jews and Christians “enemies” and “filthy”. Publicity for the event said: “Bring all your friends; Muslims, kuffaar.” Kuffaar is a derogatory term for non-Muslims.
The Inquirer offered an interview to the Islamic Society, which declined to comment. Acting vice-chancellor Julius Weinberg was also unavailable for comment.
Marcus Mikely, vice-president of communications and publications for City students’ union, said: “The university has no right to stop this from happening as the event was based around charity, not his views on other subjects. If the union had received complaints prior to the event, we would have looked into it.”
This is not the first time the Islamic Society has courted controversy. In April it invited Anwar al-Awlaki to address a meeting via video link from Yemen.
Al-Awlaki, an American, has been accused by the US Government of encouraging “terrorist acts” via the internet. He was interviewed by the FBI after the 9/11 attacks, when he was accused of serving as a spiritual adviser to two of the terrorists. He recently had communication with Major Nidal Hassan, the US soldier who killed 13 people at the Fort Hood army base. He has described Hassan as “a hero”.
In April the university officials intervened, warning the society that broadcasting al-Awlaki’s speech would break university rules. The university’s official code of practice on freedom of speech says: “We will guarantee by policy and action the right of free speech within the university community unless the exercise of such a right can be shown to lead to or increase significantly the probability of the discrimination of individuals or groups, harm to individuals or groups within the university, or the university or the community within which the university is located.”
EDITORIAL – The Inquirer says
19 NOVEMBER 2009
Tragically, the Islamic society has become both victim as well as a perpetrator of discrimination within the space of a week. The horrific mob attack in which four Asians were stabbed (two of them City students), appears to have been racially motivated.
There is no evidence to suggest the attack is in anyway linked to the invitation of radical Muslim preachers Abu Usamah and Murthadah Khan, which was strongly condemned by the LGBT society, but there must be questions asked as to why extremism has been allowed to prosper in the Islamic society. Consider these quotes by Abu Usamah and Murthadah Khan: “Do you practice homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”
“Allah has created the woman, even if she has a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete. Deficient. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man.” “Those whom the wrath of God is upon is the Jew and the Christian. These people are enemies towards us.”
Why does the Islamic society continue to invite hate preachers to the university? It certainly does nothing to promote integration with other communities and can often lead to dangerous and incorrect stereotyping.
It is not the university’s place to ban everyone who challenges and pushes the boundaries – as it has done on past occasions with varying inconsistency. Free speech is a universal right and should be defended, but hate speech should not. Equally, we should be free to criticise those who wish to divide us, spread homophobia and sexism, and call Jews and Christians “filthy”.
The Islamic Society needs to take more responsibility about whom it extends invitations to. The university, a place for education, should not be the arena for non-educational talks from radicals, especially when it causes serious offence to large proportions of the student population.
Since the attacks the Islamic Society has published a graphic on its website saying “Islamaphobia is terrorism”. It also added: “Non-Muslims are also encouraged to take care of themselves and be cautious of any suspicious behaviour. Our concern is not restricted to Muslim welfare only.” With no pun intended, perhaps the society needs to practice what it preaches a little bit more. It doesn’t appear to be too concerned about the welfare of those whose Khan and Usamah’s opinions so actively risk.
Further information: Fran Singh, Editor, The Inquirer
0781 799 8889
No Sharia rally in London
Oppose all religious laws & courts
Call for secularism & universal human rights
London – 21 November 2009
Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims joined forces in London to protest against Sharia and against all religious laws and courts.
The themes of the protest were “one law for all” and “universal human rights.”
Expressing solidarity with Muslims resisting the “inequalities and inhumanities” of Sharia law, the protesters affirmed their commitment to democracy, secularism, equality and human rights.
The rally took place in Hyde Park today, Saturday 21 November 2009
Among those addressing the crowds were speakers from Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh and the UK. They expressed solidarity with Muslim communities worldwide and condemned racist, anti-Muslim far right and fascist groups.
“Sharia law is a form of religious dogma and tyranny. It is homophobic, sexist and anti-democratic. It persecutes LGBT Muslims. Same-sex acts carry the death penalty in several Islamic states. Gay people can be stoned to death or hanged in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. We support LGBT Muslims – and all Muslims – who are fighting for their freedom,” said Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! and Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East.
“This protest supports secular democracy. Secularism is often confused with anti-clericalism. The two are not the same. Secularism is not against religion per se. It is against giving religion privileged status, rights and protections.
“We believe there should be a separation of religion from the state. No faith should dominate any government and seek to impose its creed on the rest of society. When this happens, freedom of expression is diminished and minority faiths are victimised.
“For these reasons, secularism is not only an important element of freedom of expression. It is also the best guarantee of religious freedom, as it prevents any one faith becoming politically dominant and abusing its powers to oppress people of other faiths,” Mr Tatchell added.
Lib Dem MP Evan Harris condemned the government for “caving in to religious pressure.” He cited the way Britain’s equality laws allow religious bodies to discriminate against LGBT people and people in certain circumstances. Mr Harris also condemned the government for giving privileged advisory status on policy and legislation to often unrepresentative faith leaders.
Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union warned that over 50 Islamic states, with the support of many developing countries, are currently “demanding that the United Nations outlaw the defamation of religion.” This would restrict free speech by criminalising criticism and condemnation of religious beliefs and institutions, he said.
A speaker from Iraq, Issam Shukri, told the rally how Islamist militias linked to the cleric and MP Muqtada al-Sadr had executed dozens of women who they deemed to be improperly dressed because were not fully covered head-to-toe. These militias have also organised death squad executions of LGBT Iraqis.
Maryan Namazie, the rally organiser, told the crowd:
“Our rally is being held to mark Universal Children’s Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. We are not defending western values. We are defending universal humanitarian values. Sharia adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal equal rights and secularism, and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia.”
Philosopher AC Grayling warned that Sharia law was an attack on precious, hard-won, civil liberties. It was a threat to freedom of speech, freedom of belief and freedom of conscience, he said.
Rahila Gupta from Southall Black Sisters highlighted the way religion and cultural tradition are often anti-women and homophobic. She urged solidarity with women resisting patriarchal clericalism and demanded equal rights for women, whatever their cultural, ethnic or religious background.
Excerpts from Peter Tatchell’s speech at the Hyde Park rally:
“We are here to defend Muslim people – and all people everywhere – who are victims of religious tyranny.
“We support the many victims of Sharia law, especially the Muslim women who are campaigning for equality. We cannot accept the way Islamic states, including western allies like Saudi Arabia, restrict women’s freedom of movement, make women subject to the control of male guardians, deny women access to certain jobs and positions in government and enforce the compulsory veiling of women with the hijab, niqab, jilbab or burqa.
“We stand in opposition to all religious laws in Britain and worldwide.
“We express our support for the many courageous, inspiring Muslims who are campaigning against the inequalities and inhumanities of Sharia law, often at great risk to their liberty and life.
“Contrary to the way our critics are trying to misrepresent our rally, this is not an attack on Muslims or Islam. We are here to support Muslims who are resisting Sharia law.
“We defend Muslims and people of all faiths against hatred and discrimination. The victimisation of people because of their religious beliefs is just as wrong as victimising people because of their race, gender or sexuality.
“In a democracy, everyone should be subject to the same laws, with the same rights and responsibilties. Religious rulings should not influence the laws or courts in any way.
“We believe that Muslims and all peoples worldwide should have rights, freedoms and choices, in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination that are enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are not western values. They are international humanitarian values, agreed by the global consensus of the member states of the UN.
“It is wrong to tolerate the denial of human rights to non-white Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, when most of us would never tolerate the denial of these rights to white (and non-white) people in Britain.
“There should be no double standards. No moral or cultural relativism. Defend universal human rights. One law for all,” said Mr Tatchell.
For further information and photos, contact Maryam Namazie firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Update by Nikolai Alekseev
- Slavic Pride Update From the LGBT Moscow Wires – Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov Refuses to Speak to Organisers – Police Attempted to Arrest Nikolai Alekseev
- Slavic Pride: Tatchell Allowed Into Russia – Moscow Mayor – Gay Activists Seek Meeting – Dialogue Urged to Resolve Dispute Over Gay Parade
- Gay Pride in Moscow: Report from Andy Thayer, a Chicago Activist
- Slavic Pride: We Don’t Want Moscow to Become Sodom Said Nikolai Dovydenko, Leader of the United Orthodox Youth
- Russian Lesbian Couple, Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko, Denied Marriage License
- Slavic Pride: UK Foreign Office Revises Guidance for Gay Travellers in Moscow
- Peter Tatchell Risks Moscow Gay Pride – Undeterred by Threat of Arrests and Bashings
- Moscow Ban of the Slavic Pride: Dutch Singer Gordon Threatens to Boycott the Eurovision Song Contest
- UN Human Rights Committee Gives Russia 6 Months to Justify Gay Picket Ban in Moscow
- Russia: Moscow Mayor Allows Anti Gay Pride Action but Bans Slavic Pride
- Russia: Lesbians to Attempt First Gay Marriage in Russia
- Russian Gay Activists Unveil Plans for Their Slavic Pride on Eurovision