Archive for the ‘Nikolai Alekseyev’ Category

Hong Kong IDAHO

Forwarded by Peter Tatchell on behalf of IDAHO

Official IDAHO Report – 2009

17 May 2009 – International Day against HOMOPHOBIA & TRANSPHOBIA

MEDIA RELEASE

The fifth International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, an initiative launched on May 17th 2005 by activist Louis-Georges Tin, saw an amazing outburst of activities around the world. The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) Committee reports on its global site www.idahomophobia.org.

“Actions were reported in more then 50 countries”, said Joel Bedos, coordinator of the IDAHO Committee, the NGO promoting the Day worldwide. “This shows just how strong the global movement is.”

ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a world-wide network of national and local groups with more than 700 member organisations from every continent and representing 110 countries, has been involved in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia with the IDAHO Committee since it was launched in 2005.

“We chose this Day,” say Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini, ILGA’s Co-Secretaries General, “to launch the third edition of the World Report on State Sponsored Homophobia. With this report ILGA wants to name and shame the States which at the end of the first decade of the 21st century still treat their LGBTI citizens like lesser persons, unworthy of consideration.

“The actions undertaken by activists and the majority of our members all around the world on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia have been an important occasion to remind civil societies and Governments of the situation of lesbians and gays in 80 countries in the world, where homosexuality is considered a crime and of the fact that in 5 of them, i.e. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mauritania and Yemen, homosexuals risk the death penalty. ILGA is now working on a State sponsored transphobia report, which we hope to publish by November this year.”

Nicolai Alexeyev, organiser of Slavic Pride in Moscow, speaking after his release from a Russian jail said, “We launched the first Moscow pride and the first IDAHO international conference in 2006 with Louis-Georges Tin, who was with us, on the streets confronting homophobic attacks.

“Since then, we have always been together, working for equal rights in the world. IDAHO breaks down isolation, makes people feel stronger, and sends a powerful signal to all homophobes and transphobes around the world that they are facing not just a handful of activists but millions of people across the globe.”

This ambition to get activists in different countries together is Joel Bedos’ main driving force.

“This year we have got a really large alliance of major regional and international NGOs, including ILGA’s Trans secretariat of course, together to launch a large international campaign against Transphobia. The appeal has been signed by 300 organizations in more than 75 countries, 3 Nobel Prize winners and many international institutions and celebrities and we are now launching it on our websites for citizens all over the world to join in with.”

Most amazingly, this campaign already has led France to announce an historic decision to become the first country in the world to stop classifying Trans people as ‘mentally disordered’ as the World Health Organisation’s guidelines still demand. Also, on May 15th, the Dutch parliament organised a conference on LGBTI rights, celebrating IDAHO, and the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Maxime Verhagen announced that the Government will change the law that still requires transgender people to undergo irreversible surgery before granting them a new identification document. He acknowledged that the current law violates principle 18 of the Yogyakarta principle: the right to be protected from medical abuses.

The report, presented on Saturday 16 May at the Axel hotel in Barcelona with the help of Coordinadora Gai Lesbiana and former ILGA co-Secretary General Jordi Petit, was prepared by Daniel Ottosson. The report and a map showing the results of the study at a glance can be accessed on www.ilga.org.

“Such an international campaign is one of the added values of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and we are glad that the IDAHO Committee has provided the initial impulse. It has galvanised us into action and helped us to network with other Trans organisations in other countries. We are definitely stronger together” says Liesl Theron from Gender DynamiX, a South African Human Rights organization promoting freedom of expression of gender identity in Africa.

The IDAHO committee hopes that the Campaign against Transphobia will be just as successful as the one that it launched back in 2006 when an international petition calling “for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality” drew incredible support from several Nobel prize winners, many high profile politicians, actors, intellectuals, etc, and contributed to the French government taking the initiative that resulted in last year UN Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity -a historical achievement indeed.

On this year’s International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the French, Dutch and Norwegian governments organised a World Congress to follow up on this Statement, with a very active participation of the IDAHO Committee along other civil society actors. This congress got many activists from all over the world to meet and strategise the future.

Getting people around the globe together is indeed a shared passion. Kenneth Tan, founder of the first social gay and lesbian network Gays.com, is a happy man: “The community based video that we did this year in partnership with the IDAHO Committee has already been watched by 200,000 people. The idea was to get individuals from a lot of different countries to come out and say they were proud. The result is exactly what the Day means: a celebration of both diversity, because we are all unique, and unity, because there is something that links us all together.”

Diversity is certainly the motto: In mainland China, a bike rally celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, while in Hong Kong, the IDAHO Coalition protested against homophobia in front of the Government Headquarters. Says Connie Chan, who has been coordinating actions in Hong Kong for many years: “The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia Committee and participating organisations around the world have given us inspiration and momentum for action.”

Derek Lennard, IDAHO-UK Coordinator said “In the UK we now have over 100 events and initiatives to mark IDAHO -in 2005 we had five. It is very exciting to see this network get bigger and bigger and to see the very broad support it now receives in the UK”.

While marchers took it to the streets in all major Turkish cities, UK police stations flew the rainbow flag. While in Cameroon, brave activists faced the hostile crowd on a radio programme, a Church service to mark IDAHO was held in Belfast’s oldest church. Iran’s gay students wrote an open letter to the Students’ Union, and in Singapore, the Pink Dot festival was the first-ever event to speak openly about gay and lesbian rights.

The Council of the EU, in a historic statement published on May 17th, declared “Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is incompatible with the basic principles on which the UE is founded”. In a surprisingly progressive move, this Statement was supported by countries outside the EU such as Turkey and Ukraine.

“Everywhere we see things moving. Even in Russia where the IDAHO Committee co-organised the first Pride in 2006, things will change. This is why we created this Day in 2005 and we are so happy to see all these actions take place around the globe. We hope that the sum of all these individual energies will increasingly be visible to the world. Because we are so many and so full of hope and energy, that we can really change the world,” says Louis-Georges Tin.

Press contact

Louis-Georges Tin

IDAHO Committee

lgtin@idahomophobia.org

Protests on the 2009 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – 17 May

A FEW EXAMPLES…

CHINA & HONG KONG · “Love is not a crime, hate is not a family value” chanted IDAHO coalition marchers as they headed to the Governments Headquarters demanding equal rights for LGBT people.

They called for legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and for same-sex couples to be included in the law on domestic violence. Spokesperson Connie Chan reports: “Protesters laid down in a symbolic die-in action to signal their disappointment at the treatment they get from the Hong Kong authorities.”

In the meantime in Beijing, organisations Common Language and Aibai Culture and Education Center organised “Rainbow in Motion”, the Beijing Multi-campus Bike Ride to celebrate gay pride, raise awareness of LGBT rights and introduce IDAHO to the LGBT community and general public of mainland China.

FRANCE · In France, hundreds of events where organised all over the country, where IDAHO enjoys a growing visibility. In Paris, Trans People from all over the world joined French Trans activists and LGBT organisations to “Shout Out against Transphobia”. On that day, the Health minister announced that France would be the first country to officially stop applying WHO classification of Trans People as “mentally disordered”. 27 cities organised debates, film screenings, parties, exhibitions and other political and cultural events, including a National Conference on Transgender and Transexual issues at the French Parliament.

TURKEY · Hundreds of people marched in Ankara and other major cities in the country for LGBT rights. Homophobia and Transphobia have risen dramatically over the last year with dozens of people brutally murdered and police harassment is growing.

ILGA · The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association published on IDAHO the third edition of its report on State Sponsored Homophobia.

The report surveys legislations criminalising consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex in private over the age of consent in all countries in the World. With this report ILGA wants to name and shame the States which at the end of the first decade of the 21st century still treat their LGBTI citizens like lesser persons, unworthy of consideration.

UK · Amongst many initiatives across the country, dozens of police stations raised a gay rights banner to mark a day of action against homophobia. The organisations raising the rainbow flag high were taking part in The Lesbian and Gay Foundation’s “Flying the Flag” campaign. In London, an IDAHO party launched Day in Hand community project. This campaign’s aim is to inspire and support same-sex couples who want to hold their partner’s hand in public.
www.adayinhand.com

EUROPEAN UNION · To mark IDAHO, the European Union issued a strong statement calling for renewed mobilisation against homophobia and transphobia.

The Statement, warning that “discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity is incompatible with the basic principles on which the UE is founded”, was also supported by other States, including Turkey and Ukraine, two countries who did not sign up to the UN Statement last December supported by now 67 countries and calling States to fights discrimination on these grounds.
www.consilium.europa.eu

SINGAPORE · IDAHO 2009 went down in History as the Pink Dot festival united a 2500-strong crowd celebrating the freedom to love. The organisers of the event, pinkdot.sg, say the event was held to commemorate love in all forms and between people of every orientation. The city-state still has a ban on homosexual sex that has been in force since its colonial days under the British. According to Jack Soh of pinkdot.sg, “It was not a protest or a political rally. The event was for Singaporeans in general – to affirm our respect for diversity and the freedom to love, regardless of sexual orientation.” http://www.pinkdot.sg

TRANSPHOBIA · 300 organisations from 75 countries, 3 Nobel Prize winners and intellectuals, artists, politicians from many countries ,supported the International Appeal against Transphobia and for the Respect of Gender Identity launched by a group of large regional and international Human Rights and LGBT Rights organisations. The Appeal was launched on the eve of IDAHO and is now opened to signatures by the public.

A FEW MORE EXAMPLES…

INTERNATIONAL · To coincide with IDAHO, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the World Congress on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. This congress originated from a joint decision by the French, Dutch and Norwegian governments. Its aim was to reflect on future strategies to take the LGBT agenda forward within the UN. Ministers from 15 countries, including 3 African countries, and more than 80 representatives from NGOs from all World regions debated during the day-long congress to elaborate recommendations for all stakeholders.

RUSSIA · Once again Gayrussia tried to organise a Pride march in Moscow on IDAHO. This year, the date coincided with the Eurovision song contest in the Russian capital, which drew increased media attention on the event. In spite of much public attention and support, Moscow authorities cracked down on demonstrators and arrested many members of the group. Gayrussia founder Nicolai Alexeyev promised to hold on to the slogan “Gay Equality; No Compromise” and plans actions for IDAHO 2010.

More information on www.idahomophobia.org

BACKGROUND to IDAHO

In August 2004, Louis-Georges Tin, a French university lecturer, campaigner for Black and LGBT Rights, and chief editor of the Dictionary of Homophobia launched an appeal for a universal recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He proposed that this day be fixed on May 17th, to commemorate the World Health Organisation decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.

By May 17th 2005, as a result of a year long campaigning effort, 24000 people worldwide and reputed international organisations like ILGA, IGLHRC, the World Congress of LGBT Jews, the Coalition of African lesbians, to name but a few, had signed the IDAHO appeal. In May 2005 already, IDAHO saw some action take place in more than 40 countries in the world. The first LGBT events ever were organised in Congo, China, Bulgaria. Josepp Borrell, President of the European Parliament made a statement supporting the IDAHO and invited Tin to the conference the EU Parliament organised for IDAHO 2006.

By that time a new campaign had been launched by the IDAHO Committee calling “for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality” and on May 17th 2006 it had attracted support from several Nobel Prize winners (Desmond Tutu, Amartya Sen, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo, José Saramago), artists (Merryl Streep, Cindy Lauper, Elton John, David Bowie), intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Bernard-Henri Lévy), NGOs (ILGA, FIDH), politicians, etc…

In July 2006, the Montreal Conference on LGBT Human Rights, organised in the wake of the Outgames, included in its final declaration a strong recommendation to all Governments to recognise May 17th as the International Day against Homophobia.

For IDAHO 2007, the IDAHO committee and Gayrussia co-organised the first GayPride in Moscow, preceded by an International IDAHO conference that brought together many activist, organisations and politicians from around Europe and North America.

At that time, IDAHO had been officially recognised by the EU Parliament, Belgium, the UK and Mexico and organisations in more than 50 countries in the world celebrated IDAHO. Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Luxemburg soon joined the list of countries officially recognising the Day.

On IDAHO 2008, as a result of the actions coordinated by the IDAHO committee, the French Government also recognised IDAHO. Rama Yade, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, announced France’s intention to launch a UN initiative towards the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

During the second semester, Civil Society organisations, including the IDAHO committee, ILGA, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, ARC international, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and many other groups from the global South and East worked towards this initiative that eventually resulted in the December 2008 UN Statement read at the General Assembly by Argentina and supported by now 67 countries. This UN Statement was one of the elements in a long strategy of LGBT advocacy at the UN, a strategy that was discussed on IDAHO 2009 at the World Congress against Homophobia and Transphobia, that the IDAHO committee, as part of a central working group, helped shaping.

ENDS

UPLOAD MEDIA BRIEFING IDAHO 2009

Gays Without Borders

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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.

https://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

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LAST MINUTE:

40 Arrested as Moscow Anti-Riot Police Use Violence to Break up Slavic Pride March
By Peter Tatchell

Pride organisers call on performers to boycott Eurovision

Moscow – 16th May

Sources from Moscow have reported that police have used violent and oppressive tactics to break up the peaceful Slavic Pride march in the city.

The march had been outlawed by Moscow city authorities, but permission had been given for counter-demonstrations by far right ultra-nationalists.

40 Arrested as Moscow Anti-Riot Police Use Violence to Break up Slavic Pride March – Pride Organisers Call on Performers to Boycott EurovisionBetween 35 and 40 Russian LGBT activists have been arrested, including British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Thayer. Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was held down by 5 fully armed riot police and arrested.

European Embassy diplomats witnessed the violence are said to be planning a joint diplomatic action.

Slavic Pride organisers have called on the artists and performers of Eurovision to boycott tonight’s showpiece event in solidarity with the beaten and arrested protesters.

Organiser Nikolai Alekseev said:

“I call upon all of the artists who are due to perform at tonight’s Eurovision to boycott tonight’s event and send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable.

“The Russian Government is using this years Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990’s. However, what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights.

“The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching.

“We were defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. We demand the same legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes that none LGBT people enjoy.

“This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world.”

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

UPDATE 13:26 (Paris):

Xsenia is arrested together with 31 other activists. Russian and Belarusian have been put in different cells.

Nikolai Alekseev has been put in a separate place. There is no report about him. Apparently, his phone was confiscated and he is not reachable.
Police is making protocols with the arrested people.
Tatchell was released but NOT Andy Thayer from GLN, Chicago.
No one else released.

One activist has already been sent to the Court to be judged.

Alexeyev ArrestedNikolai Alekseev arrested

UPDATE Sunday 12:30 (Moscow):

All activists detained by the police at yesterday’s Slavic Gay Pride have been released.

13:30:  Slovenia, the country which is currently chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (which Russia is a member of), is expressing concern over the violent break up of the Slavic Gay Pride parade in Moscow on Saturday, the Slovenia news agency STA is reporting.

Slovenia took over the chairmanship just five days ago.

More informations UK Gay News:

http://ukgaynews.org.uk/Moscow_Eurovision_Latest.htm

See Also:

Tatchell Moscow 2007

Peter Tatchell Moscow 2007

Moscow mayor – Gay activists seek meeting

Dialogue urged to resolve dispute over gay parade

Tatchell allowed into Russia. Arrived this morning

He urges respect for Russia’s great gay icons, such as Peter Tchaikovsky, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Gogol

Moscow – 14 May 2009 by Peter Tatchell

“I appeal to Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to meet with me and the Slavic Gay Pride organizers to discuss his anxieties about the gay parade. We are keen to reassure him. Dialogue can create understanding and facilitate the amicable solution we seek. We are ready to meet the Mayor anywhere at anytime. I hope he will agree. Meeting us would be a generous, conciliatory gesture,” said British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who arrived in Moscow today to support Saturday’s planned gay parade in the city centre.

The Moscow authorities have banned the gay parade and threatened “tough measures” against the marchers – even though the right to protest in guaranteed under the Russian constitution.

“Many great Russians have been gay or bisexual, including Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Eisentein, Modest Mussorgsky, Nijinski, Sergei Diaghilev, Nikolai Gogol, and Rudolf Nureyev. The Russian people should celebrate their gay history with pride. These gay Russian artists and intellectuals have made an immense contribution to human civilisation,” said Mr Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell is the human rights spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales. He is also the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East at the next UK general election, and hopes to be elected MP of the university city.

Nikolai Alekseev, the organizer of the gay parade said:

“All we seek is the right to hold a gay parade like they have in other European cities. This is not unreasonable. Sadly, the Moscow authorities have so far refused to meet and dialogue with us. We are sure that a solution can be found if the mayor and his officials meet us. We are offering him an olive branch. I hope he will reciprocate,” said Mr Alekseev.

At the Moscow Pride parade in 2007, Mr Tatchell was badly beaten and arrested. He has been left with permanent minor eye and brain damage, which has adversely affected his vision, concentration, memory, balance and coordination.

“I am undeterred by my violent experiences last time. It is important to support brave Russians who are defending the right to protest. The right to hold a gay parade is an issue of fundamental civil liberties. We are defending the freedom of expression of all Russians, gay and straight,” added Mr Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell was granted a Russian visa and had no trouble when he arrived at Moscow airport this morning. “Immigration officials were welcoming, friendly and courteous,” he said.

Have a look on this movie of the 2007 Moscow Gay Parade :

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:

Moscow_Pride_2007_Anti-Gay_Demo

Moscow Pride 2007 Anti-Gay Demo

Slavic Pride: We Don’t Want Moscow to Become Sodom Said Nikolai Dovydenko, Leader of the United Orthodox Youth
Gay visitors to Moscow told to expect violence

By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • May 13, 2009

Gay activists and Eurovision fans have been warned they may be met with violence this weekend in Moscow.

The city is preparing to host the Eurovision Song Contest final but gay rights activists have said they will be holding a Slavic Pride march, despite city officials banning such events.

Such events have been met with violence from right-wing extremists in previous years.

“We won’t allow this satanic gathering,” Nikolai Dovydenko, the organiser of last week’s anti-gay picket and leader of the United Orthodox Youth, told the Guardian. “We don’t want Moscow to become Sodom. It’s an affront to Russian society and to our spiritual peace.”

When asked if his movement was intending to hurt gay and lesbian Eurovision fans, he said: “We don’t want to hurt anybody physically. But we will not let our feelings be insulted.” The group’s leaflet mixes images from previous gay parades with photos of terrorist attacks.

“Eighty per cent of Russians are orthodox Christians,” Dovydenko said. “We don’t intend to be humiliated.”

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who previously described gays as “Satanic”, has done little to quell tension, declaring that no gay prides would ever be held in the city, despite its obligations under its constitution.

Nikolai Alekseev, the organiser of the Slavic Pride rally, warned that British gays and lesbians travelling to city would not be safe from extremist violence, adding that Moscow police would not protect them.

This week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office revised its guidance for travellers to Moscow, saying that gay visitors should be aware of possible violence and should be careful about open displays of affection.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among those who were beaten by rightwing extremists during an attempt to hold a march in 2007.

He said yesterday he would still attend the march to show solidarity with Russian campaigners, despite being beaten almost unconscious and then arrested.

See Also:

Moscow Ban of the Gay Parade: Dutch Singer Gordon Threatens to Boycott the Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision singer threatens gay rights boycott

Sent by Nikolaï Alexeyev

Gordon-ToppersPop singer Gordon says he will refuse to take the stage at the Eurovision Song Contest final in Moscow if Russian police violently suppress a gay parade in the city. The singer made the remarks in an interview with Dutch public broadcaster NOS. The organisation GayRussia announced plans for a gay rights parade to coincide with Saturday’s Eurovision final, but it has been banned by the authorities.

A spokesman for Moscow’s mayor said “Moscow has never had gay parades and it never will.” Russian police often use strong-arm tactics to clamp down on gay rights protests. Dutch Eurovision singer Gordon, who is himself homosexual, said “If violence is used during the demonstration, I’ll fly straight back to the Netherlands.”

Gordon is a member of the Toppers, the star singers who will perform this year’s Dutch Eurovision entry. The other two members of the specially assembled threesome of famous Dutch solo artists and TV personalities are Jeroen van der Boom and René Froger. They say they will decide how to respond to events on the day of the final itself.

See also:

SlavicPride09BigRussia: Moscow Mayor Allows Anti Gay Pride Action but Bans Slavic Pride
Sent by Nikolai Alekseev

Anti Gay Pride Action has been allowed on May 12 in the center of Moscow. A similar event was also allowed last week.

Moscow city authorities will not allow gay parade – mayor’s spokesman

Moscow, May 7, Interfax – The Moscow city authorities will not allow a gay parade in the city, Sergey Tsoy, a spokesman for the Moscow mayor, told journalists on Thursday.

“Members of the gay movement are threatening to hold their action on May 16 regardless of whether they get permission or not and without reckoning with the opinion of a community majority. The Moscow government is declaring that no gay parades have been and will be held in Moscow,” Tsoy said.

The organizers of gay parades are seeking “not only to destroy moral pillars of our society but also deliberately provoke disorder, which would threaten the lives and security of Muscovites and guests of the city,” he said.

“Such an action would endanger above all those who would want to take part in it. All this is absolutely unacceptable,” Tsoy said.

“This is not only the Moscow government’s position. We have been firmly warned about this by members of all religious denominations, primarily the Russian Orthodox Church, and also the leaders of youth and veteran organizations and ethnic-cultural groups,” he said.

“Law enforcement bodies will strictly curb any attempts to hold unsanctioned actions in line with the law,” Tsoy said.

See Also “Moscow Bans Gay Rights Parade on Eurovision Day” on Gay Russia

Lesbians to attempt first gay marriage in Russia

irina-fet

Photo: Irina Fet (Fyet)

By Amie Ferris-Rotman

Official application expected on 12 May

A lesbian couple will try to defy deep-rooted Russian homophobia next week in the first attempt at a gay marriage even though rights activists say it will be rejected outright.

Public relations worker Irina Fyet, 31, and her partner of the same age will apply for a marriage license at a register office on May 12 in Moscow, a city where mayor Yuri Luzhkov once described gay pride marches as “satanic.”

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev said it was the first time a gay couple would apply for a license.

“I am 99 percent sure there will be a refusal, but maybe later the situation in Russia can change, the political feeling can change,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

The pair will most likely legally marry in the coming months in Toronto, or Norway, he added. Neither country requires residency for gay couples wishing to marry.

Activists say a loophole exists in Russian law which bans gay marriage at home but does not prevent the recognition of a same-sex marriage that has taken place abroad.

The Soviet Union banned homosexuality and any type of nudity on TV, and Russia did not decriminalize gay sex until 1993, two years after the USSR’s collapse.

Unlike other major European cities, Moscow has no gay-friendly district and the homosexual scene is still largely underground.

Despite the fact that one of Russia’s most popular musical groups abroad, Tatu, traded on their fictionalized lesbian image, same-sex couples are rarely seen being affectionate in public.

“They want to be able to live like other citizens, this is not (gay) propaganda,” Alekseyev said of Fyet and her partner.

His website http://www.gayrussia.ru quotes Fyet as saying “Our love is no different (than others).”

Gay pride parades, unheard of in the days of the Soviet Union, have been allowed in some cities in recent years but are generally met with public and political derision.

Three years ago, police, militant Orthodox Christians and neo-fascists attacked and violently broke up the first gay rights march in Moscow.

Next week’s Russian gay pride march will purposely coincide with Moscow’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest and competitors will be asked to back homosexual rights on stage.

The Russian Orthodox Church, resurgent since the fall of the Soviet Union, has helped turn public sentiment against gay pride events, which the then head of the church, Patriarch Alexey II, has called “propaganda for homosexuality.”

Reuters’ Full Article