Exchange student targeted in homophobic Russian video

Screenshot of the video posted on VKontakte. A Swazi student was slapped several times by a member of the homophobic group Occupy Belgorod.
 
 
A video recently posted online by a group of homophobes based in Belgorod, Russia, shows an attack on a young exchange student who is beaten, undressed and forced to imitate sex scenes. The video of his ordeal lasts 33 minutes. Afterwards, the student tried to complain to his host university. However, he was reportedly dropped from the school’s roster and is now back home in Swaziland.
 
The already tense situation for homosexuals in Russia has become even more difficult since Russian lawmakers decided in January to ban any public acts that could constitute ‘homosexual propaganda’. The law even authorises police to arrest foreigners suspected of being homosexual.

"For the entire duration of the video, they confuse his alleged homosexuality with accusations of paedophilia”

The video was posted on November 5 on VKontakte, a Russian social network similar to Facebook. Larry Poltavtsev, a Russian LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activist based in the United States, explains the context of the video:
 
This video was posted online by a group called “Occupy Belgorod”, which is an offshoot of the anti-LGBT group "Okkupaj Pedofilyaj" (“Occupy Paedophilia”). [The Observers team met a member of this group as part of a previous Observers Direct report in Russia]. Belgorod is a small city in relation to others in Russia [300,000 inhabitants] near the border with the Ukraine. It’s an isolated area where racism and homophobia are firmly entrenched.
 
Their methods are well-known: they ask a teenager, who is legally under the age of consent to call an alleged homosexual and arrange a meeting. [Since 2003, the age of consent in Russia has been set at 16 years; the teenager in this particular case was 15 years old, according to members of the group.] Once caught, the victim is then subjected to humiliating acts and attempts to “correct” them. In this particular case, members of the group asked the victim if he was familiar with the new Russian law. For the entire duration of the video, they confuse his alleged homosexuality with accusations of paedophilia, and also include racist insults.
 
France 24 has decided not to share the video in its entirety. Below are a few screenshots from the video in which the Swazi student is subjected to acts of humiliation.
 
A member of the group Occupy Belgorod shaved the student’s head before applying a green glaze to his scalp
 
The student is forced to mime sexual scenes, including kissing a watermelon. He is also later made to mime fellatio on a beer bottle.
 
On its VKontakte page, the “Occupy Belgorod” group says that the student in the video was eventually “expelled from the university”. When contacted by FRANCE 24, several LGBT activists who had been examining the incident clarified that the student first complained to the Belgorod Shukhov State Technology University, where he was studying, then to the police, before suddenly leaving Russia. According to Swazi media, he has already returned to his home country.

"He’s back in his home country, Swaziland, which is also very homophobic"

Coenraad Kukkuk is the director for African and the Middle East for the organisation “Mr Gay World”. He lives in Pretoria, South Africa.
 
At first, we thought the student in the video was South African, because in the video, he says he studied in Johannesburg. The South African authorities looked into the matter and realised he was actually from Swaziland.

According to the Belgorod Shukhov University, which I personally contacted, the student in question was sent back to Swaziland because “he failed his courses”. [When contacted by FRANCE 24, officials from the said they were aware of the incident and would “soon communicate on it”; we will publish their response when we receive it]. This university offers exchange programmes to allow foreign students to learn Russian and it is extremely rare for a student to be sent home for failing courses. To me, it’s proof that the university just wanted to wash their hands of him. Today, this student has still not been able to say anything in his defence; he is stigmatised as a homosexual, and he is back in his home country, Swaziland, which is also very homophobic.
 
 
At the end of the video, the student was forced to sing patriotic Russian songs and give a crooked thumbs up - the sign of the Okkupaj Pedofilyaj group.

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