Nationalist and Orthodox militants attacking LGBT rights activists in Voronezh.
One of our Observers in Russia has sent us footage of gay rights activists being attacked during recent protests. He tells us about the climate of fear and hatred against gays in his country.
It is not a good time to be gay in Russia. On Friday, the Russian parliament gave initial backing to a law banning “homosexual propaganda targeting minors”. There was little debate before 388 members of parliament voted for it, versus only one against and one abstaining. This nationwide bill has galvanized LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) activists to organize protests in various Russian cities, during which they were targeted — sometimes very violently — by nationalist and Orthodox militants.
The proposed law would outlaw public demonstrations and dissemination of information about the LGBT community to minors. As a result, gay couples would not be able to kiss or even hold hands in the street; if they ignore the law, they could be fined between 100 to 125 euros per person. The city of St. Petersburg adopted similar legislation in May 2012.
Those pushing the proposed law, most prominently the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, applaud its promotion of traditional Russian and Orthodox values in the face of western values. The Kremlin also seeks to increase the national birth rate, which has been in freefall since the end of the USSR.
On January 22, dozens of LGBT activists rallied for a “kiss-in” in front of the parliament building in Moscow. They were insulted and beat up by dozens of men, as shown in these two videos.
Footage of the protest in front of parliament on January 22. Video: Vassili Sonkine.
Our Observer explains that on January 20, in Voronezh, a city 500 km south of Moscow, gay activists were violently attacked by nationalist and Orthodox militants.
Footage of the protest in Voronezh on Sunday, January 20. Video: Автомир портал
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia is still rampant. Gay pride parades are frequently cancelled and attacks against homosexuals are very common.
“Can you imagine how desperate I must be when I choose go to a protest though I know I might very well be killed?”
Andrei is a gay rights activist who participated in the protest in Voronezh. He writes a blog (in Russian).
I have been taking part in LGBT rights events since 2010 in Saint Petersburg and in Moscow, but I have never been attacked like I was in Voronezh. When hundreds of people take to the streets with nationalist and Orthodox slogans in a large crowd, they start behaving like animals.I was hit by some people. I had barely arrived; I had just seen them greeting each other with Nazi salutes. I took out my placard that read “Stop hatred” and was immediately punched to the ground. Then, someone started kicking me in the head and the neck, before running away. I was then brought to a police car, which took me away from the protest. I only saw the others activists get beat up on video footage. No one was grievously hurt, but three of us had large bruises and open wounds.“The police will never protect us”After the protest, I received hundreds of threats on social networks: “Die, you dirty whore. If you try again, I will burn you alive”; “you will not find a single safe place for you on Russian soil”; “get out of here, you fag, if I see you I will break your teeth,” and so on. My picture and contact information are circulating online. As a result, I no longer leave my house by myself; I always call a cab. I am desperate. Can you imagine how desperate I must be when I choose to go to a protest though I know I might very well be killed?The police will never protect us; I am under no illusions on that front. The Voronezh police reported that there had not been any violence during the protest, and they received thank you letters from our attackers for not intervening!But I will keep on fighting. With help from human rights activists, we have filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry and the city of Voronezh. I have also been contacted by a nonprofit, Front Line Defenders, which is preparing appeals to the Russian government, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations.