Sunday, 27 May 2007

Gay Rights Activists Attacked And Arrested at Moscow Pride

14th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia

Russian police detained gay protesters calling for the right to hold a Gay Pride parade in central Moscow on Sunday while nationalists shouting "death to homosexuals" punched and kicked the demonstrators (Reuters).

Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers threw kicks, punches and eggs at the gay rights group, chanting "Moscow is not Sodom" (BBC, Reuters).

According to the news agencies, prominent British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested, along with the leader of GayRussia, Nikolay Alexeyev, two West European MPs, and dozens of other gay rights activists in Russia, as violence broke out at a banned protest by gay rights activists.

Here is the link to the video of events from BBC.

"We are defending our rights," said a young gay man named Alexey to Reuters, with blood pouring from his nose after he was beaten up by a man screaming "homosexuals are perverts" opposite the mayor's office. His attacker was detained.

"This is terrible but I am not scared. This is a pretty scary place, a pretty scary country if you are gay. But we won't give up until they allow us our rights," he said.

Nicolay Alexeyev (picture by, the organiser of Moscow Pride, is being held by police with other gay activists, among them Peter Tatchell (picture by AFP). Mr Alexeyev was attempting to deliver a petition signed by more than 50 MEPs (Members of European Parliament) urging Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov to allow such events. Luzhkov has called homosexuality "satanic" and says he will never allow gay rights parades in Russia's capital (BBC).

Mr Alexeyev released the following statement (PinkNews):
"We ask the western democraties to put a maximum pressure on the Russian authorities to release us immediately. [...] We praise the German Chancellor Merkel who is currently heading the European Union Presidency to raise the question to President Putin. We also praise the other leaders of the G8 and the EU to speak publicly on this issue. We are very thankfull to European parliamentarians Volker Beck, Sophie In't Veld, Vladimir Luxuria and Marco Cappato who came for us in Moscow and of course all the other. They can show to the world that gay and lesbian rights do not exist in Russia. They can show to the world that freedom of expression not only about politics. Please remember the words of Sophie In't Veld at yesterday press conference. There is no such thing as human rights light in which you can just avoid LGBT issues. There is no place in Europe for people who do not respect the rights of their citizen. European democracies should ban Mayor Luzhkov and his people to enter their countries as they did to officials in Belarus. We ask for your help and support. Probably now, more than ever."

British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was knocked to the ground and kicked twice. When he got up he was punched in the face again and taken away by two riot policemen (Reuters). After receiving the blow, he leaned on a lamppost and shouted: "Someone protect me, Someone protect me," before being roughly escorted away by riot police (BBC). His attacker was not detained (BBC).

Pictures below document attacks - Russian ultra-nationalist about to punch veteran British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at a protest in Moscow (AFP, PinkNews):

Here are extracts from Peter Tatchell's keynote speech at the Moscow Pride conference in the Swissotel, Moscow (PinkNews):

"I bring you a message of comradeship and solidarity from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] human rights organizations OutRage! in London.Your struggle is our struggle. [...] We are in this fight for freedom together. [...] As long as gay people in Russia are not accepted and respected, then we are all diminished in all parts of the world. We are diminished regardless of whether we are gay or straight. An attack on one is an attack on all. When gay rights are suppressed, it is a loss to the whole democratic and human rights movement. Conversely, when lesbian and gay people win victories, it is a victory for all lovers of freedom and liberty.

[...] This is why it is so important that the LGBTI human rights movement is not separate from the broader human rights movement—but part of it.It is sad to see some human rights activists here in Russia distance themselves from the LGBTI human rights campaign—and from this weekend's bid to stage the Moscow Pride march.When human rights activists pick and choose which freedoms to defend, they undermine and compromise the whole human rights agenda. Human rights are universal and indivisible. [...]"
A member of the German Bundestag Volker Beck was hit by an egg during a gay rights protest in Moscow (Reuters):

Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina, of the pop group t.A.T.u., did turn up at the protest, but were quickly evacuated from the scene by their entourage when eggs were thrown at their car (PinkNews, picture by Reuters):

"What we have is authoritarianism and we are moving towards totalitarianism," said Lydia Hmelevskaya, a 24-year-old lesbian (BBC). "I have been beaten up on a train because of the way I look. I have the right to look the way I want to."

BBC: On numerous occasions, nationalists circled gay rights activists as they spoke with journalists, then reached in to punch or kick the person being interviewed. One journalist was attacked because he wore an earring, which led nationalists to say he was gay. Police intervened to arrest dozens of gay rights activists and only rarely detained their attackers.

"It is very conspicuous when people are arrested in front of the mayor's office when they were doing nothing other than trying to present a peaceful petition," said Scott Long, a rights activist with Human Rights Watch who observed the events (Reuters).

"There was no real attempt to separate the two sides and that led to people being beaten up," he said. "I would call on the Russian authorities to protect freedom of assembly, protect freedom of expression and protect demonstrators."

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