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Correspondence: Gay Pride march in Moscow attacked 

The following letter was written by a gay activist immediately after a gay pride march was attacked in Moscow.  Many references will be unfamiliar, but it illustrates the limitations of the liberal alternative to Putin when it comes to gay rights.

Nicolas Alexeyev 

2 Jun 2007 

I am thinking that we have to change our foreign communication to make some very clear points about a few topics.  If what you wrote is what you think, while you are living in Russia , I am just sceptical about what people might think abroad on some very specific points. It can’t be that you speak Russian, read the Russian Internet or 
watch TV in Russia and write what you wrote.

About Political Parties as you can guess, we have approached all of them.

1-  KPR = Russian Communist Party is totally homophobic. The French Communist Party who was officially represented last year by 3 members (2 elected) was not able to meet with their Russian counterparts. The Russian  communists answered very clearly that the only difference they have with the French communist is on gay rights. For your information, the youth wing of Russian Communist Party which is called Vanguard of Communist Youth joined violent protestors at last week pride and also attacked the participants. It is all discussed on their official site. They even joined the religious fundamentalists... The other thing is that Russian Communist Party voted on all occasions in the Duma to recriminalise homosexual relations. When the bill was in the Duma they always said yes! The leader of the party Gennady Zuganov said last year that it is not normal to be communist and gay.

2. Yabloko. It’s hard to find more homophobic than this party. Maybe those who came to beat us last Sunday are a bit more homophobic than Yabloko. We have denounced the statements of Yavlinskyi in many occasions. He always said that Russia is an Orthodox country and had to respect its religious roots and culture where gay parades have no place. And this is considered as a democratic party!

3- Putin’s party “United Russia”: Right after the pride head of Duma committee on security Vladimir Vasilyev made the following declaration that answer your question: gay parades should be banned and all gays should be gathered and sent to Kuril Islands next to Japan... Here is the full article for your information

I find it totally useless to give you all the homophobic statements of this party. There are hundreds of them including those made by the highest ranking officials of the party. For your information also, Mr. Luzhkov is member of the ruling board of this party and goes for elections in a month

4.  Putin’s party number 2 “Fair Russia” the new one is a mixture of the homophobes that were not yet in the first one. This is a totally homophobic party which gathered lots of nationalists who made all possible homophobic statements.

About the “democratic opposition; below is just an example to illustrate the position of one of its leaders.  Last July 14th at the reception of the French Embassy, Mrs Khakamada, democratic candidate to the Presidential elections was representing the opposition. Together with Eugenia (Debrianskaya who was arrested last year – and forbidden by the owner of her club to appear anywhere this year around the Moscow Pride days), we went to talk to here. Like 2 idiots, we thought that we would be able to have a nice discussion about cooperation and stuff like that. Nothing of the kind… we have been almost insulted for our actions (and believe me she was not drunk). 

“You only make it more difficult for us democrats”  “You have your clubs, etc.” Conclusion :Stay in your cave, shut up and maybe if we are in power we will allow you to go out in the streets. The problem is that among us we are very not convinced that if democrats come to power (which unless there is a revolution in the country is simply  impossible over the next 10 to 15 years) they will start to work on gay rights.

Homophobia is at all levels in the Russian society. It’s not that all homophobes are communists and that all gay friendly are in the opposition. It’s about the same % everywhere. This view is backed by 2 polls ordered by us. The very democratic current that lifted male homosexuality in 1993 is over. The time of liberty that Russia experienced after the Soviet era was very different.

About Human Rights…  pretty much the same thing as the opposition. We always said that before to be able to support us, human rights activists will have to solve (in Russia ) their internal homophobia. We intentionally choose as a main topic of the conference “LGBT Rights are Human Rights”. It did not change anything. As a result, the chairs of the HR activists invited at the conference remained empty the whole day.

Several questions could be asked and not only about the gay pride support. Why did HR activists denied to sign the letter to lift the ban of blood donation for gays? Why did HR activists did not support the picketing (last July) in support of Iranian gays?
This is another good example. This picketing was allowed by the authorities – even though the topic was perfectly known. 30 of us demonstrated peacefully and were fully protected by the anti riot police. Not a single protester came closer to 300m from us and nothing bad happened. Last thing. Last year, the only input of Moscow Helsinki Group was to welcome in its office the press conference organized by gay business against the gay pride.

About LDPR and Mitrofanov

While I am perfectly aware about the positions of LDPR that I do not  support I have to admit that Alexey Mitrofanov helped us this year like not a single “democrat” or “human right activist” did. It’s just a fact. Without his bodyguard who jumped on the guy who came close to Sophie In’t Veld with a knife, I don’t know what would have happen. Exactly the same thing with Luxuria. Again, if Mitrofanov did not send us car to all go in front of the city hall, the FSB agents who were blocking the exit of the hotel would have probably not let us go out.  Some foreign MPs (grey listed by the MID) would  have not been able to enter Russia and get a visa. You would be interested to know that all the “democrats” MPs in the Duma (there are some left who were elected in the constituencies) refused categorically to make an official invitation to a foreign MP who was being denied a visa to enter.

The lawyer that local Human Rights groups found for my colleague Nikolai Khramov came to court without the proper paper to represent him. Thanks to Mitrofanov’ lawyer who was here, Nikolai Khramov was represented. And won.

Yes… I wished that Moscow Helsinki Group and all their partners tried to help us and did only a third of that. Even a tenth. I spoke several time with the leaders of these organizations over the last months. They were pressured by their movement not to take part last weekend.  I am not particularly angry towards Ludmila Alekseeva, she was not the master of her own decision.

About the march

We only wanted the activists who did not fear for themselves to take part. We were scared that it would end up like that, though I must admit we were hoping that police would protect the LGBT and not allow the protesters to come close. The result is that one of our colleagues was sacked from her work the next day as she appeared on TV. This is a fact. We can’t even officially use it against this company as she was working illegally. Another problem over here.

Another note :

By the way, if there was no Scott Long, I am not convinced HRW Russia would have issue a strong support prior to the pride last year.

About business

The gay business in Russia all hates us over the last days. Two members of the Pride committee have already been denied entrance in one bar and one club. Nice. And this is understandable. The day gays and lesbians will not be forced to go in what is nothing else than a gay ghetto to meet and have fun, they will loose their business. This has already started. Now in Moscow, more and more gays and lesbians are going in mixed bars and clubs. French magazine Tetu had a very good piece last year that explained the drop of revenues of LGBT business in France .

But this is not only Russia. Same happened in Latvia last year. No gay business supported the Riga pride. I will always condemn the saunas in Russia who are selling condoms to their clients especially when you know the entrance fee that is very close to the western price. All this reminds me the words of Igor Kohn, famous sexologist, that some of you know abroad.

I asked him last year before the 1st pride “Would you come to talk during our conference on gay rights and maybe in the pride?” “My dear, Nikolai, at that time in Moscow, everyone goes to the datcha at weekend”. But his best declaration to me was : “If the pride goes on well, I will write in my books that it was a brilliant idea. If it goes badly and there is violence, I will say that it was a bad idea by revolutionary people”.

Mr Khon recently published an article explaining that the Moscow Pride is a bad idea by revolutionary people. By the way… I did not hear from Kasparov these days.

(Former chess master Gary Kasparov is a leading campaigner in the anti-Putin opposition)



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