The large parade of Antwerp Pride, the annual gay festival in Antwerp, attracted at least 90,000 participants this year. The police confirm this to VTM NEWS. Last year around 75,000 people attended. The Antwerp Pride Parade attracts tens of thousands of spectators every year. This year the participants gathered on Sint-Jansplein in Antwerp-North, to step to the Paardenmarkt and then to the quays via the Brouwersvliet. The end point is the Gedempte Zuiderdokken, where the Love United Festival erupt.
“Antwerp may not have the largest Pride Parade in the world, but now it is one of the bravest because of where it starts,” says ships Meeuws. “I am very fond of Sint-Jansplein, it is my own neighborhood, but let’s face it: it is a difficult neighborhood where not everyone is waiting for the Pride and where not all people are involved with the rights that were fought for and that are universal. This is based on an unlikely pedagogical power, this is a unique opportunity to explain the neighborhood that the Pride really stands for.”
Activist from Mordovia Karolina Kanaeva, speaking in defense of Chechen gays, left Russia after threats from opponents of LGBT people. They followed Kanaev’s appeal to Ramzan Kadyrov and a comment on behalf of Chechen Minister Dzhambulat Umarov.
Karolina Kanaeva lived in Saransk and actively supports the rights of LGBT people, participated in a flashmob against the persecution of gays in Chechnya “saveLGBTinRussia”. She published an analysis of the report on mass violations of human rights in Chechnya and the inaction of the federal authorities in her public newspaper VKontakte, the girl herself told the ” Caucasian Knot ” correspondent .
The activist noted that she had never been to Chechnya, but a few months ago she turned over Instagram to the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Kanaeva asked him a few questions about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya. After some time, an Instagram user with the nickname djambox responded to Kanayeva’s comment. This channel is conducted on behalf of the Minister of Chechnya on the national policy of Dzhambulat Umarov. Djambox said that “in normal families of Muslims and Caucasians this is [the presence of homosexuals] nonsense.”
Some time later, the comment was deleted, but Karolina Kanaeva managed to make a screenshot, it is available to the “Caucasian Knot”. The activist suggested that the comment could be removed by the administration of the social network, and not by Umarov himself. According to Kanaeva, the response of the Chechen minister first surprised her and then frightened — soon after the comment on behalf of Umarov, threats from other users of social networks began to come to her. Under one of the posts of the girl “VKontakte” comments appeared: “I hope she will be slaughtered in the doorway”, “Better to be burned”, “Go kill yourself.”
Chechnya’s minister for national policy, Dzhambulat Umarov, claims that he did not have any contact with Karolina Kanaeva on Instagram Kanaeva.
“I do not know this woman, I have no idea who she is, I didn’t write anything like that to anyone on Instagram. This is complete nonsense, ”the minister quoted the Minister’s edition on July 27 as the Caucasus. Realities.
A homosexual from Chechnya, who left Russia after his arrest, told the “Caucasian Knot” how people with non-traditional sexual orientation live in the republic and how the fate of his acquaintances in the LGBT community has developed after the start of mass raids on gays. According to the man, he managed to avoid torture, but the security forces cruelly tortured his close friend, and three familiar men were killed.
“THEY HAVE BEEN BURNING THROUGH THE CAMERA, SHANGED”
“Caucasian Knot” (CK): Magomed, are you a native of Chechnya? When did you realize your sexual orientation?
Magomed: I was born in Chechnya. My relatives remained there – mother, father, sisters. I realized my orientation after the first homosexual experience, at the age of 18.
CK: Before the persecution began, did any of your relatives and friends know about your orientation?
M .: No. They knew only those with whom I met, as they say, “friends on the topic.” There were no conflicts in the family about this.
CK: How did you communicate with people “off-topic”? Was there no fear that a wide range of people would know about your homosexual relationships?
M .: Of course, scary. Homosexuals are afraid to live not only in Chechnya, but also in general in Russia. Only in Chechnya, unlike in other regions where they can be beaten, crippled, taken away, a homosexual is threatened with death. They will kill, if not their own, so strangers, and no one will declare a blood feud, because they killed the “fagot”, “made good” the family.
I did not get acquainted with “outsiders” people. I knew what this is fraught with from the experience of other young guys who came across homophobes. At first, young people met at Mail.ru, then various mobile applications appeared with chat rooms. After dating, they made an appointment, and there they caught the guys. They were beaten, filmed, blackmailed. The killings began just recently.
CK: Was it difficult for you to make relationships and hide them from prying eyes?
M .: Very difficult. Imagine if the family of straight people had to hide their relationships and children, not to appear in society. We, gays, have the same relationship, with the exception of children. We had to hide from relatives, from colleagues, and from friends, and from fellow students. It is difficult and painful: for example, it was necessary to invent why a stranger was sitting at our family party.
CK: When information about your orientation has ceased to be a mystery to others?
M .: After the security forces caught me.
CK: Before the arrest, did you hear anything about the facts of the persecution? About prisons for homosexuals in Chechnya?
M .: From the very beginning of the repressions against homosexuals, our entire company knew about them. Homosexuals, especially in Chechnya, are a fairly solid and strong community. We can only be with ourselves like we are, therefore the links [between LGBT people] are very stable.
When the first information [about the persecution] appeared, I immediately sent it to my [friends] to whom I could. Some people, as is usually the case, were skeptical of the messages – they say that I hide well, nothing will happen to me. And then the torture began.
CK: Are there people among those close to the Chechen leadership who successfully hide their homosexuality?
M: Yes. I know them. They work quite normally.
CK: Families who have independently dealt with gay relatives try to hide this fact from society and explain the disappearance of a person by leaving or more often they say openly that he is killed?
M: No one openly raises this topic. And no one will talk about this with the family. The death of a man has already cleared the race, say the Chechens. And if you remind about this, then you will have to answer for your words.
CK: Does your family know about your sexual orientation?
M .: The male part is not. If they did, I wouldn’t be here.
“I was handed over under torture”
CK: How exactly did your persecution begin? Was this related to a specific incident — for example, did a security official select a mobile phone with photos?
M .: I was handed over under torture. In the spring of 2017 one of the homosexuals in inadequate condition was detained by the police. It is worth noting that in Chechnya, it is absolutely impossible to drink to [local residents]. A personal correspondence with a lover and photos with him, as well as an extensive base of phones, were discovered on the young man’s phone. My contact was not there, since I only gave my address and telephone number to a very narrow circle of people, but they came to me through another detainee, who was seized at that very base. I was stopped at one of the posts of Grozny when checking documents, taken to the police department. After a brief stint, they let go, but set a condition – I must disappear from Chechnya, and preferably from Russia.
For reasons of security, the interlocutor did not voice the circumstances of his release, therefore the “Caucasian Knot” did not ask any further details.
CK: Did you avoid torture?
M: Yes, this did not happen to me, but they tortured my close friend. For two weeks he was kept in the basement, beaten, tortured with electric current, and was not given any food or water. He survived only due to the fact that he was allowed to pray – during the ablutions it was possible to sip water.
CK: Was he officially charged with something?
M .: He was tortured for being homosexual, and that was the accusation. No criminal or administrative case was opened against him, just tortured.
There were cases when cases were brought against several homosexuals. This was done for blackmail: they say, we will put you, kill you as a terrorist. But, as far as I know, not a single case reached the court. Mostly [these people] had tolerant families, parents did not pay attention to their son’s sexual orientation. When the security forces understood that it was useless to tell the family, they frightened them with criminal prosecution, but [as a result of these people] were killed.
CK: Your friend was alone in that basement?
M .: Using his phone, the security officers came out for three more people, one of whom, by the way, was not gay. What happened to them, I do not know. After my friend left, we quickly left.
CK: You said that some detainees were killed. Who are these people?
M: I know about three homosexuals killed: two young people and one older person. The latter was tortured and beaten, as a result of which he died, his body was simply given to relatives. The other guy is a member of a wealthy family in Chechnya who is in (power). He was beaten half to death. Having found out who he was, the security forces brought him to his relatives and gave him away, said: “Understand yourself.” The family killed him himself. The third homosexual was beaten, taken out to his home, where he died – the ambulance was unable to help.
CK: It is known that many detainees had to pay the security forces for silence and release, some spoke of systematic extortion. Do you know what amounts gays were forced to pay?
M: Different. In May 2017, it was about 200-300 thousand rubles, sometimes reaching 500 thousand. It depended on the level of human well-being – what position he held, where he worked. You can’t take off your naked pants. If it came to the family, then they already looked at her condition.
CK: Why did they let you go?
M .: I will not answer this question.
CK: Have they applied to government agencies? For example, to the prosecutor?
M .: Are you crazy? [laughs]
CK: Were there difficulties in terms of moving? Did they take any things? Or abandoned everything?
M .: We only had a hand luggage – in a sports bag, where it was most necessary: pants, t-shirt, toothbrush. We didn’t go on a tour, we fled the country.
“I WANT TO GO BACK TO MY HOUSE”
CK: Now you are in one of the European countries. Did you manage to get political asylum?
M .: I was lucky: two weeks after my arrival, I was received by the Consul General of the country where I was, and immediately [documents for political asylum] were ready.
CK: What’s up with your friend?
M .: We flew to different countries, but neighboring ones. Is he Ok.
CK: Are you afraid that someone will chase you abroad?
M: Of course. Persecution is no longer carried out by Chechen security officials, but by members of the Chechen diasporas. If they find out that you are gay, then they can beat and kill. The most famous case of persecution is the story of Movsar Eskerkhanov.
CK: If the situation changes for the better, would you like to return to Russia and specifically to Chechnya?
M: Of course, I want to return to my house. I’m here alone, I have no one. It is very difficult to break away from family, friends, to leave for a lifetime. One thought that I will not see my relatives is already killing. I keep in touch only with the female part of the family. Women cover me – they say that I work in Europe.
CK: The reaction of the authorities and the security bloc in Chechnya to homosexuals is known. You say that society is extremely negative, but women are tolerant of your sexual orientation …
M .: [Women] humbled. They are more merciful than men, and for them I, first of all, are son and brother, and not gay. They would not want to lose a relative. Sexual orientation is not a reason to kill.
CK: How do you explain the fact that in Chechnya, some of the stars of show business who have the reputation of homosexuals are welcome?
M: They are not Chechens. First, they are brought in as a media person. Secondly, in this way they are denying that they are pursuing and killing gays.
CK: What actions would you recommend homosexuals to avoid in Chechnya?
M .: The advice is the same: to leave Chechnya.
CK: How to deal with persecution by relatives and members of the diaspora?
M .: Here, in Europe, you can “not shine”, do not give everyone your name. We go where secular society.
A couple of months ago, a resident of Pyatigorsk Artem Shituhin moved to the Netherlands. This was preceded by attempts to carry out actions against homophobia in the city, including against the persecution of gays in Chechnya, the creation of a human rights organization, numerous threats, psychological pressure, quarrels with parents, conversation with employees of the E center, expulsion from the university. Emigration seemed to Artem the only possible way out in the current situation.
There is a widespread view among ordinary people that LGBT activism in Russia is a way to obtain political asylum in the West. What can you say to such people?
Artem Shitukhin: Probably for some activists and activists this is so. However, the majority does not engage in activism because of this, in my opinion. People just want to change things for the better and help others. In addition, activism helps you to become open yourself, get out of the closet, throw off the shackles of traditional upbringing and stop being afraid of every shadow. However, it is also important to understand that an activist or activist is not a suicide, many activists and activists do it for free and in their free time from work / study. Therefore, I believe that if an activist or activist becomes in real danger, then they have every right to leave the Russian Federation and seek asylum in any civilized country in this regard.
Why did you organize actions against the gay propaganda law and against the gay genocide in Chechnya?
We worked with rallies for several reasons. Firstly, these topics are always relevant and important for us, it is impossible to leave them unattended. Secondly, in this way we raised the visibility of the LGBT community in the North Caucasus Federal District – and raised! Thirdly, we developed practical work, learned to draw up official documents and work according to the law.
I know that you tried to hold a rally against the Mizulina law. On yourself, your life, he somehow influenced?
This law, without exaggeration, influenced the life of every LGBT person in Russia. Personally, he affected me primarily by the fact that many relatives, friends and people from the environment against the background of this law began to show their homophobia. I had to clean my social circle as much as possible. In addition, as we know, our group is now stubbornly checking the police for propaganda there. Also because of this law, we were denied approval of public actions.
Do you know any of the gay people who suffered in Chechnya from persecution (except for Maxim Lapunov )?
Yes, I know personally, I communicate with these people.
Do you admit that the story of the persecution is invented or seriously exaggerated?
No, I do not admit that the genocide of LGBT people in Chechnya was invented or exaggerated. I personally know people who have suffered from this and were forced to leave the Chechen Republic.
Why, then, have they not yet come into contact with the Western press?
I can not imagine. Probably because they fear or it is simply not interesting.
You tried to dissuade from holding rallies in defense of the rights of LGBT employees of the center “E” in Pyatigorsk. What do you think, why? Is it the case of the LGBT theme or the mass action as such?
The Russian authorities are in principle intolerant of any manifestations of civic activism – opposition, LGBT and so on. The local municipal authorities of Pyatigorsk, of course, also could not allow any LGBT activists to come out in the city, and therefore they simply forwarded the notification to the center “E” and ordered pressure. Operatives from the center “E” came to my institute and tried to do it. And the thing is both in the LGBT topic and in a mass event.
Deduction from the Pyatigorsk Medical and Pharmaceutical Institute occurred under pressure from the security forces, in your opinion? The administration did not like the fact that you are an activist? And if you were just open gay?
Yes, of course, they expelled me under pressure. This was stated, among other things, by the director of the institute. The same deduction threatened from the center of “E”. The administration of the university insistently asked me to stop my activity, to leave myself or to take a sabbatical. I suppose that even if I were just openly gay, the problems would have been all the same, since there are homophobes among the teachers and the institute’s management, including the ardent homophobes.
How did your fellow students, friends, acquaintances, relatives treat your orientation and social activity?
As for friends, I am not friends with homophobes. This is a principle. Fellow students for the most part did not care, although among them were a couple of homophobes, but they showed their homophobia quite rarely, and in general we even talked about studying. Almost all relatives were extremely negative.
Your region belongs to the North Caucasus Federal District. Near Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia. Gays from these regions write in thematic groups that the orientation should be hidden for the sake of family honor and their own security, many are looking for girls to imitate relationships. Do you think they would support you in your advocacy work?
I believe that many gay people from the NCFD in principle do not even realize that they are part of the LGBT community and do not realize their own needs, something that they should be pursuing for themselves. They used to live like this, they were intimidated, they sit in the closet and want the rest to be like that. Some supported, some did not. However, we offered our support and help to everyone and worked with everyone.
After your picket in support of Chechen gays, were there any threats?
Yes, there were threats. At first, the center “E” was threatened, then a certain “Saw”, Timur Bulatov. They wrote to the post office, published on the Internet my personal information calling for me to be killed, broke into the mailbox (the real one, at the door which), called my parents, burned the doorway. I applied to law enforcement agencies and the media about these threats.
Why did you decide to leave? The story with a homophobic insult from Chelyabinsk and subsequent threats became the last straw (Artem complained about the homophobic insult on the Internet to the prosecutor’s office, she started the test, but in the end it didn’t bring RFI)?
Together. Deduction, threats, plus homophobia in the family, the threat to receive a large fine for propaganda and so on. Coincidentally, it all came over at once, and it was already dangerous and pointless to stay in Russia. The police refused to do anything according to my statements, although the threats were serious and real. Instead, they also wanted to fine.
How did you leave and why did you choose Holland?
I do not have the right to publicly disclose information about which way I left, and to tell the details of the procedure itself. The Netherlands chose spontaneously, bought a ticket 10 days before departure and for a long time could not choose a country. But, as far as I understood, the Netherlands is one of the most progressive and tolerant LGBT countries. So I flew there.
According to your feelings, what is the level of homophobia in Holland and is it possible to imagine that Russia will ever achieve this? What should happen for this, and what needs to be done?
Strangely enough, but being here, I began to sympathize with the right (in politics, I mean) in their desire to restrict the flow of refugees from disadvantaged countries, since homophobia is manifested, according to my personal observations, only refugees from Africa and the Middle East. In the Netherlands, homophobia is unacceptable, the Dutch themselves are rather tolerant people. At least, from their side I did not come across any homophobia. But the Netherlands also did not immediately become progressive and tolerant. In the Middle Ages, “sodomites” were burned at the stake, and in the twentieth century they considered homosexuality as pathology and kept homosexual files, as they were considered potentially dangerous (although the punishment for same-sex relationships was canceled in 1811). I think that if LGBT activists in Russia will fight for equality and pursue the same things as in the Netherlands, then Russia has chances.
But are Russian activists doing this? We see only formal attempts to hold gay parades and appeal bans to the ECHR with an incomprehensible purpose, because the Russian authorities do not actually respond to these appeals. And are activists able to overcome the everyday homophobia of Russian society? After all, many are annoyed by the “window dressing”, as they say.
Yes, they do. Attempts of parades fall into the media, and daily work – providing psychological and legal assistance, seminars, lectures, working with foundations, etc. – remains behind the scenes. And no, I am sure that parades are being made not only for the sake of compensations, the decisions of the ECHR regarding Russia are extremely important. Some activists cannot overcome all homophobia. It is possible to overcome homophobia only if the authorities also listen to the activists, issue the necessary laws, and the police and other state bodies will execute these laws.
Do you think the authorities are interested in the society to remain homophobic?
The current authoritarian government is interested in holding out and strangling all those who disagree, create enemies inside and outside the country.
How are your relationships with parents now?
Now I do not maintain contact with parents.
Do you want to return to Russia?
No, I don’t want to return to Russia, and I will never come there again.
In the latest annual index of the rainbow, published recently, Russia was in 46th place out of 49. This European rating, which is composed of experts from the international organization ILGA-Europe, reflects the situation with respect for the rights of LGBT people. Below Russia in this list only Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. By the way, this year in Turkey, the court lifted the ban on holding gay parades, which has been in effect since 2017. In Russia, attempts to hold a peaceful LGBT human rights action invariably face prohibitions and opposition from the authorities.