Russian embassy wrapped in Pride flag to protest Chechnya’s anti-gay purge.

They unfurled the flag alongside handing in a petition calling for the Russian government to intervene.

A pride flag with the IDAHOBT theme ‘justice’ printed on it was rolled-out outside the Russian embassy visitors entrance | Picture: Reporter’s own.

‘We’re here to hand in some post,’ Eleanor Kennedy said into the intercom outside the Russian Embassy, London.

Kennedy, alongside dozens of placard-holding supporters, were handing a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to respond to the second purge of LGBTI people in Chechnya.

Alongside the petition, she and her team laid out a giant Pride flag on the embassy steps today (17 May) in protest against the bloc’s silence. It was done to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexsim and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

What was the protest?

At 10am today, dozens of LGBTI people and allies met outside the embassy and blanketed the sidewalk with a Pride flag and an array of multi-colored placards and signs. Contrasting to the cream-colored three-story building and dusky gray sky behind it.

One sign read: ‘Love is a Human Right.’ Another: ‘I am who I say I am.’

Dozens of LGBTI activists made their voices heard | Picture: Reporter’s own.

The protest was a collaboration between two of the largest human rights charities, Amnesty International and Stonewall. Rainbow RU, a London-based Russian community, also joined.

The trinity of activists were there to bring to light to arguably one of the biggest human rights atrocities in the 21st century so far.

In a notorious crackdown in April 2017, more than 100 men thought to be gay were abducted, tortured – and in some cases killed – in Chechnya in what appeared to be a coordinated purge.

‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility’.

This wasn’t the first time that the 33-year-old individuals at risk campaigner at Amnesty International UK tried to mail a petition to the embassy.

Kennedy told Gay Star News: ‘We’re here on IDHOBIT 2019 to hand in a petition that Amnesty International have been running calling on the Russian government to take responsibility for human rights abuses that have happened against the LGBTI community in Chechnya.

Ellie Hending attempting to hand deliver the petition to the Russian Embassy | Photo: Reporter’s own.

‘The Russian government, who are the de facto leaders of Chechnya, refuse to take any responsibility for this and have refused to cooperate with international calls for a legal investigation into these atrocities.

‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility.’

Kennedy and a co-worker went to hand-in the petition, but embassy guards communicated that this wasn’t possible. Kennedy would have to post the petition instead. ‘We’ll post by first class,’ she said.

Not the first petition, and not the last.

The 65,000-strong petition is the second Kennedy has tried to hand in. Her first coincided with the first recorded wave of attacks back in March 2017, she told me, as a can of Diet Coke was blown down the sidewalk.

‘Off the back of that, we ran an action similarly calling for the Russians to take responsibility. Tried to hand it into the embassy and they refused to engage.

As embassy guards politely asked protesters to pack-up, some supports decorated the mesh gates with dozens of rainbow roses | Photo: Reporter’s own.

‘The same thing has happened again. Just kicking the can further down the road.’

Why were they protesting?
Senna, 25, said to me ‘Merry IDAHOBIT.’ The Kingston-upon-Thames local was up in Kensington for the day along with her Amnesty International colleagues.

‘I’m a bisexual myself and I find what’s happening horrible,’ she told me, standing by a residential street. ‘There are no words to describe what is happening.

‘We need to change what’s happening. What we’re doing today is raising awareness and we have more than 200,000 people behind us.’

‘Continue to say that we’re here’.
This was a sentiment held by Leanne MacMillan, director of global programmes at Stonewall. ‘It’s incredibly important that we practise a politics of presence,’ she told me after the protest.

‘Over 65,000 people have signed this petition worldwide. We knew this was going to be for the long-haul.

‘This isn’t just an issue for the LGBTI people, this is about human rights in general. A crushing assault on human society in Russia and Eastern Europe spearheaded by Russia and other states.

‘I think the more that we can do to send a message that we’re calling for action. One of the tactics of the Russian state is to practise a politics of normalization, invisibility, and denial.

‘The best thing we can do is continue to say that we’re here, even when the actions aren’t hitting the headlines.’

Chechnya: A timeline of the atrocities.
Chechnya, or the Chechen Republic, is a subject of the Russian Federation located in the North Caucasus region. It has a population of 1.4 million and the capital is Grozny.

Its president is Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been in power since 2007. He tends to rule the country in accordance with traditional Islamic social codes, even if these contravene Russian law.

Chechnya relies on Russia for federal assistance, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has often turned a blind eye to Kadyrov’s human rights abuses or failed to act.

Since last year, LGBTI folk have been detained in makeshift prisons, strapped to homemade electric chairs, sexually assaulted with police nightsticks as the torture methods intensify.

While Russia decrminalized homosexuality during the breakup of the Soviet Union, the police in Chechnya have periodically detained queer people in extrajudicial arrests without repercussions from federal authorities.

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Copyright www.gaystarnews.com

The secret gay history of Islam.

In Muslim cultures, homosexuality was once considered the most normal thing in the world – so what changed?

Find out the real LGBTI history behind Islam

Islam once considered homosexuality to be one of the most normal things in the world.

The Ottoman Empire, the seat of power in the Muslim world, didn’t view lesbian or gay sex as taboo for centuries. They formally ruled gay sex wasn’t a crime in 1858.

But as Christians came over from the west to colonize, they infected Islam with homophobia.

The truth is many Muslims alive today believe the prophet Muhammad supported and protected sexual and gender minorities.

But go back to the beginning, and you’ll see there is far more homosexuality in Islam than you might have ever thought before.

1. Ancient Muslim borrowed culture from the boy-loving Ancient Greeks.

The Islamic empires, (Ottoman, Safavid/Qajar, Mughals), shared a common culture. And it shared a lot of similarities with the Ancient Greeks.

Persianate cultures, all of them Muslim, dominated modern day India and Arab world. And it was very common for older men to have sex with younger, beardless men. These younger men were called ‘amrad’.

Once these men had grown his beard (or ‘khatt’), he then became the pursuer of his own younger male desires.

And in this time, once you had fulfilled your reproductive responsibilities as a man you could do what you like with younger men, prostitutes and other women.

Society completely accepted this, at least in elite circles. Iranian historian Afsaneh Najmabadi writes how official Safavid chroniclers would describe the sexual lives of various Shahs, the ruling class, without judgment.

There was some judgment over ‘mukhannas’. These were men (some researchers consider them to be transgender or third gender people) who would shave their beards as adults to show they wished to continue being the object of desire for men. But even they had their place in society. They would often be used as servants for prophets.

‘It wasn’t exactly how we would define homosexuality as we would today, it was about patriarchy,’ Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay imam who lives in Marseilles, France, told GSN.

‘It was saying, “I’m a man, I’m a patriarch, I earn money so I can rape anyone including boys, other slaves and women.” We shouldn’t idealize antique culture.’

2. Paradise included male virgins, not just female ones.

There is nowhere in the Qu’ran that states the ‘virgins’ in paradise are only female.

The ‘hur’, or ‘houris’, are female. They have a male counterpart, the ‘ghilman’, who are immortal young men who wait and serve people in paradise.

‘Immortal [male] youths shall surround them, waiting upon them,’ it is written in the Qu’ran. ‘When you see them, you would think they are scattered pearls.’

Zahed says you should look at Ancient Muslim culture with the same eyes as Ancient Greek culture.

‘These amrads are not having sex in a perfectly consenting way because of power relationships and pressures and so on.

‘However, it’s not as heteronormative as it might seem at first. There’s far more sexual diversity.’

3. Sodom and Gomorrah is not an excuse for homophobia in Islam.

Like the Bible, the Qu’ran tells the story of how Allah punished the ancient inhabitants of the city of Sodom.

Two angels arrive at Sodom, and they meet Lot who insists they stay the night in his house. Then other men learn about the strangers, and insist on raping them.

While many may use this as an excuse to hate gay people, it’s not. It’s about Allah punishing rape, violence and refusing hospitality.

Historians often rely on literary representations for evidence of history. And many of the poems from ancient Muslim culture celebrate reciprocal love between two men. There are also factual reports saying it was illegal to force your way onto a young man.

The punishment for a rape of a young man was caning the feet of the perpetrator, or cutting off an ear, Najmabadi writes. Authorities are documented as carrying these punishments out in Qajar Iran.

4. Lesbian sex used as a ‘cure’.

Fitting a patriarchal society, we know very little about the sex lives of women in ancient Muslim culture.

But ‘Sihaq’, translated literally as ‘rubbing’, is referenced as lesbian sex.

Sex between two women was decriminalized in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, probably because it was deemed to have very little importance.

Physicians believed lesbianism developed from a hot itch on a woman’s vulva that could only be soothed by another woman’s sexual fluid. This derived from Greek medicine.

Much later, the 16th century Italian scientist Prosper Alpini claimed the hot climate caused ‘excessive sexual desire and overeating’ in women. This caused a humor imbalance that caused illnesses, like ‘lesbianism’. He recommended bathing to ‘remedy’ this. However, because men feared women were having sex with other women at private baths, many husbands tried to restrict women from going.

5. Lesbian ‘marriage’ and legendary couples.

In Arabic folklore, al-Zarqa al-Yamama (‘the blue-eyed woman of Yamama’) fell in love with Christian princess Hind of the Lakhmids. When al-Zarqa, who had the ability to see events in the future, was crucified, it was said the princess cut her hair and mourned until she died.

Many books, especially in the 10th century, celebrated lesbian couples. Sapphic love features in the Book of Salma and Suvad; the Book of Sawab and Surur (of Justice and Happiness); the Book of al-Dahma’ and Nisma (of the Dark One and the Gift from God).

‘In palaces, there is evidence hundreds of women established some kind of contract. Two women would sign a contract swearing to protect and care for one another. Almost like a civil partnership or a marriage,’ Zahed said.

‘Outside of these palaces, this was also very common. There was a lot of Sapphic poetry showing same-sex love.’

As Europeans colonized these countries, depictions of lesbian love changed.

Samar Habib, who studied Arabo-Islamic texts, says the Arab epic One Thousand and One Nights proves this. He claims some stories in this classic show non-Muslim women preferred other women as sexual partners. But the ‘hero’ of the tale converts these women to Islam, and to heterosexuality.

6. Muhammad protected trans people.

‘Muhammad housed and protected transgender or third gender people,’ Zahed said. ‘The leader of the Arab-Muslim world welcomed trans and queer people into his home.

‘If you look at the traditions some use to justify gay killings, you find much more evidence – clear evidence – that Muhammad was very inclusive.

‘He was protecting these people from those who wanted to beat them and kill them.’

7. How patriarchy transformed Islam.

Europeans forced their way into the Muslim world, either through full on colonialism, like in India or Egypt, or economically and socially, like in the Ottoman Empire.

They pushed their cultural practices and attitudes on to Muslims: modern Islamic fundamentalism flourished.

While the Ottoman Empire resisted European culture at first, hence gay sex being allowed in 1858, nationalization soon won out. Two years later, in 1870, India’s Penal Code declared gay sex a crime. LGBTI Indians finally won against this colonial law in 2018.

But what is it like to be colonized? And why did homophobia get so much more extreme?

‘With the west coming in and colonizing, they think [Muslims] are lazy and passive and weak,’ Zahed said.

‘As Arab men, we have to prove we are more powerful and virile and manly. Modern German history is like that, showing how German nationalization rose after [defeat in] the First World War.

‘It’s tribalism, it’s the same problem. It’s about killing everyone against my tribe. I’m going to kill the weak. I’m going to kill anyone who doesn’t fulfil this aggressive nationalistic stereotype.’

Considering the male-dominant society already existed, it was easy for the ‘modern’ patriarchy to end up suppressing women and criminalizing LGBTI lives.

‘In the early 20th century, Arabs were ashamed of their ancient history,’ Zahed added. ‘They tried to purify it, censor it, to make it more masculine. There had to be nothing about femininity, homosexuality or anything. That’s how we got to how are today.’

8. What would Muhammad think about LGBTI rights?

Muhammad protected sexual and gender minorities, supporting those at the fringes of society.

And if Muslims are to follow in the steps of early Islamic culture and the prophet’s life, there is no reason Islam should oppose LGBTI people.

For Zahed, an imam, this is what he considers a true Muslim.

‘What should we do if we call ourselves Muslims now? Defend human rights, diversity and respect identity. If we trust the tradition, he was proactively defending sexual and gender minorities, and human rights.’

Copyright www.gaystarnews.com

Russian LGBTIs risk arrest by holding public vigil for gay Holocaust victims.

They held the vigil on Victory Day, one of Russia’s most important holidays.

LGBTI activist Petr Voskresenskii holds a vigil for gay Holocaust victims | Photo: Supplied

In an act of brave defiance, a group of LGBTI Russians commemorated the gay victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Leading LGBTI activist Petr Voskresenskii secretly planned the event in St Petersburg held on Victory Day. The day is one of the most important holidays in Russia as it marks Nazi Germany’s surrender during World War II.

Russia celebrates the day with a parade through the Red Square in the capital Moscow. The parade is an opportunity to show off the country’s military might.

Voskresenskii and a small group laid flowers at the home of Sergey Nabokov whom the Nazis twice arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. He eventually died in a concentration camp in 1945, just months before the war ended.

‘According to the reports of the surviving prisoners in prison, Nabokov showed outstanding stamina, he helped the weak, shared food and clothing,’ Voskresenskii said.

The group also laid a pink triangle at his home. The pink triangle was a symbol the Nazis pinned to captives to identify them as homosexuals. It has since been reclaimed as a symbol of power by the LGBTI community.

Flowers and a pink triangle at the home of Sergey Nabokov who died in a Nazi concentration camp | Photo: Supplied

Why is this so brave?
Voskresenskii said the activists were ‘apprehensive’ about the public event. In 2013, Russia introduced the ‘gay propaganda’ law which banned the positive promotion of anything LGBTI.

Authorities have arrested LGBTI activists at Pride events across Russia. As recently as April police arrested 11 LGBTI activists during an annual Day of Silence protest.

Voskresenskii is also well known to police for his LGBTI activism and has been a target because of it.

‘The fact is that recently the authorities of St. Petersburg have been arresting people on any, even officially authorized actions, fining, making lists of activists,’ he said.

‘The activists were especially apprehensive about the fact that for the modern Russian authorities, Victory Day is a landmark holiday, one might even say “sacred”.

‘In fact, this is the first time in Russia when LGBT activists made an event on this day. This is primarily due to the fear of repression.’

Despite the apprehension the activists said the event took place without any problems.

‘On the contrary, passersby reacted positively to the action. The police fortunately was not around,’ Voskresenskii said.

The activist explained why the group decided to hold a public event and how it ties in to Russia’s opposition to Nazism.

‘We believe that the memory of the crimes of Nazism can protect the LGBT community in Russia,’ he said.

‘The authorities of Russia are publicly actively opposing themselves to Nazism. They claim that the fight against Nazism is an important value.

‘We want their words to correspond with their deeds. We want them to keep their promises.

‘In addition, we believe that historical memory helps the LGBT community to better understand themselves, helps to unite in the fight for a better future.’

The crimes of today
They also hoped drawing attention to the tragedies of the past can be an effective tool to combat the crimes of the present, including the ‘gay purge’ happening in Chechnya.

Chechen authorities have rounded up people on suspicion of being LGBTI, torturing and in some cases, executing them. But Russia has not spoken out or acted to stop the ongoing persecution.

‘Political leaders in the Kremlin have repeatedly stated that the fight against Nazism is one of the priorities of their policies, and they consider the victory in World War II one of the main historical achievements of the country,’ Voskresenskii said.

‘Human rights activists are calling on the Russian authorities to back up their words with a deed and stop violence against LGBT people.’

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Copyright www.gaystarnews.com

Gay men ‘electrocuted and strung up by legs’ in new wave of torture in Chechnya, says human rights group.

Four men who fled conservative region say they were beaten and humiliated for up to 20 days with limited water.

Gay men are being electrocuted and strung up by their legs in a new wave of torture in Chechnya, according to a human rights group.

Human Rights Watch said it interviewed four gay men who claimed they fled the conservative, predominantly Muslim region after police allegedly beat and shocked them with electric currents while they were strung up by their legs.

The international group, headquartered in New York, said the accounts made by the men, who were allegedly detained for between three and 20 days between December 2018 and February 2019, were consistent with a complaint an LGBT+ activist filed in January.

Also, in January this year, a warning appeared on social media urging all vulnerable men and women to flee Chechnya as it was feared a new “anti-gay purge” was underway.

In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured in Chechnya during a “purge”, and that some were killed.

There was no immediate comment on the report from Chechen officials, who rejected the allegations in 2017.

Human Rights Watch said in a report on Wednesday that the men it interviewed reported being beaten, humiliated and held for up to 20 days with limited water.

The four said interrogators also demanded information about other gay men in Chechnya, according to the organisation.

One man said he had been living elsewhere but returned to Chechnya to attend a family wedding.

In the evening, he met a man he’d connected with through a dating app, and police arrived and took him away. The man said he believed he was set up.

Human Rights Watch said it thought the 2017 mistreatment of gay men was not adequately investigated.

Tanya Lokshina, the organisation’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, said: “The absolute impunity for the anti-gay purge of 2017 emboldens the perpetrators.

“We have absolutely no evidence these round-ups were sanctioned by top-level Chechen leadership, but the police officials clearly felt at liberty to hold and torture those men.”

Homosexuality is decriminalised in Russia, but animosity towards sexual minorities still widely persists.

Copyright www.independent.co.uk

Four victims of ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya reveal the horrific torture they endured.

Warning: This article contains details of torture that some readers may find distressing.
Back in 2017, chilling reports of young gay men being murdered by their own family members came to fruition, as authorities told parents to kill them – or they’ll do it themselves.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Chechnya had launched another crackdown on LGBTQ people in the region, with activists claiming that two people have been killed and a further 40 have been detained because of their sexual orientation.

Speaking to CNN in 2017, one man recalled the torture he went through, saying: “They started beating me with their fists and feet. They wanted to get names of my gay friends from me.

“They tired wires to my hands and put metal clippers on my ears to electrocute me. They’ve got special equipment which is very powerful. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground.”

And now, a new report from the Human Rights Watch has detailed the torture that four men, who were detained between December 2018 and February 2019, went through.

The men said that when in the camps, they were kicked with booted feet, hit with both sticks and polypropylene pipes. Three out of the men were electrocuted and one of them was raped with a stick.

All four of the men said they were tortured for other information on gay men, and one of them said when he was handed back to his family the officer implied that they should kill him.

They also confirmed that they were denied access to food and only had limited access to water. They were outed to other inmates as gay, and given what officials described as “women’s work” i.e. cleaning toilets and washing floors, as a form of humiliation.

The men also described their cell conditions, with two saying they were held with up to forty other men in a police compound, another being put in a garage before being moved to a lock-up cell with eight to ten other men, and the last being held in isolation in a basement.

Speaking about the torture, Anzor, not his real name, said: “They screamed at me. One of them started kicking me, I dropped to the floor, flat on my stomach.

“Another one then beat me with a stick, from the waist down, he was hitting me very hard for some five minutes. Then they made me kneel on the floor and put metal clips on my thumbs [the wires were hooked to a device delivering electric shocks], he turned the knob [of the device], first slowly and then faster and faster.

“With every turn, my hands bounced up and excruciating pain went through them. He stopped when I screamed my heart was about to burst. They took the clips off and my hands were heavy and felt dead.”

He continued, saying: “They were three or five [police], I don’t quite recall but one of them, Maga, had a stick with a black handle. They yelled, ‘Where are the pansies?’

“They ordered [Aslanbek, another detainee, and me] to get up. They began to humiliate us, verbally, using obscene words, calling us fags, asking which one of us is active, which one passive, whether we derived pleasure [from having sex with a man].

“And all the inmates were watching. They hit [us] on the head with their sticks. Then, they left but another three officers walked in. They were coming in groups for a long time – smaller groups and bigger groups… They entertained themselves by mocking us, beating us.”

Another man, Khussein, whose detention overlapped with Anzor’s also spoke of torture, saying he was beaten and told to give information on where other gay men in the region were.

Movsar was electrocuted while detained, and at one point suspended upside down. When he was released, authorities said they’d kill him if he ever spoke about what had happened.

Albert was electrocuted and beaten with a pipe, and forced into isolation in a basement. He was released in March, something he puts down to having friends among authorities who may have intervened on his behalf.

And something else worrying emerged from the Human Rights Watch report. In 2017, it was confirmed that Chechnya authorities sanctioned the detaining of gay men, however it could not be confirmed whether they had sanctioned the new wave of detentions.

It is thought that the police now feel they have the freedom to detain, torture and then release gay men in the region.

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Copyright www.gaytimes.co.uk