In Chechnya, they called provocation an exit to the Russian rental of a biographical film about singer Elton John “Rocketman”, from which outright homosexual scenes were cut out. The republic is asked to put an end to provocations that occur in the cinema.
“Though I am not authorized to comment on the activities of film distribution in Russia about films with“ frank scenes, ”especially homosexual (considering the orientation of the singer), the reaction in the Chechen Republic will definitely be extremely negative. We, for various reasons – religious, mental, and so on – are not acceptable for licentiousness, debauchery, and other manifestations of lack of spirituality and degeneracy. And in general, it’s time to put an end to all these provocations in our film industry. It’s a shame, it’s impossible to go to the cinema with children! ”Said the Chechen Minister for National Policy, External Relations, Press and Information Dzhambulat Umarov to the URA.RU correspondent.
The plot of the film reveals the details of the life of Elton John. The motion picture will be released on big screens in Russia on June 6th. The main role in it is played by the Welsh actor Theron Edgerton. In the Russian film from the movie removed several scenes of a sexual nature and moments where the show drugs. This information was confirmed by the distributor – Central Partnership. He edited the film to meet the requirements of Russian legislation. The Ministry of Culture said they did not apply to distributors with this request.
Elton John himself does not agree with this decision.
The monologue of a resident of Chechnya, who reported to the police about attempted rape at work, survived the night interrogations, almost became accused under the article about false denunciation and was condemned by relatives.
The editors have at their disposal copies of the verification materials. The names of all participants in the event changed at the request of the heroine.
“I BET YOU ARE WEARING THONGS”.
I got married at 17 years old. Now I’m 37, I’m divorced. I have four children who live with me and with their father – after school they stay where they are more comfortable, and the eldest daughter is already married and lives separately. Last year I got a job as a dispatcher at the fire station of Urus-Martan. Of the women I worked there and the cook in the dining room. I didn’t have contact with men especially, I worked in the office of the head, but more often I was there alone, he almost did not appear. Occasionally two guys came in, something was printed on a computer. “Hello, hello”, “goodbye-bye”.
Not counting the weekend, I worked in the firehouse just five days. On June 26, I was sitting at the computer when my boss, for no reason at all, said: “I bet that you are wearing thongs now.” I asked what kind of conversation it was. He said: “I am putting my 50 thousand rubles, that the thong is now on you.” I began to explain to him that if I needed money, then I would go and earn it, and it was here that I came. And if I need to be someone’s prostitute or bedding, then I can do it at home without going to work. On this he called me “smart, educated fool.”
After two or three hours, everyone gradually dispersed from work, almost no one was left. I packed all my belongings when the boss returned. He asked why I need bags, I replied that I was leaving. He grinned: “Come on, no one holds you here. Just close the window in the office that you left open.” I just turned away to close the window, as he shut the door in the hallway, and then closed the door to our office and stood in front of me. He took me by the shoulders, pressed to the wall and began to climb kissing.
He held my face, my jaw. I pushed him to the left, I was in pain – I had an unhealthy tooth, sealed up. He grabbed so tightly that the tooth broke. I had a sharp pain in my mouth, I got a little weak, and he pushed me onto the couch. I sat down. He sat on top of me, on his knees, like a child, and began to pester and kiss. I asked him to let me go. The investigators then asked how long it lasted. And I do not know, did I notice this time? Maybe five minutes, maybe a minute at all. The main thing is that for me it was eternity.
At some point, he says to me: “Let’s do it mutually, I will, in any case, do it.” I got up and began to unbutton the belt. I do not remember what happened next: whether I pushed him away, or screamed. I don’t know where the keys came from in my hand. Maybe he gave me, maybe I took them myself. I only remember how I went out the door of the fire station and walked along the road.
She sat in a taxi, which stood next to the fire station, and drove to her friend. She lives in the same city, not far. I told her everything, she reassured me, said: “Do not shout, brother will see. Do not cry, but there will be questions.”
At 18 o’clock she was going to the city and drove me to the intersection. From there I was going to go home. She stood at the crossroads, thought about her. Started crying. At this point, I wrote a familiar precinct. He drove to the bus stop, I got into the car and began to tell the whole situation. He asked: “Why do not you come to him?” Said, “The price is nothing for you, if you leave it all so.” He podnachil me, and I decided to listen to him.
When I went to the doctor, I said that there was an attempted rape. The hospital staff called the district police officers, but my friend said that I don’t have to wait for them: “Tomorrow you go to the Investigation Committee yourself.” I caught a taxi, and I drove home.
“WHY DID YOU EVEN GO TO WORK?”.
At 23:00 a precinct came after me from our village and we went to the ATS. I began to ask what happened, I told. They called my brother and under escort we were taken to Urus-Martan. Brought from the back door, without a mark at the duty. They say to my brother: “She remains here, and you go home.” They put him out the door, and they left me there.
Until four in the morning they took explanations from me. They didn’t give me any food or sleep. The conditioner worked all night, it was cold, and I sat in a thin dress. In the morning, the interrogation began anew. They say to me: he did nothing to you. They asked me to say that I had mixed up, that I did not want to apply for the head, that I had accidentally gone to the hospital.
Relatives of my boss came to our home and first told my father and uncle: “Sorry, we are to blame.” Then, already in the police, they began to say that “this girl wanted to substitute our guy.” Together with the police, they began to put pressure on me, and I said that now I’m definitely applying for this person. What they just riot happened. They shouted to me: “He did not do anything to you!” They looked for a flaw in me, reminded me that I was divorced, hinted at it constantly. And one of the policemen said: “Well, I would give it to him.”
On the investigative experiment allowed everyone except my brother. They even let the fire department employees and relatives of my boss, who were not supposed to be there. At this time, all and sundry called me a prostitute. “We like you, we know, walk and substitute good people.” Right under the investigators. And every time I wanted to answer them, the investigator also criticized me. I asked: “Are these insults included in the investigative experiment?” To this he said nothing.
When I read the characteristics in the case file, I learned a lot about myself: it turned out that all the fire department employees, even those whom I did not know, had a bad opinion about me. Everyone had something to say about me: then I dress vulgarly, talk too much and smile – they took my line for coquetry.
They interrogated local Islam. Two or three days after the whole story began, he sent one guy to me, through whom he conveyed: “Take the statement back, they put pressure on me.” I said that I would not take the application, but I promised that I would not disturb him in any way. But time passes — and I find out that this district policeman wrote such an explanatory message against me: that he communicated with me because I allegedly work as an informant for him, that is, I am a snitch. He said that I looked fine that day, did not say anything about the tooth, and that he did not know about the incident with the boss. Said, “She just asked to take her to the hospital and that’s it.” It was the most offensive – his betrayal.
In this whole situation, only my mother supported me. The police are on the side of the relatives of my boss, they have blackened me completely. My relatives reproach me: “Why did you even go to work, did you not have a piece of bread and a glass of water?” So why go to work? To not be a burden to anyone.
In the republic about this usually everyone is silent. This is me, one such fool. Soon the year will pass, as it happened. During this time, they poured so much dirt on me … You know, I even began to think that if he had raped me then I would have been silent.
“SAID TO PUT ON CLOTHES MORE MODEST.” CHIEF VERSION.
On July 27, 2018, a month after the events described, the investigator refused to initiate criminal proceedings against the deputy head of the Urus-Martan fire station.
The document states that there is no crime in his actions.
Regarding Louise herself, the investigator conducted a check on suspicion of knowingly false information, but concluded that she was “mistaken” and “stated not about fictitious circumstances, but because of her ignorance, she perceived the actions of E. as directed at compelling sexual acts” .
The document also contains the testimony of witnesses who describe the behavior of a young woman in the workplace.
The woman-cook of the fire department: “L. is sociable, friendly, she can’t somehow characterize. It can only add that she was not shy, could perform ablution with men, since the entire staff of the HRNG consists of them, but for her unacceptable”.
The first firefighter: “He did not like the way L. was dressed, she could afford to wear a tight dress that emphasized her magnificent figure, although she understood that she was in the men’s team and could be discussed.”
The second firefighter: “It may explain that L. behaved immodestly, namely, she could do ablution with men: take a jug of water and go with a man to the toilet, but this is unacceptable by the rules of etiquette.”
The firemen do not believe in the culpability of their colleague and leader, since he is a “educated man, married and has five children”.
Emin himself did not deny either the dialogue about strings or attempts to kiss Louise, but he called it flirting. The deputy head of the fire department was confident that the woman did not mind, according to the testimony:
“L. sat in his workplace and flirted with him, and also seduced him with her actions, which expressed air kisses, unbuttoned the top button, periodically touched him, as he sat next to her and helped her in her work. He decided that L. would not mind if he kissed her, and asked her permission. To which L. did not answer him, and he moved closer to her and turned his face to her lips. L. did not mind, and they kissed on the lips. “
“He told L. to wear more modest clothes, because her appearance excites him, to which L. said that she would wear what she liked, and this is not related to work. <…> It can be explained that there was no attempt at violence against L., everything was by mutual consent. He didn’t offer to have sexual intercourse, they only kissed and he touched her hips. “
THE TRADITION OF SILENCE. COMMENT BY LAWYER MALIKA ABUBAKAROVA.
“In Chechnya, I work with a client who has been subjected to rape at work: here we were denied initiation of a case of sexual abuse and beatings (articles 133 and 116 of the Criminal Code) against her former boss. We will appeal against the refusal and actions of the investigating authorities who didn’t conduct the check on the application properly, and also kept the woman without food and water under the air conditioner for almost two days. My applicant is still being treated for the effects of hypothermia.
The investigating authorities often hamper our work on cases of violence: we have to wait for the necessary papers for several months in a row. In such actions we see signs of abuse and abuse of office.
We managed and succeed in achieving punishment for those who committed sexual crimes, if, of course, the victims of violence are ready to seek justice. But sometimes they are not ready to apply to official bodies due to the fact that by no means relatives always side with women. In one of the cases, it was the brother who began to defend his sister, brought her to me, and we began to work on the case. If he had not brought her to me and would have believed what the police officers and relatives of the criminal said, then the situation would be completely different. No one would have known about the incident that happened to the woman, continuing the tradition of silence. “
They unfurled the flag alongside handing in a petition calling for the Russian government to intervene.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.
‘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.
In Muslim cultures, homosexuality was once considered the most normal thing in the world – so what changed?
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.’
They held the vigil on Victory Day, one of Russia’s most important holidays.
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.
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.’