RUS LGBTIQ and LGBT World Beside, two organizations of LGBT refugees from Russia and (former) USSR republics, will join forces during the first RussianPride in the Netherlands. Our first activity is a picnic for LGBT refugees on Saturday June 26 in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. You can register for the event.
We will also participate in the PrideWalk on Saturday 7 August in Amsterdam, with a joint T-shirt.
Why are we doing this?
We think it is important to show with this joint RussianPride that we have rights and do not have to hide in the Netherlands. That we are openly proud to live here.
With this RussianPride we also want to continue the work of generations of human rights activists before us. They have fearlessly defended the right to dignity for all and fought against discrimination.
Many of us, representatives of the LGBT community, continue to behave as we used to in the countries where we were born, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Russia and other (former) USSR republics. All countries where homosexuality is forbidden and where we had to hide. But here too there are plenty of examples of insults and even attacks against us. This still affects our self-esteem, mental health, and our chances of happiness and success. That is not normal and we want to show that we can and should be ourselves. And that we are not alone, but that we are together!
Who are we and what have we done so far?
RUS LGBTIQ was founded 2019 as a support group for newcomers by Kirill Uvarov, LGBT refugee from Russia, with the support of his friend Sergei Lavrischev. We think it’s important to help newcomers integrate into their new life here. To show that you can live freely and not be afraid to be yourself. Our community now has more than 250 members.
One of our main missions is to help newcomers get to know the history of our new home – the Netherlands – and of course learn the Dutch language. To this end, with the support of our Dutch volunteers, we organized a series of training courses and started the course ‘Knowledge of Dutch Society’ in Russian. In this way, the members of our community can learn about the basic principles and rules of the country that protects us. Since the beginning of 2020, when all language schools were closed due to the corona pandemic, we have started an online Dutch conversation course, taught by Dutch volunteers. It is very important to practice the language with native speakers, but also to show that we are not abandoning our community in these difficult times.
We also help with simple, but often difficult questions for refugees such as ‘how do you connect a SIM card’, ‘which shops are cheap’ and ‘how do you buy a ticket for public transport’. Many newcomers do not speak English and are happy to be helped in Russian. Many Russian-speaking migrant groups are still homophobic, so seeking help there is not an option. We have also set up a support group to exchange experiences.
Our community is very diverse: talented artists, musicians and photographers, as well as people with non-creative professions. With the stress and horror still fresh in your mind, it is very difficult to develop your talents. That is why we think it is important to support everyone.
We have held a large number of meetings, online as well as face-to-face meetings in various cities across the country. On February 12, 2020, a large solidarity meeting for LGBTI people in Russia and Chechnya took place at the gay monument in Amsterdam. It was an initiative of Russian-Dutch LGBTI activists, supported by the COC. The reason was the decision on 29 January 2020 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to give Russia full voting rights again. Russia had been stripped of that right to vote because of its annexation of Crimea. One of the conditions for regaining the right to vote was Russia’s cooperation in an investigation into the detention, torture and murder of LGBTI people in Chechnya. That cooperation never materialized. The demand at the demonstration was that Russia still fulfills all the obligations of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights. We also wanted to support LGBTI people in Russia and Chechnya with this demonstration and show that we do not give up, even though we had to leave our homeland.
LGBT World Beside was founded in 2017 by a number of LGBT refugees from Chechnya (including Harlem), when the persecution of gays and lesbians began there. It started with an urgent appeal to the Russian government to end the arrests and murders. We have received the help of journalists and filmmakers, who have made stories about this and a documentary.
On April 23, 2018 we participated in the demonstration at the Russian Consulate in The Hague in honor of the birthday of the missing Chechen singer Zelim Bakaev and on January 20, 2019 we held a memorial meeting with LGBT activists at the Homomonument in Amsterdam for the victims of the persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya. On April 4, 2019, we made a speech in the Flemish Parliament on the occasion of the adoption of the resolution condemning the persecutions in Chechnya. Member of Parliament Piet de Bruyn has helped us enormously with this.
We also receive the gays and lesbians who have fled Chechnya and support them to integrate here. Together with Dutch and Belgian volunteers, we help the newcomers with free Dutch language courses and the Knowledge of Dutch Society course. These have been taking place online since the start of the corona pandemic.
In 2019 and 2020 we held pride walks and picnics and organized football lessons in Amsterdam and Antwerp.