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 level of fear in respect of LGBT neighbors among Russians has increased three times in ten years.

Russians feel the same degree of fear when they think that their neighbors will be from the Caucasus or Central Asia, as well as homosexual couples.

The results of the new survey leads “Levada Center”. It turned out that dysfunctional families, homosexual couples and members of religious sects are the most undesirable neighbors from the point of view of Russians. Concerning these groups of people negative attitudes prevail. And since 2006, the level of “fear” in relation to LGBT neighbors has increased threefold – from 7 to 22, while the degree of fear towards Caucasians or sectarians has almost not changed. For clarity, “Levada Center” provides the following table.

“The longest distance to cohabitation was recorded in relation to members of a religious sect, a homosexual couple, and a dysfunctional family, the potential neighborhood with which caused the respondents, rather,“ irritation, dislike ”or“ distrust, fear, ”sociologists summarize. Experts add that young people aged 18-24 are more tolerant of a possible neighborhood with a homosexual couple. Respondents with a higher education are one and a half times more likely to also show a neutral attitude towards entry ednyuyu apartment homosexual couples than respondents with less than secondary education.

Sociological surveys are not the first year indicate a significant increase in homophobia in Russia. So, in August 2017 it was reported: 55% of Russians treat LGBT citizens as migrants – “wary” or “very bad”. In August 2018, VTsIOM found out : 63% of Russians believe in the existence of a global “gay conspiracy” against their “spirituality”.

Earlier, foreign sociologists argued : homophobia of neighbors negatively affects the health of gays. The level of homophobia in different areas was determined by the number of adversaries or supporters of marriage equality. In areas where there was a high number of people who voted against gay marriage, researchers found that homosexuals were more likely to have psychological problems.

Copyright www.xgay.ru

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

Intersex woman evicted by landlord after police harassment in Russia.

Police allegedly forced her to strip and examined her genitals.

Berlin demonstration against homophobia in Russia. | Photo: Marco Fieber / Flickr

An intersex woman in Russia said her landlord evicted her after police allegedly harassed her.

Olga Moskvitina lives in Makhachkala a city on the western shore of the Caspian Sea.

She said a plain clothed police officer forced his way into her apartment. This happened after her identity documents which showed she had a male name were published on social media.

People on social media left hateful comments including, ‘people like that should be killed’.

According to a report on news site Lenta, the policeman allegedly made Moskvitina strip naked and examined her genitals. He also interrogated her about her genitals and threatened to out her to locals so the could kill her.

Moskvitina tried to explain that she is in fact intersex, but cannot update her identity documents to reflect her intersex status. As a result she is forced to identify as trans.

After the incident at her apartment, Moskvitina’s landlord then evicted citing ‘such affairs’ as a reason.

While it not illegal to be trans in Russia, the LGBTI community faces high levels of discrimination, intimidation and violence. In 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced the ‘gay propaganda’ law. It prevented the positive portrayal of the LGBTI community in mass media.

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