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.
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.’
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.
It is with impunity that Chechnya perpetuates a genocide against LGBTI + people with the complicity of Vladimir Putin. The European Union must react. A call for the Public Place initiative.
3.743 km. This is the distance between Grozny, the Chechen capital, and Brussels, the European capital. Only 3,743 km from the symbolic heart of the European Union is genocide against the LGBTI + community of Chechnya, Republic of Russia. A genocide at the gates of Europe.
A genocide source of silence as disturbing as indignant on the part of the international community, and more particularly of the European Union which drapes itself in a frightening silence. We denounce this silence contrary to the humanist values which, following the horrors of the Second World War, presided over the founding of Europe so that barbarism and infamy will never happen again.
Let’s not forget the fate reserved for homosexuals by the Nazis. Let’s not forget the death camps. Let’s not forget the pink triangle.
By 2019, everyone should have the right to live their identity, whatever they may be, without having to hide themselves, to hide themselves, to live with the agony of being stigmatized, persecuted or murdered. To fight for everyone to have this right is a constant struggle so that every LBGTI + person in the world feels supported not to have to live in a state of permanent terror and stupefaction. To fight so that they can assert themselves freely. This fight must be conducted with uncompromising firmness and urgency.
However, since 2017, a genocidal mechanism against LGBTI + persecuted for what they are, is under way in Chechnya. Stigmatization, denunciation, persecution, rape, torture, executions, imprisonment in “camps”. The many testimonies agree, it is well in a planned and systemic way that the Chechen power organizes this crime against humanity under the complicit eye of Moscow and in a quasi international omerta. These abuses are rooted in the logic of a power for which the general violation of human rights is the rule.
The facts speak for themselves:
In 2017, Zelimkhan Bakayev , an openly homosexual Russian singer, disappeared in obscure circumstances when he went to his sister’s wedding in Grozny. He was reportedly arrested by the Chechen authorities, detained and tortured in “one camp”, and then murdered 10 hours later, as reported by concordant witnesses. The notoriety of the victim has broken the silence and exposed the atrocities committed by the Chechen authorities.
Since 2017, hundreds of testimonies corroborate this purge systemically organized by the power and under the yoke of President Ramzan Kadyrov against LGBTI + people in Chechnya. As such, the testimony of Adam, a young Chechen who has managed to take refuge in Western Europe evokes, besides the barbarism of aggression, persecution, lynching, the establishment of a “cleansing”. The word is heavy with meaning and the family circle can hardly serve as a place of refuge: Chechen families are incited to murder their supposedly homosexual members in order to “wash their honor”.
In late December 2018, LGBTI associations in Russia revealed that a new wave of arrests of about forty men and women would have taken place. While seemingly less affected, lesbian (or so-called) women as well as transgender people are also targets of the Chechen regime. They would be detained and raped with electroshock sticks.
As stated by Kheda Saratova, a member of the Human Rights Council under the aegis of the President of Chechnya, “the entire Chechen judicial system would treat anyone who killed a close homosexual” with understanding.
All these facts have, moreover, given rise to a “Complaint for genocide against Ramzan Kadyrov” filed by the associations Foam, Stop Homophobia, Asso Committee Idaho France, at the International Criminal Court. We use this word genocide wisely because it corresponds to what is defined in article 211-1 of the French penal code by extending it to any “group determined from any other arbitrary criterion”. We regret that this is not the case in the 1948 UN Convention and believe that the term genocide should be applied also when it applies to LGBTI + persons.
We denounce the impunity with which Chechnya perpetuates genocide and urge the European Union to act. Denouncing this situation would send a strong signal to all those who do not respect the rights of LGBTI + people in Europe and elsewhere.
We therefore urge the European Union to:
denounce these abuses in a common and uncompromising way and no longer in an isolated, ineffective manner, as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or Charles Michel punctually did during punctual meetings with Vladimir Putin in 2017. The European Council must adopt a joint declaration and sanctions against Chechnya;
to welcome in an automatic and dignified way the asylum applications of Chechens of the LGBTI community, through its Member States, in charge of this policy;
to ask for an independent inquiry, other than this sham led by Tatiana Moskalkova, the Duma’s human rights delegate and a prominent homophobe commissioned by Vladimir Putin who, let us recall, voted for the stigmatizing Russian law repressing the homosexual “propaganda” towards minors.
Amnesty underlines that the denunciations of the international community have already made it possible to stop the arrests temporarily after the repression of 2017. A few months before the European elections, if the Union does not speak while it has this eloquent information, she will be complicit in these abuses.
We accuse Ramzan Kadyrov of planning genocide.
We accuse those who are planning the genocide.
We accuse Vladimir Putin of Machiavellian complicity in this genocide.
We therefore urge the European Union to firmly condemn this crime against humanity and to act accordingly before it is too late.
Julien Marsay , graduate of Modern Literature and Jerome Quéré , jurist in European law.
Editor’s note of Obs. This text was written at the initiative of the movement Place Publique, and signed by many personalities. Intertitles and hypertext links are editorial.
The petitioners :
Judith Aquien, cofounder of Thot , general director of Action Emploi Refugee and bearer of cause “Hospitalité” at Place Publique , Antoine Alibert, environmental activist and for equal rights Paris XX, Isabelle Alonso, journalist and novelist, Pascale Arbillot, actress , BAAM Association, reception and accompaniment office for migrants, Pénélope Bagieu, cartoonist, Serge Bagdassarian, comedian, member of the Comédie-Française , Marie-Christine Barrault, actress, Alex Beaupain,author, composer and performer , David Belliard, president of the group of elected ecologists on the Paris council , Benjamin Biolay, author, composer and performer , Dominique Blanc, actress, David Bobée, director and director of the National Dramatic Center of Normandy -Rouen , Kavita Brahmbatt, co-founder of Action Emploi Réfugiés , Saïd Benmouffok, professor of philosophy and co-founder of Place Publique , Farid Bouguettaya, lawyer, Charles Braine, advocate for “Fisheries and Ecology” at Place Publique , Geneviève Brissacwriter and editor, Ian Brossat, PCF deputy to the Mayor of Paris in charge of housing, sustainable housing and emergency shelter issues, Pierre Natnael Bussière, student and co-founder of Place Publique , Guillaume Canet , actor and director, Vincent Carry, director of the festival Nuits sonores and cause for “Culture” at Place Publique , Arnaud Cathrine, writer , Sarah Chiche, writer, psychologist and psychoanalyst, François Cluzet, actor, Maxime Cochard, author and militant LGBTI + , Corine,singer, Catherine Corsini , director, Nicole Croisille , actress and singer, Perrine Daubas, head of the company, Étienne Deshoulières, lawyer at the Paris Bar, Vincent Dedienne, actor, author and comedian, Karima Delli, MEP EELV , Alex Descas, actor, Luc Di Gallo, Militant Génération.s in Seine-Saint-Denis, Arthur Dreyfus, writer , Julien Dufresne-Lamy, writer, Pascal Durand, MEP EELV , Michel Eltchaninoff,President of the New Dissidents , Jérémy Fel, writer , Andréa Ferréol, actress, Diana Filippova, entrepreneur , author and co-founder of Place Publique , Flag !, LGBT staff association of the Ministry of Interior and Justice, Franck Finance-Madureira, journalist, founding president of the Queer Palm (LGBTI + prize of the Cannes Film Festival), Stéphane Foenkinos, director, Marina Foïs, actress, Laure Fourteau-Lemarchand, co-founder of the association Plurielles Éducations , Nicole Garcia,actress and director, Jean-Michel Ganteau, university professor, Michèle Gazier, writer and publisher, Génération.s LGBTI, Jérôme Giusti, lawyer and president of Rights d’urgence , Raphaël Glucksmann, author and co-founder of Place Publique , Guillaume Gouix, actor, Judith Grumbach , documentary director , Jean-Baptiste Gernet, deputy mayor of Strasbourg , Sihem Habchi, president of the Simone de Beauvoir prize , Brice Hillairet, actor and director , Clément Hervieu-Léger,comedian, director and member of the Comédie-Français e, Stéphanie Hochet, writer, Raphaël Imbert, musician, Yves Jeuland, documentary director , Eva Joly, MEP EELV , Thomas Jolly, actor and director, Juliette Kahane, author , Gaël Kamilindi, comedian and resident of the Comédie-Française , Jérôme Karsenti, lawyer and litigator “Justice and Probity” at Place Publique , Thierry Klifa, director , Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, spokesman forAlternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI Morocco), Laurent Lafitte, actor , Pierre Lapointe, singer-songwriter, Aurore Lalucq, economist and member of Génération.s , Alban Lefranc, writer, Jean-Ronan Le Pen, environmental activist, Gilles Lellouche, actor and director, Matthieu Longatte, comedian, author and comedian, Damien Loret, LGBTI national co-referent of the Mouvement Génération.s , Germain Louvet, Parisian Opera ballet dancer , Clara Luciani,singer-songwriter , Alex Lutz, comedian , comedian, director and author , MAG Young LGBT, association, Anne Marivin, actress, Corinne Masiero, actress, Paul Marques Duarte, filmmaker, Edouard Martin, S & D MEP , Nicolas Matyjasik , political scientist – SciencesPo Lille , Mathilde Maulat , general secretary of the Place Publique movement , Marine Mazel, psychologist and “Precarious” cause holder at Place Publique , Guillaume Mélanie,comedian, Nicolas Noguier, inspector of the Sanitary and Social Action , Claire Nouvian, President of the Bloom association and co-founder of Place Publique , Odieux Boby, photographer, Valérie Ozouf, director , Pierre Palmade , author and comedian, Alysson Paradis , actress, Timothy Perkins, teacher ENSCI-the workshops , artist, architect, Louis-Julien Petit, director, Amélie Pichard, head of the company, designer of ready-to-wear, Marianne Pierot, Lawyer at the Paris Bar in foreign law, Raphaël Pitti, humanitarian doctor and elected to the city of Metz, Bruno Perreau, professor at MIT , holder of the Cynthia Reed Chair in French Studies , Malorie Peyrache, LGBTI + national referent of Génération.s , Eric Piolle, Mayor EELV of Grenoble, Denis Podalydès, comedian, director, author, member of the French Comedy, Thomas Porcher, economist and co-founder of the Place Publique movement , Olivier Py, playwright, director and director ofAvignon Festival , the Refuge , an association for young victims of homophobia and transphobia, Rone, electro musician, Laurent Ruquier, TV / radio presenter and author, Maxime Ruszniewski, producer and former ministerial advisor on women’s rights, Bruno Sanches, actor, Didier Sandre, actor, director, resident of the Comédie-Française , Edgar Sekloka, singer-songwriter, Pierre Serne, regional councilor of Île-de-France and spokesman of the Génération movement , Mathieu Simonet, writer,Eric Slabiak, composer, SOS Homophobie, Jo Spiegel, Mayor of Kingersheim and co-founder of Place Publique , Laurent Stocker, actor, member of the Comédie-Française , Tim Dup, singer-songwriter, Christa Theret, actress, Luc Tezenas , jurist, UNEF, student union, Urgence Homophobie, LGBTI + advocacy association, Nadia Vadori-Gauthier, doctor of aesthetics and artist, Thomas Verduzier, president of the association of International Affairs of SciencesPo Paris ,Marie-Christine Vergiat, European Left MEP , Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Local Democracy, Citizen Participation, Community Life and Youth, Marie-Pierre Vieu, PCF MP , Karin Viard, Actress, Éric Walther, journalist, Sandrine Zalcman, lawyer at the Court.
Nikita Tomilov, an expert at the Interregional Center for Human Rights, sent a statement to the Investigation Committee on activist Timur Bulatov (Isayev) from St. Petersburg, who is fighting homosexuals.
The statement was sent after Bulatov on March 18 asked the schools of Yekaterinburg and the police to deal with 15 teenagers who had fallen under the sodic LGBT propaganda that is detrimental to the psyche of children. On the same day, Bulatov gave an interview to Znak.com, where he spoke about his methods of work and stated that he considers “all LGBT rhetoric to be a psychiatric disease.”
Human rights activist Nikita Tomilov believes that Bulatov’s actions may fall under three articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: incitement to hatred and hostility, unauthorized access to computer information and public calls for extremist activities. “What this person does is illegal as well as anti-human,” wrote Tomilov on VKontakte.
Timur Bulatov is known for seeking the dismissal of teachers from schools because of homosexuality. He claims that in several years more than 60 teachers have been forced to quit their jobs. Bulatov also participated in a rally at the headquarters of Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg under the slogan “Bulk protects perverts.” In addition, he struggled with children’s drawings in the school of Yekaterinburg because of the “propaganda of homosexuality” (the police found no violations).