Speaking at the Whitehall protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws, Stephen Fry said that athletes taking part in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 should perform a simple gesture to show their solidarity with the LGBT community.
Earlier today, Prime Minister David Cameron told Mr Fry that he shares his “deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia.” Mr Cameron added that this abuse can be challenged by attending, not boycotting the Winter Olympics.
David Cameron’s comments follow a letter written by Fry where he begged the Prime Minister to intervene over the situation in Russia. Mr Fry said that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it.”
Responding to two tweets sent by Prime Minister David Cameron, Fry said: “I didn’t call for a boycott [of the Winter Olympics], but for the event to go elsewhere. I do understand the way the world works.”
He added: “My latest brainchild is that every athlete, when they are receiving their medals performs a simple gesture with their arms, they can take away rainbow flags but they can hardly cut their arms off.”
“We want to show the Russian LGBT community that we are supporting them. Putin and his toxic mixture of shaved headed neo-nazis and the newly powerful orthodox church, which is doing what the state used to be in the days of communism, determining what it means to be Russian, what it is to be pure, have decided that being gay is not. They are now un-citizens. Untermenschen as the Nazis used to call them, sub-human.”
On Wednesday Fry wrote to Mr Cameron and said: “I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped pushed gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.”
The Prime Minister’s opposition to boycotting the Games follows the advice of Russian LGBT campaigners who have called on the international community to attend the Games and challenge homophobia.
Mr Cameron’s comments today echo those of the US President Barack Obama. Mr Obama told a press conference yesterday: “If Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, it’ll probably make their team weaker.” Adding: “I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics.”
Earlier this week, in an interview with Jay Leno on NBC’s Tonight Show, President Obama said that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
“Every judgement should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
He added: “I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.”
It reinforced what Mr Clegg said last month in an interview with PinkNews, when he said: “It is just totally out of order it is unacceptable in this day and age for any athlete to feel in any way intimidated or certainly to be discriminated against because of their sexuality.”
Speaking to PinkNews today, a spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “At a time when many countries around the world are making incredible steps forward for equality, it’s worrying and depressing that Russia can take such a step backward.
“The world spotlight is now on Russia, and the government is working with the IOC to ensure the games are free from discrimination. But this is also an issue much wider than the Olympic Games. There are horrific stories of abuse, brutality and discrimination that should not be tolerated.
“As Nick Clegg has said before, it is totally unacceptable for anyone to feel intimidated or discriminated against because of their sexuality.
“Those days should be long behind us now and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way have to move with the times.”
Yesterday, Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Sport and Tourism, urged Foreign Secretary William Hague to “lead in the international condemnation of the Russian Government’s treatment of LGBT people.”
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk on Thursday, Labour’s Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Human Rights, Kerry McCarthy, said: “The UK Government should be using the opportunity of the G20 meeting in St Petersburg next month to raise this issue with President Putin and make clear the UK’s opposition to the latest examples of repression and discrimination.”
Last week, along with criticism of Russia’s LGBT stance by the UK Foreign Office, a government source told PinkNews.co.uk that they anticipated the issue of homophobic oppression in Russia would be raised at September’s G20 Heads of Government meeting.