Comment: Peter Tatchell on why he’ll still march at Moscow Pride
Despite threats to bash and arrest the marchers, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell explains why he will still be attending this Saturday’s Moscow Gay Pride parade. Authorities have said the parade is banned and threatened “tough measures” to those who try to march. In 2007, Mr Tatchell was arrested and assaulted during the parade.
I am joining the parade to show my support for the courageous Russian gay campaigners. All year round they risk arrest, imprisonment and queer-bashing attacks. These men and women are absolute heroes. I salute them.
International solidarity is hugely important. My presence is one way to show that gay people around the world support the right of gay people in Russia to live their lives without homophobic prejudice, ostracism, discrimination and violence.
This parade is in defence of human rights. We are defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. They want legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes. I support their cause.
Not all Russians are homophobic, but many are. Gay Russians suffer queer-bashing attacks, blackmail, verbal abuse and discrimination in education, housing and employment,. This shames the great Russian nation.
Saturday’s Slavic Gay Pride is about more than gay human rights. It is about the right of all Russian people to freely express their opinions and to protest peacefully. The ban on gay parades is just one example of the systematic suppression of civil liberties in Russia.
I appeal to President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and Mayor Luzhkov: gay people are no threat to Russian society. Be magnanimous. Uphold democratic rights and freedoms. Allow the Slavic Gay Pride parade.
Although I am determined to support our Russian and Belarusian comrades, like them I am anxious about what may happen to us. But we have to take some risks; otherwise the homophobes and authoritarians will win.
I don’t have much confidence that the Moscow police will accept our right to protest or that they will protect us against neo-Nazi violence.
At Moscow Pride in 2007 I was beaten almost unconscious by right-wing extremists, while the police stood by and watched. They then arrested me. I spent several hours in police detention before being released without charge. My attackers have never been arrested, even though they were clearly identified in photos and film footage.