Current Affairs

Gay clubs raided and dating app shut down in ‘alarming’ crackdown on LGBT people in Belarus

Josh Jackman October 25, 2017
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Gay-rights activists hold placards on February 14, 2011 during a rally against homophobia in Minsk. Gay rights activists said they held their first authorized action in Minsk. AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

(Getty)

LGBT people in yet another former Soviet state are facing an “alarming” crackdown.

Two clubs popular with the LGBT community in Belarus were raided this weekend, with customers harassed and detained by police.

A popular dating site for gay men has also reportedly been shut down by the government.

Gay-rights activists hold placards on February 14, 2011 during a rally against homophobia in Minsk. Gay rights activists said they held their first authorized action in Minsk. AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)
(Getty)

The move was apparently taken on the direct orders of President Alexander Lukashenko, a dictator who is the country’s only ever president.

Lukashenko has previously responded to accusations that he was running a dictatorship by saying that it was “better to be a dictator than gay”.

In a troubling echo of purges in Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Tajikistan, the police demanded information from patrons at Club Burlesque and Casta Diva, in the capital of Minsk.

The Russian LGBT Network, who helped to evacuate 40 gay and bi men from Chechnya earlier this year, said that riot police took clubgoers’ data.

(Facebook/club burlesque)
(Facebook/club burlesque)

“Some visitors were detained,” the group reported. “The reasons for the detentions are not known.”

An eyewitness who spoke to the group said that authorities asked people “to show their passports and copied data from them.

“One of them was taken from the club before my eyes.”

Taking detainees’ information is a common tactic used by authorities to find their families and LGBT friends.

(Facebook/club burlesque)
(Facebook/club burlesque)

Families in other countries have been told to kill their gay relatives, with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov saying that “even if it’s punishable under the law, we would still condone it.”

Authorities have also tortured and interrogated innocent detainees to find other LGBT people.

(Facebook/club burlesque)
(Facebook/club burlesque)

Last month, at least 100 LGBT people in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku were arrested, abused and forced to give up their friends’ addresses.

It was also revealed earlier this month that Tajikistan, another former Soviet country, had created a list of homosexual people in a move which it called “Operation Purge”.

(Facebook/Vlad Rubinchik)
(Facebook/Vlad Rubinchik)

The register contains 367 gay and lesbian people who authorities have intimated will be forced to undergo testing to avoid “the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases”.

And in the Russian region of Chechnya, more than 100 people have been detained, abused and, in at least 26 cases, killed in a horrific gay purge.

Human Rights First, a New York-based nonprofit, urged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “take immediate action to ensure the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT people in the region are held accountable”.

Customers in Club Burlesque (Facebook/rina davidson)

The nonprofit’s advocacy counsel, Shawn Gaylord, added: “The reports out of Belarus are alarming.

“It is alarming that police targeted legal businesses, violated the privacy of their patrons, demanded personal information, and dragged some away to detention.”

(Facebook/club burlesque)
(Facebook/club burlesque)

And he said the arrests seemed to be part of a growing and worrying trend in the area.

“This appears to be the latest example of increased persecution of LGBT communities in the region, following egregious cases in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.

“The US government should raise these issues with their Belarusian counterparts and make it clear that the United States will not stand by while already-marginalised communities are targeted and attacked.”

Related topics: Azerbaijan, Belarus, belarus, burlesque, casta diva, Chechen, Chechnya, dating app, Europe, Gay, gay club, gay purge, president lukashenko, Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia, tajikistan

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