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Margaret Atwood, Ed Harris, Judith Butler and more call out Poland’s hateful homophobia in powerful open letter

Patrick Kelleher August 17, 2020
Margaret Atwood Luca Guadagnino Judith Butler LGBT Poland

Margaret Atwood (Leonardo Cendamo/Getty), Luca Guadagnino (Frazer Harrison/Getty), Judith Butler (Agentur Gmbh/Getty)

Margaret Atwood, Ed Harris, Judith Butler and Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino are among more than 70 cultural figures who have condemned rising anti-LGBT+ sentiment in Poland in a powerful open letter.

Poland’s LGBT+ community has been targeted by a campaign of hate in recent months, with a third of the country declaring itself an “LGBT-free zone” earlier this year.

The country’s president Andrzej Duda went on to capitalise on rising homophobic sentiment during his re-election campaign, hitting out at “LGBT+ ideology” and promising to ban same-sex couples from adopting children.

Now, 70 renowned cultural figures from across Europe and the United States have expressed their “outrage” at the ever-worsening situation in a powerful open letter addressed to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The letter, dated 17 August, begins: “We, the undersigned, express our outrage at repressions directed against the LGBT+ community in Poland. We speak out in solidarity with activists and their allies, who are being detained, brutalised, and intimated.

Margaret Atwood among seventy cultural figures express their ‘grave concern’ at rising anti-LGBT+ sentiment in Poland.

“We voice our grave concern about the future of democracy in Poland, a country with an admirable history of resistance to totalitarianism and struggle for freedom.”

The open letter notes the shocking arrest of 48 LGBT+ activists in Poland on 7 August on the grounds that they had participated in a “violent illegal gathering”.

“In fact, they were engaged in a peaceful protest in solidarity with an LGBT+ activist named Margot, who had been arrested for damaging a homophobic campaigner’s van,” the letter reads.

LGBT+ rights are human rights and must be defended as such.

“Her group had also placed rainbow flags over statues, including a statue of Christ. These actions were neither ‘hooliganism’ nor ‘provocations’, as Poland’s government-run media insist, but rather desperate acts of resistance against degrading homophobic hate speech.

“The van is one of many similar vehicles parading outrageous claims around the cities of Poland: equating homosexuality with paedophilia, and asserting that gays are the source of diseases and a threat to children.

“Efforts to stop this well-funded hate campaign by legal means had led to nothing.”

The letter goes on to hit out at “the persistent use of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric by Polish politicians and media” and Andrzej Duda’s attacks on “LGBT+ ideology”.

“Homophobic aggression in Poland is growing because it is condoned by the ruling party, which has chosen sexual minorities as a scapegoat with no regard for the safety and well-being of citizens.”

Letter urges European Commission to defend ‘equality’ and ‘non-discrimination’.

The letter continues: “We call on the Polish government to stop targeting sexual minorities, to stop supporting organisations that spread homophobia and to hold accountable those who are responsible for unlawful and violent arrests on 7 August 2020.

“We call on the European Commission to take immediate steps to defend core European values – equality, non-discrimination, respect for minorities – which are being blatantly violated in Poland.

“LGBT+ rights are human rights and must be defended as such.”

The letter was signed by numerous acclaimed cultural figures, including Margaret Atwood, Ed Harris, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, Irish Booker Prize winners Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry, Polish director Agnieszka Holland, French actress Isabelle Huppert, British director Mike Leigh, and gay Irish writer Colm Toibin and philosopher Judith Butler.

Tensions boiled over in Poland last weekend when 48 queer demonstrators were arrested during a protest in Warsaw.

The shocking incident came just weeks after Andrzej Duda was re-elected president in Poland following a shocking campaign in which he promised to rollback LGBT+ rights.

Since his re-election, some LGBT+ people have decided to leave the country, while others have been left fearing for their lives.

More: Andrzej Duda., Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, Ed Harris, Homophobia, Luca Guadagnino, margaret atwood, Poland

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