Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Situation for LGBT Human Beings in Russia: Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest

Nancy Goldstein

I agree with John Aravosis at AmericaBlog: Nancy Goldstein's response in The Guardian this week to the decision of the International Olympics Committee to accept the "assurances" of the Russian government that gay athletes and gay folks attending the Olympics in Russia will have "safe passage" is excellent. As Goldstein reports, the eyes of the world are on what Russia is now doing to its LGBT citizens, and many folks are horrified--and this makes the cavalier attitude of the IOC and various world governments to the situation in Russia appear all the more shameful.

Putin has criminalized all behavior in Russia viewed as pro-gay. The Russian government has banned adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples, but also by any single parent living in a nation that accepts marriage equality. Police have been given a green light to arrest tourists and foreign nationals suspected of being gay or even pro-gay. 

BuzzFeed recently published photos that tell the world the story of what's going on inside Russia--the steep price being paid by LGBT citizens for Putin's cynical ploy to scapegoat gays in order to consolidate his power as the Russian economy goes south. A video made by Russian skinheads and available at YouTube shows those who made the video luring a gay teen they've met online to a housing compound, where they proceed to torture him. 

The BBC has reported that Vladislav Tornovoi was murdered in Volgograd early in May, when he mentioned to several men that he was gay. When his body was discovered dumped in a courtyard, he had been raped with beer bottles and his skull smashed in. According to a Reuters report in early June by Steve Gutterman, another man was murdered in May in eastern Russia in what is also thought to be a homophobic hate crime. Four Dutch tourists have now also been arrested and jailed under the new laws, under charges that they have engaged in pro-gay propaganda.

As Harvey Fierstein says in the New York Times last week, what Putin and the Russian government are now doing to gay citizens of their nation is eerily reminiscent of the playbook used by the Nazi government as it targeted Jews in the period leading up to the Holocaust. And so, as Goldstein notes, 

Had Putin reignited Russia's abuse of its Jewish citizens, it would have been unthinkable for the IOC to issue a statement suggesting that non-Russian Jewish athletes, pundits, and spectators could go have a blast in Sochi because we'd be spared the anti-Semitic violence sweeping the rest of the country. There's just no way. The American Jewish community and the Obama administration would have (rightly) enacted trade sanctions instantly. There would have been no statement from the State Department like the one issued the same day as the IOC announcement saying that it does not support a boycott of the games. 
So how does a pogrom against LGBT people and our allies pass muster in 2013?

And the IOC appears willing to ignore all of this solely because the Russian government has given the committee "assurances" that foreign gays attending the Olympics or competing in Olympic events will have "safe passage"?!  As Goldstein concludes,

This much I can promise. No international bureaucracy, corporate entity, or modern-day führer is going to shrug us off with the assurance that we don't need to worry about our brothers and sisters because the haters will never come for us. Our hearts and our history tell us otherwise.

I see no other choice except for gay people around the world to be vocal and active in their solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia, when the movers and shakers of the world seem intent on ignoring what's going on in Russia every bit as much as they ignored what was happening in Germany at the time of the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin.

Some days, it appears we have learned very little from our painful history as a human community.

P.S. For information about a petition you can sign to ask NBC to make Rachel Maddow its human rights correspondent for the Olympics, see this subsequent posting

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