Monday, May 28, 2007

Russian gays fighting for Russia's soul

From Moscow, the NY Times's Michael Schwirtz reports on a gay rights rally that was suppressed by Russian police and violent counter-protesters.

This comes during a nadir in the outlook for human rights in Russia. The state of human rights--the contempt the government has for human rights principles and the NGOs that argue for them--has a hand in the vanishing freedom of the press, discouragement of foreign investment, ethnic discrimination and hate crimes, denial of the rising AIDS crisis, foot-dragging on security of nuclear materials, and continued Russian imperialism in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.

These are connected in a overarching political culture of aggression, denial and intolerance, which appears to serve Russia's nationalist project but in reality is eating away at the country's economic and human capital. Russian gays don't only need gay rights; all Russians need gay rights.

From the article:

A man in camouflage clothing struck Peter Tatchell, a British gay rights campaigner, in the face as he tried to speak to the press. Officers arrested the man who threw the punch and took Mr. Tatchell to a police van for his protection, a police spokesman said.

Later, Marco Cappato, a European Parliament member from Italy, traded blows with another man wearing camouflage as the riot police looked on.

The police detained Mr. Cappato, along with Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag, but later released them. It was unclear what happened to the man who had been fighting with Mr. Cappato.

...

Today’s protest was the second attempt by organizers to hold a gay pride demonstration in Moscow. A similar event last year ended in bloodshed when more than 100 ultranationalists and radical Orthodox Christians attacked gay rights demonstrators in Moscow.

...

Representatives from gay rights groups, however, seemed undaunted by the violence and vowed to continue organizing demonstrations.