May 21, 2017; New York Times
A month after an investigation of a gay pogrom in Chechnya renewed global criticism of human rights abuses in the region, gay Russians on the other side of the world protested homophobia in the U.S.
The New York Times report highlights an ongoing roundup of gay men in the Republic of Chechnya, a “federal subject” of Russia, and activists point to Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBT crackdown as the cause of the persecution that spread west. But, at a rally in Brooklyn over the weekend, the fight continued stateside:
As growing numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender exiles from Russia move to Sheepshead Bay and other southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, many of them say they have been subjected to intense discrimination by members of older generations who adhere to the harshly conservative principles of their homeland.
On Saturday, about 200 people gathered on the boardwalk for Brighton Beach Pride, a demonstration arranged by RUSA LGBT, an advocacy group. Billed as the nation’s first march for Russian speaking lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the rally was led primarily by asylum seekers but also included others from around New York City. As a marching band played traditional Slavic music, the crowd chanted in Russian and English and held signs that read “Refuse Fascism,” “Silence=Death” and “Nyet to Homophobia.” Many protesters wore pink triangles, echoing the badges used to identify gay men in Nazi concentration camps.
Although the investigation brought attention to the region, and condemnation from Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, the U.S. hasn’t held anyone accountable or supported asylum seekers. As Foreign Policy recently reported, the U.S. denied the visa requests of the persecuted gay men fleeing Chechnya while Lithuania granted two of the requests on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, an annual observance to raise awareness of violence and discrimination against LGBT people.
The current administration’s response was in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s policies that protected those seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation, the Times noted.
Persecution apparently continues in Chechnya, though Russian officials have blamed the reports on anti-Russian propaganda, according to Foreign Policy:
The Russia LGBT Network said there are still about 40 survivors of Chechen prison camps currently in hiding and trying to flee the country. The Chechen government, run by controversial strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, vehemently denied reports his government was rounding up gay men in prison camps. Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on May 11th to investigate the reports amid a firestorm of international outrage.
However, after Israeli press covered the issue extensively, the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv released a statement the same day of Putin’s announcement suggesting the investigation was already over and nothing happened. “There are no victims of persecution, threats or violence,” the statement, sent to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, read. It went on to call the reports “the excuse for the beginning of a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world.”