On March 26 this year, young protestors (Putin’s children) took to the streets in some 80 towns in Russia. Anger at the greed of the ruling classes, the technocrats and the military hierarchy who have enriched themselves under Putin’s rule motivated the protestors but also, resentment that the world is changing around them and they remain left behind in a time warp of dated values.
Protestors were subject to police beatings and more than 1000 arrests were made, including that of Alexi Naralmy (Putin’s political challenger). This was no insignificant event.
Unlike their elder’s who relied on state run television for their information, today’s Russian youth have access to You-tube and other forms of social media. Their digital political awakening threatens Putin’s Russia, and has enabled gay activists, among others, to see an opportunity –an opportunity abetted by international support.
When the Russian newspaper Navaya Gazeta reported in April the torture of 100 suspected gay men in detention facilities in Chechnya, and then in May a spate of honour killings in the Muslim majority regions, a rally from international leaders ensued. French president Emmanuel Macron on May 29 challenged Putin to ensure the rights of LGBT+ people in Chechnya, the same day France welcomed its first gay Chechen refugee. Angela Merkel urged Putin to investigate the claims, Canada’s Pierre Trudeau voiced strong concern and Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador, said the situation “cannot be ignored.”
Meanwhile, accounts of what is happening in Chechnya continue to circulate – accounts of men disappearing from the streets, arrests, and possibly killings by Chechen authorities. Nikolai Alekseen, a gay activist, states applications for anti-gay counter demonstrations and attempts by men to leave Chechnya have been thwarted. There are reports of the government commanding a “prophylactic sweep” on the one hand while protesting, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the Republic.”
So now I ask – How can we in this liberal country, at the bottom of the world, support these activists and the gay men and women living in fear around them? Do we as a gay community living in a democracy that allows minorities equal rights, have a responsibility to assist in some capacity? To rest on our laurels is not an option I challenge. Can we commence a grass roots movement starting with the 20,000 Express readers, a bottom-up, rather than top-down effort. We as humans can never really predict what human beings working together can accomplish and therefore, we can never really compromise with injustice. Perhaps, we down under can illustrate with a petition how successfully a small country as our own, lives in harmony despite our differences in sexual orientation, ethnic background, and opposing political and religious views. To quote Albert Sweitzer,-“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
Whomever reads this article and responds, gay or straight, please take a minute and write a sentence or two in support of our fellow man to the emails below.
Once compiled, we will collate them into stiff covered journals and present copies to the Russian ambassador, Chechen authorities, Russian media, and gay activists mentioned. Some measure of support is warranted. At the very least, a message of support from a small nation having fought and won our own human rights issues may be heartening to those in the front line over there. Apathy is not an option. We are requesting Australian Campaign magazine publish a similar support also.
Emails can be sent to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org