2007 February

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov Protest

London, 28 February 2007 – Protest against homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov who was in London to meet the mayors of London, Paris and Berlin. Luzhkov has banned Moscow Pride and denounced gay people as ‘satanic’.

© OutRage! 1990-2010. You are free to use this photo to illustrate news stories and articles about OutRage!, the lesbian and gay human rights group, with credit to the group and photographer. For all other uses, please inquire. Photos: Brett Lock, OutRage!

Moscow Mayor protest, City Hall, London

Russian gay leader will join London demo

Yuri Luzhkov bans Moscow Gay Pride

Gays are “satanic,” “unnatural” and “deviations”

The Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, will face gay rights protesters, headed by Peter Tatchell of OutRage! and Russian gay leader Nikolai Alekseev, when he meets London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, at City Hall, London, tomorrow, Wednesday, 28 February, at 11.30am. Also present at the mayoral meeting will be the Mayors of Berlin and Paris.

The notoriously homophobic Mayor of Moscow has denounced same-sex relationships and gay pride events as “satanic”, “unnatural”, “deviations”, “blasphemy” and “deadly moral poison.”

He recently announced that he was banning the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride parade, scheduled for 27 May. Last year’s march was also banned and some marchers were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested by the Moscow riot police, the OMON.

Nikolai Alekseev, organiser of Moscow Gay Pride, has flown to London to join the protest. He will speak in London tonight (Tuesday) at the 10th anniversary celebrations of Amnesty International’s LGBT human rights campaign.

Mr Alekseev is currently appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against Mayor Luzhkov’s ban on last year’s Moscow Gay Pride. He is also suing the Mayor of Moscow for libel after the Mayor in January this year labeled Moscow Gay Pride as “satanic”.

“We appeal to the Mayors of London, Paris and Berlin to protest to Luzhkov against his ban on Moscow Gay Pride. Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” said Mr Alekseev.

“We know Mr Luzhkov feels more and more isolated from other European leaders. He is concerned about his public image in the West and how this might affect western investment and cultural relations with Moscow. He is vulnerable to pressure,” added Mr Alekseev.

OutRage! is coordinating Wednesday’s picket outside City Hall in protest at the Moscow Mayor.

Nikolai Alekseev, Organiser of Moscow Gay Pride, has issued a statement in advance of Wednesday’s protest at City Hall in London:

“Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov routinely breaches Russia’s constitution and laws, and the European Convention, by depriving gay people of their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“The real reason behind the ban of the first ever Moscow Gay Pride, held in May 2006, is not because the Mayor is concerned for the security of the participants, as he claims. The ban is motivated by his deep-rooted hatred toward homosexual people.

“Recently the Moscow Mayor said that ‘gay parades are nothing else but satanic’ and promised to ban this year’s Moscow Gay Pride march, scheduled for May, 27.

“The legal case against the ban of the first gay pride in the Russian capital is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Due to the length of the procedures, the decision will not be handed down before the Moscow Gay Pride march this year.

“Mr. Luzhkov frequently uses insulting statements against homosexual people in his speeches. He uses every possible vile argument to discredit the LGBT movement and incite hatred towards LGBT people.

“In May last year, the homophobic hysteria of the Moscow Mayor led to massive violations of the rights of homosexual people in Russia. He gave a carte blanche to fascists, ultra-nationalists and religious extremists to attack gay people without fear of being punished.

“On Tuesday and Wednesday this week Mayor Luzhkov is going to be in London – a city renowned for its respect for democratic values and freedom. He will be meeting the openly gay Mayors of Paris and Berlin, as well as the gay-friendly Mayor of London. This is probably our last international opportunity to raise the issue of homophobia by Moscow Mayor at such a high level.

“We know Mr Luzhkov feels more and more isolated from other European leaders. He is concerned about his public image in the West and how this might affect western investment and cultural relations with Moscow. He is vulnerable to pressure.

“The organisers of Moscow Gay Pride appeal to our friends in London to join Wednesday’s protest at City Hall against the homophobic Mayor of Moscow, to show him that homophobes are not tolerated in Britain.

“We need your help to prevent further violations of the rights of gay people in Moscow in May this year

“We appeal to the Mayors of London, Paris and Berlin to protest to Luzhkov against his ban on Moscow Gay Pride. Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” concluded Mr Alekseev.

Jamaican gays escape lynching

Police batter victim of homophobic mob

Four men narrowly escaped being lynched by a homophobic mob in Kingston, Jamaica, on Valentine’s Day, last Wednesday, 14 February 2007.

A crowd of around 200 people besieged the men in a pharmacy in the Tropical Plaza shopping centre, abusing them with anti-gay taunts and threats to kill them.

Fearing a possible Valentine’s Day massacre, the pharmacy staff called the police. When officers arrived on the scene they homophobically abused the four men. One man – Gareth, a leader of the Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag – was struck with a gun butt and hit on the face and head by the police.

As the police escorted the four men out of the pharmacy to be driven to safety, another of the four men was hit on the head by an object thrown by the angry homophobic mob.

Below is a firsthand eye-witness account of what happened, narrated by Gareth, who was present throughout the incident. Gareth is a leader of the Jamaican lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group, J-Flag. His full name cannot be revealed because this would enable him to be tracked down and make it likely that he would be targeted for assassination.

Acting in consultation with Gareth and J-Flag, OutRage! is urging people to protest to their local Jamaican Ambassador.

Brett Lock of OutRage! said:

“Despite abusive treatment at the hands of the police, it is progress that officers escorted the men to safety. In the past, the Jamaican police have been accused of allowing gay men to be battered and killed by homophobic mobs. Nevertheless, the abuse of these men by officers who are supposed to uphold the law is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Lock added:

“We urge LGBT individuals and organisations to press the Jamaican government to:

  1. “Prosecute the police officers who homophobically abused and assaulted the four men.
  2. “Enact comprehensive hate crimes laws to protect all Jamaicans, including
    gay people, women and people with HIV.
  3. “Introduce police training in human rights issues, to ensure protection and justice for people who are threatened and attacked on account of their sexual orientation, gender or HIV status,” said Mr Lock.

Please email your protest to the Jamaican High Commissioner in London:

His Excellency, Burchell Whiteman
Fax: 020 7589 5154
Jamaican High Commission, 1-2 Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BZ

A firsthand eye-witness account from Gareth of J-Flag:

“On Wednesday 14 February 2007, three guys were followed by an angry, homophobic woman into a pharmacy at the Tropical Plaza shopping centre in Kingston. She cursed and called them names, accusing them of being gay and saying that battymen (queers) must be killed. She attracted the attention of other shoppers in the plaza, who quickly gathered at the door of the pharmacy. This homophobic mob began shouting abuse and violent threats.

“I was already in the pharmacy purchasing items. I recognised the three men and went over and spoke to them, asking them to calm down. I advised them to deal with the situation in a different manner, since the store management had already escorted the woman outside and called the police.

“Because I had intervened to calm the situation, I was pointed at and referred to as a friend of the three guys. People said that I must be gay too. The crowd demanded that I come outside, so they could beat me. After hearing these threats, I decided to wait until the police arrived to escort the three guys out. I thought it would safer for me to leave with them, at the same time.

“The three men were supported by the store staff but verbally abused by the police and by the store’s private security personnel.

“I was violently abused by members of the police team. They slapped me in the face, hit me on the head, and the handle of a M16 gun was used to strike me in the lower abdomen.

“According to the medical report, my injuries were: soft tissue injuries to right side of face (peri-orbital), right panetal scalp with minor soft haematoma, and blunt abdominal trauma and muscular spasm. These injuries are deemed serious by the doctor who examined me.

“This assault happened because one of the police officers was being very aggressive and homophobic. I told him that he should not abuse us in that manner. The officers forcibly dragged me towards the door. When I told them not to treat me like that, they became more hostile.

“I was the only one injured inside the pharmacy. But one of the three guys was hit on the head with an object when he went outside to get into the police car.

“The police refused to tell us how we were going to get safely outside amid the angry mob of approximately 200 people. This made us very anxious.

“The homophobic abuse by the police was wrong and they must be held accountable. The Jamaican Government and police force must ensure that homophobic brutality stops.

“It was good that the police helped take us to safety. We thank them. But it is bad that they insulted and assaulted us.

“We need a full and proper investigation into allegations of police misconduct in the pharmacy and en route to the police station. The political leadership of our country must take a stand against homophobia and protect the rights of gay and lesbian Jamaicans,” said Gareth of J-Flag.

J-Flag media statement on the homophobic attack on 14 February 2007:

“A mob surrounded a store in the Tropical Plaza (shopping centre) on Constant Spring Road, calling for three men to be handed over to be beaten to death because they were believed to be homosexuals.

“The police were summoned, and when they arrived, according to eyewitnesses, they began to beat a man (Gareth from J-Flag) who was trying to make peace in the situation and ended becoming a target as a result.

“The police did eventually help the three men and the peacemaker to leave the store, but only after four of them (the police officers) had beaten the peacemaker (Gareth) with their guns and fists, insulting him and calling him a homosexual.

“The men were whisked away in a police car. While in the vehicle, all the way to the police station, the men were taunted by the police with anti-gay epithets. The insults continued even when the men arrived at the Half-Way Tree police station, where other police joined in the name-calling. The policemen at the station told them that they should
be grateful and warned them never to return to Half-Way Tree.

“Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays are united in their outrage at this blatant violation of police codes of conduct and the laws against battery by police against citizens. Rather than carrying out their duties fair-mindedly and without prejudice, the policemen were themselves the perpetrators of a violent, homophobic attack on a citizen whom they had been called to serve and protect.

“We applaud the actions of the staff at the store who showed a fundamental humanity and respect for their fellow Jamaicans, and who called for the assistance of the police. The response of the police however shows that citizens perceived to be gay remain vulnerable to attacks both from violent members of the public as well as from the security forces themselves sworn to defend against the violation of their rights.

“We call upon the Commissioner of Police, the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Public Defender to ensure that the policemen involved in this assault are brought to justice.

“We wish to reiterate that a society in which any Jamaican can be denied his or her rights as a citizen is a Jamaica in which no Jamaican is guaranteed his or her rights. We urge the authorities to accord this matter the attention it deserves as a matter of justice and human rights,” said J-Flag.

To make donations to support J-Flag’s work, please contact:

admin@jflag.org or www.jflag.org

Homophobic terror in Iraq

Hasan Sabeh was a happy, talented 34 year old a transgender fashion designer, affectionately known as Tamara. He lived in the al-Mansor district of Baghdad. In January 2007, he was tending his fashion accessories stall in a street market. An Islamist death squad, wearing Iraqi police uniforms, seized Tamara, partially stripped his clothes off and, discovering that he was a man dressed as a woman, shot him dead. Tamara’s brother-in-law was nearby and rushed to cradle his body. He, too, was shot dead at point blank range. The killers then took Tamara’s body, hanged it in public, and mutilated it, as a warning to other gay and transgender Iraqis.

Late last year, five gay activists were abducted at gun-point by Iraqi police in Baghdad on 9 November. Nothing has been heard of them since then. It is feared they may have been murdered by death squads operating under the cover of the Iraqi police.

The kidnapped men are Amjad 27, Rafid 29, Hassan 24, Ayman 19 and Ali 21. All were members of Iraq’s clandestine gay rights movement, Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender).

“For the last few months they had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, relaying details of homophobic executions to our office in London, and providing safe houses and support to queers fleeing the death squads,” said Ali Hili, a gay Iraqi Muslim who is head of Iraqi LGBT and Middle East spokesperson for the British gay human rights group OutRage!

At the time of the police raid, the five men were holding a secret meeting in a safe house in the al-Shaab district of Baghdad. They were communicating with Mr Hili.

“Suddenly there was a lot of noise, then the connection ended,” recalls Mr Hili.

Just days after these five activists were abducted, Haydar Kamel, aged 35, the owner of famous men’s clothing shop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad, was kidnapped near his home in Sadr city. The kidnappers were members of the Mahdi army, an Islamist militia loyal to fundamentalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Haydar had previously received death threats because of rumours about his alleged homosexuality. For many months, he had financially supported several men who were in hiding after they had been threatened by death squads because of claims that they were gay,” said Mr Hili.

Another recent raid was on the Jar al-Qamar barber shop in the al-Karada district of Baghdad. It was popular with gay men, which is probably the reason it was targeted. All four employees were arrested and taken away by the Iraqi police. They have disappeared.

It is feared that these 10 kidnapped men have been summarily executed.

“These disappearances are the latest ‘sexual cleansing’ operations mounted by extremist Islamist death squads, many of whom have infiltrated the Iraqi police,” notes Mr Hili. He has obtained details of the kidnappings direct by phone and email from his underground Iraqi LGBT activist colleagues in Baghdad.

“They are systematically targeting gays and lesbians for extra-judicial execution, as part of their so-called moral purification campaign. The aim of the death squads is the creation of a fundamentalist state, along the lines of the religious dictatorship in Iran,” said Mr Hili.

Earlier, in June this year, extreme lslamist death squads burst into the home of two lesbians in the city of Najaf. They shot them dead, slashed their throats, and also murdered a young child the lesbians had rescued from the sex trade.

The two women, both in their mid-30s, were members of Iraqi LGBT. They were providing a safe house for gay men on the run from death squads. By sheer luck, none of the men being given shelter in the house were at home when the assassins struck. They have now fled to Baghdad and are hiding in an Iraqi LGBT safe house in the suburbs.

“These homophobic kidnappings and murders are a snapshot of the rapidly growing power and menace of fundamentalist death squads,” added Mr Hili.

“Gays are not their only targets. They enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber’s shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

“Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of parties in the Bush and Blair-backed Iraqi government. Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s government coalition. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style clerical tyranny. They have a perverted, corrupt and violent misinterpretation of Islam.

“The allied occupation of Iraq is bad enough. But victory for the Madhi or Badr militias would result in a reign of religious terror many times worse.

“The execution of lesbian and gay Iraqis by extreme Islamist death squads and militias is symptomatic of the fate that will befall all Iraqis if the fundamentalists continue to gain influence. The summary execution of queers is a warning of the barbarism to come.

“Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. It is good that he is no longer in power. I don’t want him back. But under Saddam discrete homosexuality was usually tolerated. There was no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by religious fanatics.

“Since Saddam’s overthrow, the violent persecution of lesbians and gays is commonplace. It is actively encouraged by Iraq’s leading Muslim cleric, the British and US-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In late 2005, he issued a fatwa ordering the execution of gay Iraqis. His followers in the extreme Islamist militias are now systematically assassinating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Mr Hili.

“Despite the great danger involved, Iraqi LGBT has established a clandestine network of gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla and Basra,” said Peter Tatchell of the UK-based LGBT rights group OutRage!, which is working with Iraqi LGBT.

“These courageous activists are helping gay people on the run from fundamentalist death squads; hiding them in safe houses in Baghdad, and helping them escape to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

“The world ignores the fate of gay Iraqis at its peril. Their fate today is the fate of all Iraqis tomorrow,” said Mr Tatchell.