Friday, June 17, 2016

Russian Orlando Reaction

By Stepehen Wilson

Moscow, Russia --  "We just went there to express our sympathy with the victims and their relatives. It wasn't a political act", stated Felix Glyukman who turned up at the America Embassy to express his condolences to the victims  of a horrific terrorist attack at a Gay night club in Orlando which left 49 people dead and many more wounded. Glyukman was carrying a placard with the words: 'Love wins', along with his boyfriend. When the police noticed them they were promptly arrested. They may face charges connected with violating the laws of protest which stipulates that  Russians require special permission to organise a public demonstration. Any rainbow flags or flowers which had been laid outside the embassy were soon removed.

               At a top official level, President Putin implacably condemned the attack as an act of barbarism and  attributed the act to lax U.S. gun laws as well as the spectre of the Government of Islam.

               Maria Zakharova , a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign ministry stated words to the effect that children with development problems should be medically treated rather than shot. Her statement represents a typical opinion of how many Russians view homosexuality. However, at least it stops at calling for a pogram against gays. One famous Russian actor has gone on record as declaring : "Homosexuals should be burnt to death", and the Pro- Stalinist bikers, the Night -Wolves chant 'Death to faggots'.

               All this Anti Gay baiting intensified under a Russian law passed against promoting gay propaganda in 2013. The indefatigable Human -Rights activist Lyumila Alexeyeva described this law 'as a step towards the Middle-ages.' Perhaps largely due to this hate campaign, many gay teachers have lost their jobs and in worst cases, been  brutally murdered.

               Only a few months ago a prominent Russian Journalist, Dmitry Tsilikin, was almost certainly murdered for being gay.

                If you stay in Moscow long enough, you might witness some ugly scenes. I'll never forget seeing a young boy being set upon by a mob and fleeing from them. By what the pursuers were saying, the boy was being accused of being 'gay'.

                The event happened in the metro station Taganskya . This was well before 2013!

                How deep is this prejudice against gays in Russia? Judging by the opinion polls it appears to be widespread. According to a 2013 Pew research Global attitudes project, 74% of Russians stated that homosexuality should not be accepted while only 16% said it should be!

                This 16% can surface in the most unexpected places. A Russian teacher who got into a conversation about gay marriages told me:

                "I was horrified to discover that many of my students did not think there was anything wrong with gay marriage". The same teacher blamed the west for spreading trendy ideas about gays to Russia.

                 The implications are that becoming gay was just a fashionable choice.

                 Another English teacher was hostile to Oscar Wilde not because she did not like his style, but because 'he was gay'. When the works of literature are being banned or ignored because of the author's sexual orientation you can envisage  many potential problems.

                 An indication of how much damage this anti-gay propaganda is doing to a person's mind was brought to me from a friend. She warned me to be careful of an American gay . She whispered to me: "Be careful that this man does not try to sexually molest you ". And this was a statement from a highly educated person. So the prejudice against gays is not confined to some ignorant skin-heads, religious fanatics and uneducated people but encompasses highly educated people. A university education system does not foster an immunity system against deeply entrenched prejudices.

                 It is also worth noting that one of the arguments used by some Russian supporters of freeing Jennifer Fichter was, "A political system which supports gay marriages is disqualified from making judgments about the behaviour of Jennifer Fichter' (i.e. the teacher who was jailed for illicit sex). Russians claim that Americans condone abnormal gay sexual relations while condemning the normal heterosexual relations which Fichter conducted. They claim that the Americans have double-standards. What is more, many Russians state that while Americans and Europeans condemn homophobia, they fail to take actions to curb Rusophobia. The European Union, for all its pious declarations, has practically ignored decades of persistent discrimination against the Russian minorities in the Baltic Republics as well as Ukraine.

                 Many Russians, who were born in those countries, have not even been granted proper residential rights, never mind citizenship!

                 Russians who try to enter a university in Western Ukraine face a barrage of abuse. So if many Americans and Europeans are dumbfounded at the extent of homophobia in Russia, Russians I have spoken to can't comprehend why there is so much prejudiceagainst Russians . Why is homophobia worse than Rusophobia?

                 One of my Russian school students told me: "Everytime we opened up a newpaper in France or Germany, all you read was an article about wicked Russians. They say we all  hate  gays but I don't ". 

                  The recent doping bans on Russian sportsmen and women from participating in competitions  and the deportation of alleged 'Russian football hooligans' vindicates this feeling. Many Russians really do feel the World is against them. And they feel it is against them everyday!

                 So 'love wins' when it goes beyond both nationality and sexual orientation.

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