London’s LGBT+ community came out in full force Wednesday (12th April) evening, valiantly protesting outside the UK’s Russian embassy in response to reports of ‘concentration camps’ being utilised to imprison, torture and allegedly murder gay men across Chechnya.
Leading Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed that over one hundred had been detained, with the identities of three gay men who had been reportedly murdered known. The paper reported that, in the space of a week, the men had been arrested “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such”.
Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied the report made by Novaya Gazeta at the time, expressing that “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”
The aims of the congregated masses were clear: to send a message to Russian representatives in the UK that “no human is illegal” (as chants declared), to call on the British government to respond and react to the reports and to send a wave of solidarity to all LGBT Russians that the world is watching, holding its breath and ready to make change.
Following speeches and calls for action, a pink triangle – a symbolic icon of queer resistance and solidarity in LGBT+ history prior to the birth of the pride flag – was created with pink flowers by protestors outside the gates of the Russian embassy.
Supported by Pride in London, the protest saw guest speakers across the community, citing how 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, yet the LGBT+ community still must fight for their rights around the globe.
Protest organiser Steve Taylor told HISKIND that he organised the protest “as it’s clear that we need to take action to support LGBT+ Chechens, and show solidarity.”
“The news from Chechnya is a personal affront to me. The freedoms we enjoy can too often be taken for granted. Tonight was about showing that we won’t stand by. It will always be important for people to protest. There will always be something to fight for. Right now, this is critical. We’ve got to act.”
“The pink triangle was a symbol used by Nazis to identify gay men. It has such resonance for the reports coming from Chechnya. We reclaimed that symbol and will continue to do so. And that’s why the overwhelming message from tonight was ‘we’ve been here before: never again’.”
Indie-pop singer and protest attendee Declan McKenna told HISKIND: “The main thing today is about pressing our government and the opposition to open refuges. I think it’s an important thing to address that people need to escape. It’s very scary.”
European politicians have recently demanded that British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks out about the treatment of Russia’s LGBT+ community.
PinkNews report that a letter directed to her declares: “Clearly these actions are abhorrent, and we ask that the UK government swiftly condemn the Chechen leadership, and take this to the highest level.
“We are asking Her Majesty’s Government to call an immediate meeting with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UK to seek an explanation for this outrage.”
You can sign Amnesty International’s petition calling for an end to the ordeals here.