28/02/2022 | Writer: Yıldız Tar

The war of Russia, who carries out a destruction policy against LGBTI+s in its territory, means that this policy prevails in much wider lands. In order to understand what Putin refers to with the expressions of “traditional values”, we have to remember the law banning “gay propaganda” in Russia.

Russia has turned the standard tools of homophobia into a weapon of war Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

Kyiv Pride Parade, 2021

The world awoke to occupation of Ukraine by Russia this morning. Although Russia has started a military action towards Donbas region, eastern part of the country; a great number of cities, including Kyiv, were bombed as well. Amnesty International Ukraine affirmed that Kharkov, Mariupol and Zhitomir were also among the cities bombed beside Kyiv. Although there is no official information about the total number of deaths, considering civils and soldiers, from the first day of the war which was inaugurated with the proclamation of martial law in Ukraine against the occupation of Russia, it is remarked that hundreds of soldiers and tens-of civils were dead by the information sources in Ukraine.

Putin also talked about “traditional values” as well as the expansionist policies of NATO bloc and war policy of USA in the statement he made as a declaration of war:

Properly speaking, the attempts to use us in their own interests never ceased until quite recently: they sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature. This is not going to happen. No one has ever succeeded in doing this, nor will they succeed now.”

In order to understand what Putin refers to with the expressions of “traditional values” and “the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration” mentioned in his speech, we have to remember the law “banning gay propaganda” in Russia. Putin has been counting LGBTI+s in the ideologic background of the antagonism between Russia and Europe and USA, for a long period of time. LGBTI+ rights which has been turned into a political, cultural and social symbol, is not be able to discussed as a matter of universal rights, it is rather argued as an object of culture wars, due to the law “banning gay propaganda” which was enacted across the country in 2013, shortly before Sochi Olympics in Russia.

The law and enforcement of it, exactly share a similar feature with Putin’s speech declaring war. The first enforcement of law was detention of people saying “Gay is normal” through police torture in 2012, when it was effective only in St. Petersburg. Russia had its name written in letters of gold in the list of countries oppressing their own children owing to preventing LGBTI+ organizations to benefit from funds abroad, attacking LGBTI+ right defenders, arresting them and forcing many of them to leave the country.

LGBTI+ hostility which is the bricks and mortar of nationalist policies of Russia, has become widespread in the regions which are impressed by Russia or lie in its power. LGBTI+s have been killed in the concentration camps by torture in semi-autonomous Chechnya for many years. Chechnya’s authoritarian leader Ramazan Kadyrov, who is an ally of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, has claimed over and over that Chechnya “is a state which hosts only heterosexuals and they don’t have any gays” on one hand, and on the other hand he feels free to be photographed arm in arm with Putin. It is not long now before, five years ago, in April 2017, Novaya Gazeta, a Russian sociopolitical newspaper, wrote that an “anti-gay purge”, which has made a way for arresting dozens of men on suspicion of being gay, was started by the authorities in Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation. And the authorities have told: “It is impossible to arrest them because we don’t have such kind of people in our country. Even if there were, their relatives would have bought them a one way ticket into dark.”

And today, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, LGBTI+s are under the risk of facing assassination, torture and other threats, as well as bombs and weapons. A young gay from Kyiv, we hide his name for security reasons, said that: “Everywhere is being bombed. Not only Kyiv, all part of the country is occupied. We don’t know what to do. Not only the bombs, but also the rumors, related to ‘kill lists’ prepared by Putin, frighten us.”

The information source of the rumors mentioned is US intelligence agency. The previous week of the invasion, a news originating from an anonymous case officer got into circulation. According to the news, Putin had prepared a kill list, including rights defenders and particularly LGBTI+ activists, and after the invasion they would have killed these people to start with. It is impossible to trust the information served by intelligence agencies of the states during wartime. However the sample of Chechnya displays that the war may cause worse outcomes for LGBTI+s than the rest of the society.

Russia has dropped the other shoe within the context of its strategy in order to silence and destroy LGBTI+ organizations, just a few months before the war. Following Russia LGBT Network, Coming Out LGBT and Revers LGBT+ organizations were also listed as “foreign agent” by Russia Justice Ministry claiming the Foreign Agent Law. Considering this move together with Putin’s statement we may exactly say that: Russia has turned the standard tools of homophobia into a weapon of war by portraying being LGBTI+, itself, something “specific to West”. LGBTI+ rights, acquired by fighting in many countries in the “West”, turn into a pretext for persecution against LGBTI+s in Russia and the regions which are under the influence of it, in the hands of Putin. Unfortunately both remembering and reminding the parallelism between the discourses “communist agent”, which was applied to dismiss gays by USA during Cold War, and “foreign agent”, which has been put in circulation by Russia in 2022, sounds luxury for many…

The first reaction of LGBTI+ organizations in Ukraine to the war was saying: “We remain strong.” Kyiv Pride, which had made a statement to the international press about their fears in the previous weeks, said: “Putin will break all his teeth trying to bite us. We have left far behind the past to which he seeks to draw us.” in a tweet posted in the morning hours in Ukrainian. They urged their supporters to stay at home and to be in solidarity. And they urged all the supporters across the world to take action against the war in Ukraine in order to stop Putin, once again.

On the other hand the condition in Ukraine in terms of LGBTI+ rights is not perfect. Kyiv Pride Parade has been attacked by ultranationalist groups for many years, however in 2021, thousands of people marched for LGBTI+ rights in the Pride Parade and said “Fight for right!” against the attacks. Acquired rights and spaces by LGBTI+s in Ukraine are under a great threat due to Russian invasion. The war of Russia, who carries out a destruction policy against LGBTI+s in its territory, means that this policy prevails in much wider lands. And Neo-Nazi organizations, who gained an unprecedented strength in the state with the Russian occupation of Crimea, are on the other side of the coin. LGBTI+s in the region are in danger of being crushed between the Russian hammer and the anvil of Neo-Nazi organizations, which gain strength militarily and politically in Ukraine…

As Kaos GL says in its statement titled “No to war!”: “We witnessed the oppression against LGBTI+s closely at the regions in the grip of Russia, who is the builder and the operator of the hostility policies towards LGBTI+s. While the torture against LGBTI+s is going on in the detention centers in Chechnya, the invasion started by Russia towards Ukraine, would lead LGBTI+ hostility to become widespread also in our region. We know that wars mostly affect vulnerable groups who already have difficulties in accessing rights, from the history of humanity. War policies, militarism and nationalism provoked by the states, return to LGBTI+s as violence everywhere, more particularly in the regions crushed by war. The oppression against LGBTI+s and LGBTI+ organizations would swell not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia where LGBTI+s try to survive under anti-LGBTI+ policies for a long time, together with this war.”

Translation: Selma Koçak

Tags: human rights