December 5, 2016

The Human Cost of Bringing LGBT Rights to the Forefront

 A Small gay Protest in Moscow was quickly extinguished a few years ago

Aleksandr Sidorov is on a quest to get Russians to engage in a discussion about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the country’s most homophobic cities.

His quest has taken him to Siberia and the Far East, then last week to Dagestan in the North Caucasus. There, in a region where homophobia is rampant, he paid a heavy price for his mission – he was beaten up by a group of men in Makhachkala, the local capital.

A video of the attack shows one of masked men who had repeatedly kicked Sidorov as he lay on the pavement, standing over him menacingly as an official approaches. After the attackers fled, Sidorov went to the police, but they refused to register his complaint. Defeated, he left the station. The police then called him to say “a hunt for you has been declared,” picked him up and had him spend the night at the station in the interest of his security. Sidorov has since left Dagestan.

On November 30, Sidorov filmed himself walking around neighbourhoods of Makhachkala with a poster that read “To hate gays is an anti-science delusion.” In Sidorov’s vlog posted to his Youtube channel ‘SiberianGuyRu,’ three young men approach Sidorov. One of them asks, “Are you gay or what? Yes or no? Come on, move away.” He then repeatedly calls Sidorov a “fag”. Sidorov responds by encouraging them to read up on the subject of homosexuality. In another clip posted to Sidorov’s vlog, a driver reverses his car to photograph the activist. Sidorov explains in the vlog that many passersby photographed him and then posted these photos on social media.

The next day, on December 1, the group of thugs attacked the vlogger. “When I was walking alone [in Makhachkala] without my banner, an individual in a mask approached me with a few more people. They beat me up,” Sidorov explained. He posted a photo with his cheek visibly swollen. He also suffered multiple bruises.

Dagestan’s police authorities told the press they had received no complaints from Sidorov about the attack.

HRW regularly reports on attacks on LGBT people and those seeking to defend LGBT rights in Russia. The attacks have been on the rise since Russia adopted a discriminatory “gay propaganda” ban in 2013. Russian authorities consistently fail to investigate or prosecute these cases as hate crimes and with very few exceptions, the attacks remain unpunished. It is imperative that the government does its LGBT citizens justice and finally puts an end to discrimination and homophobic attacks.

Claudia WagnerAlfa Fellow, Europe and Central Asia Division

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