Showing posts with label International Hate Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Hate Crime. Show all posts

August 22, 2016

Turkey Moving Away from Secularism and into Hate Crimes


A widespread crackdown on dissent is fuelling tension across Turkey, which has seen a rise in hate crimes against minorities – including a recently reported attack against a well-known transgender activist in Istanbul.

Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported that the badly burnt and mutilated body of Hande Kader, a 22-year-old LGBT activist and sex worker, was found on August 8 by the roadside in a residential area of Istanbul.

Although DNA evidence has yet to confirm the remains belong to Kader, the director of a gay rights group said her boyfriend and some friends had positively identified the body.

Emirhan Deniz Çelebi, the director of SPoD, a national LGBT organization based in Istanbul, joined other LGBT associations in condemning what they believe is deliberate silence by the country’s mainstream media in the wake of the activist’s death.

"We are not equal,” he said.

After Kader was arrested during an equal rights rally and faced down police water cannons during last year's Gay Pride parade, she became a symbolic figure in the LGBT community.

“We are being murdered and they do not hear our voices, because the rules in Turkey don't protect us”, said Deniz Çelebi.

Outraged supporters launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of Kader’s death and the plight of the LGBT community in Turkey. On Twitter they shared the hashtag #HandeKaderSesVer (MakeSomeNoiseForHandeKader), while on a petition was circulated to advocate for better protections for those in the community.

Last Thursday local activists took their cause to the capital, holding a press conference outside the parliament to highlight the daily risks confronting LGBT members.

Kader’s murder comes less than two weeks after the beheading of a gay Syrian refugee whose body was found not far from where Kader was discovered.

Muhammed Wisam Sankari, who had fled war-torn Syria, was found decapitated after being raped and assaulted. He could only be identified by the clothes he was wearing.

Minorities targeted

After last month’s failed coup in which the government instituted a state of emergency, the rights of minorities including gays, women and LGBT members have been whittled away.

While the Turkish capital has been a safe haven for many fleeing persecution and war in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, hate crimes against LGBT people have increased.

“Since the coup-attempt, a number of my transgender friends have called me and talked about how they were discriminated against because of their ID Cards and appearance,” Deniz Çelebi said.

Turkish lawyer and LGBT rights advocate Levent Pişkin said Erdogan’s rampant purges have exacerbated the fears of minorities.

“Actually, LGBT people in Turkey have never had legal rights,” said Pişkin.

“But we knew there were judicial mechanisms to support us. Nowadays, most people feel more vulnerable.”

Shift away from secularism

Although homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey as it is in many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread. Almost 80 percent of Turks believe homosexuality is “morally unacceptable” according to a 2013 study by the US think tank PEW Research Center.

Pişkin said Kader’s death is symptomatic of a country shifting away from secularism.

“An Islamic tendency has gradually been getting stronger,” said Pişkin.

“The government has preferred war over strengthening our democracy. Therefore, our democratic rights and one’s right to life hang by a thread.”

LGBT activists will stage a demonstration on Sunday in Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue to raise further awareness about Kader's death.

pic BBC

June 6, 2016

Another Gay Rights Activist Murdered in Honduras

Members of the gay and lesbian community demonstrates in demand of justice for the murder of the human rights advocate and leader of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, Walter Trochez, in 2009, in Tegucigalpa, on May 13, 2011.  AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
More than 200 killed since 2009

A leading gay-rights activist in Honduras was strangled to death this week, adding to the already alarming violence against LGBT people in the Central American country.
 Rene Martínez, 40, went missing on Wednesday after leaving his home in San Pedro- 
(pic from ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sula’s Chamelecón neighborhood.  On Friday, relatives identified his body at the morgue.
The U.S. embassy in Honduras described Martínez as “a leader in the LGBTI community… and a rising political figure in Honduras.” 
“We offer our condolences to his friends and family,” it added, “and expect a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances of his death.”
Martínez was president of Comunidad Gay Sampredrana, and worked to combat the violence that plagues the country’s LGBT community.
Human rights groups estimate more than 215 LGBT Hondurans have been killed because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity since the 2009 and 2015. 
 Threats can come from any direction: Shortly after the 2009 coup d’état, activist Walter Trochez (above) was reportedly assassinated by the new regime for organizing dissent. 
In 2012, journalist Erick Alexander Martínez was tortured and strangled to death just a few weeks after being selected as the first openly gay candidate to run for Congress in Honduras. (Prosecutors insisted his murder was a crime of passion by a drug-dealing boyfriend.)
Just this past January, Paola Barraza, a trans woman and human-rights advocate, was shot to death outside her home in Comayagüela. “I’ve been imprisoned on many occasions. I’ve suffered torture and sexual violence because of my activism, and I’ve survived many assassination attempts,” activist Donny Reyes told Index on Censorship.
Editor in Chief of NewNowNext. Comic book enthusiast. Bounder and cad. "I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try."

December 5, 2015

Fighting Being Gay and Palestinian

You mentioned that you were not interested in doing a film about your relationship. You've called this a "90s idea." I think I know what you mean but for Americans not familiar with 90s Israeli cinema, can you explain?In the 90s there was this crazy cinema scene in Israel with a lot of movies about gay relationships with Jews and Arabs, Palestinian and Israeli. There was "The Bubble" and some others. And in these movies the Jewish Israeli is always the savior of the Palestinian.There's something about this idea that is really old and not significant in my eyes. If we want to show something we should show a community growing up and not the Jewish savior again. [My ex] David is so powerful and I love him but I didn't want to concentrate on the relationship between an Israeli and Palestinian because we're past that. We've seen that concept and this would have just been the gay documentary version. David and I were in a great place and I didn't have the urge or need to show it to the whole world. I didn't want to say, "Oh, look at us! Our people are killing each other and we are living together in peace and love." I wanted to show the struggle of three friends, each one in a different point in his life. Americans in the States are familiar with the idea of the gay Israeli. They don't need David to show that to them. But for them the idea of the gay Palestinian is new. If they think of gay Palestinians they will always think he is a victim. We wanted to show that Israel and the Western Media don’t have a monopoly on liberalism. (
It was an LGBT-themed film festival held outside the borders of Palestine, featuring a number of works by directors who were neither gay nor Palestinian. But the first-ever Kooz Queer fest, which had a modest bow earlier this month in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, made little ripples of history in its own right. The tiny three-day fest, established by grassroots org Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women, and held across a handful of Haifa coffee shops and art venues, opened up a dialogue about the overlaps of occupation and sexuality; and of the borders of individual identity in the context of an uncertain international existence.

This story first appeared in the December 01, 2015 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.
The goal of the fest: to provide a platform for home-grown, gay-themed films at a time when most LGBT Palestinians still feel a need to stay closeted.

Films made by, and about, gay Palestinians are few and far between. But the team at Aswat, inspired by similar grassroots festivals around the world, nevertheless felt the time was right to launch their fest.

“Most films talking about gay Palestinians are made by Israeli or Western eyes, and they don’t represent the real voice of Palestinians,” says Hanan Wakeem, Aswat’s educational project manager.

To that point, Israeli helmer Eytan Fox introduced gay Palestinian characters in his films “Walk on Water” (2004) and “The Bubble” (2006); Israeli Yariz Mozer made history in 2012 with his expose “The Invisible Men”; and British documentarian Jake Witzenfeld debuted his groundbreaking “Oriented,” about gay Palestinians living inside Israel, this past summer.

But Palestinian audiences have yet to encounter a successful full-length feature film on LGBT issues made by one of their own.

“Most films talking about gay Palestinians are made by Israeli or Western eyes, and they don’t represent the real voice of Palestinians.”
There are so few such works, in fact, that the dozen films in Kooz’s lineup featured only three made or co-made by Palestinians. One, “Condom Lead,” the Cannes-screened debut short from the Gaza-based Nasser brothers, deals intimately with straight sexuality, but doesn’t touch upon homosexuality at all. The other two were the short “Diary of a Male Whore” by Tawfiq Abu Wael; and full-length docu “Homecoming Queen,” in which a Jewish-Palestinian couple chart their personal experience traveling home from the debauchery of Stockholm drag shows and back to occupied Ramallah.

To supplement their material, Aswat turned to movies from Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and even the U.S. Despite the films’ diversity, they all circled around the same broad themes: sexuality, borders both real and relative, and the evolving presence of LGBT activism in the broader Arab world.

Wakeem describes the fest as a response to so-called Israeli “pinkwashing,” the term, often used by Palestinian advocates, to describe a deliberate Israeli strategy of promoting the Jewish state’s gay-friendly policies in a bid to turn attention away from the occupation.

The organizers of the San Francisco-based Outside the Frame film festival, which launched this past summer with the tagline “Queers for Palestine Film Festival,” echo Wakeem’s sentiments.
“What we were trying to show is that (the occupation) isn’t just an issue for Palestinians,” says Kate Raphael, one of Outside the Frame’s founders. “All queers should care about it, because it’s a human rights issue.”

Outside the Frame showed a number of Arab-made films, but none by Palestinians. Raphael says the reason may have been the fest’s demand that participating directors pledge not to show their work at Frameline, San Francisco’s respected and long-running annual LGBT fest.

The reason? As part of its funding, Frameline accepts money from the Israeli government.

Contacted for a statement, Frameline executive director Frances Wallace pointed out that her fest receives funding from a number of countries, and added, “Any funds Frameline receives are used to support and serve our mission and LGBT film arts programs.”

Outside the Frame has no plans for a repeat festival, but Wakeem hopes that Kooz will become an annual event. The pool of films is small now, she says, but it needs to grow.

“A lot of Palestinian queers live in the West Bank, and they want to stay there; they don’t want to move to Haifa or Tel Aviv,” she says. “We need to focus and encourage people to tackle these topics more, and not just talk about the obvious occupation and the relationship between Palestine and Israel.”

FILED UNDER: Eytan Yariz Mozer

April 10, 2015

Gay Asian Flee for their Lives “I can no longer feel the pain”

Joe Wong, 31, a transgender man from Singapore who had his breasts and uterus removed, poses for photograph at his apartment in Bangkok.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Joe Wong, 31, a transgender man from Singapore who had his breasts and uterus removed, poses for photograph at his apartment in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Long before Joe Wong surgically removed his breasts and uterus, he was Joleen, who once used an entire roll of brown duct tape to flatten her chest in an effort to look less feminine at her new secondary school in Singapore.
A close relative, angered by her clumsy and obvious attempt to bind her breasts, struck her on the head, pulled up her shirt and tore off the tape, ripping off bits of skin in the process.
Joleen endured a childhood of daily beatings from this relative, a knife pressed to her face, a death threat, and forced therapy with an expensive counselor who told her she was "disgusting" for kissing and holding hands with girls.
"When you get beaten every day, you no longer feel the pain, you just feel numb," said Wong, now a 31-year-old transgender man working with the Asia Pacific Transgender Network rights group in Bangkok.
Across Asia, which is largely patriarchal and conservative, the violence lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face is often from their own families, who beat them to make them conform and maintain the social balance, experts say.
Bangkok has become one of the destinations for migrating LGBT Asians because of a civil partnership law.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Bangkok has become one of the destinations for migrating LGBT Asians because of a civil partnership law.

Homosexual acts are illegal in 78 countries around the world, punishable by jail time in places including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, according to the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Such laws drive stigma and discrimination, and essentially condone family violence, though the problem remains hidden, glimpsed through many anecdotes but little data, activists say.
To escape the beatings and find a sense of belonging, LGBT people in Asia flock to cities in their own country, and increasingly - with the Internet and social media easing migration for jobs and gay marriage - many like Wong are leaving their home country altogether.
"I've never been more at home than now, even though I'm not at home," he said, his deep voice, broad shoulders and moustache betraying no sign of his childhood as a girl.
"I removed everything that was bringing me down. I removed the toxic people in my life. Now it's just me and my problems that I have to confront," said Wong, who did not identify the abusive relative to avoid further straining family ties.
"I feel really liberated," he said as he sipped a fruit shake in a quiet cafe next door to the offices of APTN.
A key reason for family violence against LGBT people in Asia - and the way this region differs from other parts of the world - is the “family shame factor", says Ging Cristobal, the Asia-Pacific project coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 
"You do not shame your family, because it's not part of the norm in that society. It's a taboo," Cristobal said in a Skype call from Manila.
Many Asian families push LGBT relatives into what the Chinese call "marriages of convenience", partly to help parents save face.
One Pakistani lesbian in her mid-20s fled to Bangkok two years ago because she was forced into marriage in Pakistan and was facing death threats from her own family, said Anoop Sukumaran, executive director of the Bangkok-based Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, which is helping her as she applies for UNHCR refugee status.
While young LGBT people are theoretically covered under laws protecting children from violence, most suffer in silence for fear they will otherwise have no one to look after them.
Cristobal said she often advises young LGBT people who rely on their family for their tuition to find supportive friends, and then seek a college education or find work away from home.
"Then you try to be stealthy. You try not to give clues that you are an LGBT person," Cristobal said.
Wong says he could turn to no one for help when he faced violence at home. "Sometimes neighbors intervened... but even police wouldn't do anything about family violence," he said.
Many gay Asians have fled to Bangkok in the past decade after facing death threats and arranged marriages at home in countries like Pakistan.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Many gay Asians have fled to Bangkok in the past decade after facing death threats and arranged marriages at home in countries like Pakistan.

Activists say including sexual orientation and gender identity in laws, policies and programs to prevent violence against women and children would reduce family violence against LGBT people.
For instance, Cristobal said a young man in Manila contacted her via Facebook last year because his brother had threatened to kill him because he was gay. She told him to call the police.
"The brother was not there any more. Police came and gave their personal mobile number. The neighbors saw the police... were supportive of the gay guy, so I think that regulated them from directly telling him negative things," she said.
Vietnamese mother-son activists Lily Dinh and Teddy Nguyen say family attitudes in Vietnam have changed since the government decriminalised same-sex marriage.
In 2013, Vietnamese government officials organized discussions on same-sex marriage, and invited Dinh - who heads a small chapter of PFLAG, a group for parents and friends of LGBT people - to speak, along with others from the group.
"I think that was the first time the government officers from the ministry of justice and from congress met LGBT people in real life, and the first time they met with LGBT parents, too," Dinh said in a Skype call from Ho Chi Minh City.
"We told our stories because we wanted the government to understand the difficulties our children face in their daily lives... I think that the officials understood and felt empathy for the PFLAG members and for the LGBT community."
The U.N. Development Program recently gave PFLAG Vietnam a $24,000 grant to travel to five provinces over the next six months to raise awareness of LGBT issues and rights.
“Things are getting better ... but it will take time for the government and society to understand clearly LGBT people, especially in the rural areas," said Dinh.     REUTERS

December 1, 2014

Uganda Gay Activist on Intensive Care After Beating

kelly attacked by Ugandan mob
Human rights Defender Kelly attacked by mob
A Ugandan human rights defender and activist known in the LGBT community has been brutally attacked today by a mob and rushed to a Kampala emergency hospital.
After a loss of blood, from what seems like multiple injuries, including a badly injured eye, Kelly Mukwano, was administered first aid,  collapsed and was sent to intensive care, where he is currently stabilized and undergoing treatment.
Kelly has been subject to persecution by police with several arrests. After an October arrest, he described his ordeal with police as “the most trying moment of my life.” He managed to get what he termed “Police Bond,” with the help of a friend in Norway, and also the return of a confiscated laptop. However I am informed he has undergone constant harassment since the last arrest.  The arrests and persecution have been linked to blackmail against Kelly as he is perceived to be gay and a so called “promoter” of homosexuality. As far as we know there are no actual charges against Kelly. This is typical of what LGBTI people face in Uganda due to the extreme and harsh anti-gay climate.
Severely Injured Ugandan Activist
Severely Injured Ugandan Activist
Activists in Uganda are shocked and heartbroken by the attack, noting that anti-gay persecution through evictions, firings, police harassment, arrests and assaults, is again on the rise.
He recently attended the ILGA Conference in Mexico. He is heading up the “Hate No More” campaign and founded a small group in Uganda.
It is apparent that Kelly tried to obtain a visa to the United Sates but was denied.
This comes at a time when activists are certain that the new recently drafted and worsening Anti-Homosexuality legislation, The Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014, will pass Parliament, as pushed by MPs and President Museveni , who is fighting to ensure support for his re election. According to an activist on the ground in Uganda,  Museveni is more concerned about this critical election than he is about international sanctions. After the Bill is passed, it is certain that Museveni will again “play” President Obama and the International community as he has done in the past.
This is the time of crime that is state sanctioned through police and public persecution alike, only exacerbated by the push for more anti-gay legislation.
Shaken friends and fellow LGBTI activists are thanking people in advance, asking for prayers for Kelly.
UPDATED Nov 29, 2014. 10.54 AM PST:
KellyKelly is resting and is going to be alright. He has been released from the hospital. Is in a lot of pain and is resting at this time. He is being looked after by friends.
A police report will be opened.
I received a comment from a local Ugandan journalist, Andrew Bagala, saying that this attack is conjured up. (See screenshot below and the comment on this post). Nothing could be further from the truth, unless there are excellent make-up artists on 24 hour standby in Uganda and people worthy of an Oscar:
Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 10.12.53 AM
I wrote back to the Ugandan journalist,  Bagala, as can be seen below.  Why does the Ugandan press and why do professional journalists try to deny these attacks?  Are they being paid off or are they suppressed? I suggest people like Bagala do their homework and start to report the atrocities being committed against LGBTI and human rights defenders perceived as such, instead of pretending that the anti-gay climate is not hurting anyone. I suggested that the Press is complicit in these attacks by not exposing how the anti-gay climate is impacting the Ugandan citizens who have done nothing wrong:
Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 11.02.08 AM

Proof positive that the Ugandan Press seems intent on trying to suppress the harm and persecution against gay people. Undoubtedly the anti-gay climate and push for new legislation will endorse state approved homophobia and direct mob attacks like this. No good comes of  Andrew Bagala, a seasoned journalist denying the attack, instead of reporting the facts.
By Melanie Nathan,

September 14, 2014

German Gay ManCritically Injured after beating in Belgrade


 A German man who took part in a gay rights conference has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after he was attacked in central Belgrade. The assault comes ahead of a scheduled gay pride march in the city. Serbian police say the man, who has been identified only as D.H., was beaten up by unknown assailants in downtown Belgrade early on Saturday *morning*

Jovanka Todorovic, from the organization Labris which hosted the conference on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) rights, told Associated Press the man was attacked by a group of young men who bashed him with a glass ashtray.
He was taken to Belgrade's emergency hospital suffering life-threatening head injuries and internal bleeding.
"He has undergone surgery and been put in intensive care as his condition is very serious," Dusan Jovanovic, the hospital's deputy director, told news agency AFP.
Serbia's Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said in a statement that he had ordered an "intensive investigation" to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"We will not allow these kinds of things to remain unpunished ... and we will arrest the German citizen's attackers," he said.
The incident is not unique in Serbia. The country has a long history of violence against gay rights campaigners by far-right groups - a serious challenge for the government, which is currently seeking EU membership and has pledged to improve its protection of human rights.
Later on Saturday, anti-riot police were on hand as hundreds of gay rights activists marched through central Belgrade in protest of the latest attack.
The gay pride parade is scheduled to take place in two weeks and will be the first event of its kind since a gay pride march in 2010 resulted in clashes between police and ultra-nationalists that left more than 100 people injured.
After clashes in 2010, authorities banned such marches, citing security concerns that participants may be attacked by right-wing extremists.
nm/sb (AFP, AP)
 1950 Yugoslav leaders peer from reviewing stand in Belgrade during May Day parade.  At right foreground, smiling, is Marshal Tito.  At Tito's right is Foreign Minister Edward Kardelj.

June 4, 2014

Judge Passes Sentence in France on 2 Men on Homophobia Attack

Wilfred de Bruijn was left with horrific injuries following the attack last year
 This is Wilfred de Bruijn

Two men have been sentenced to 30 months in jail by a Paris court for an April 2013 attack on a gay couple who were walking arm in arm in the city19th arrondissement. 
According to Pink News, K Taieb and M Abdel Malik, both 19, also received 15 months’ probation. A third man, T Kide, 21, will not serve time in prison as the court found he did not take part in the attack; instead, he was given six months’ probation for not intervening. A fourth alleged attacker, who is under the age of 18, will reportedly face trial in youth court, but the date is unspecified.
In the aftermath of the attack, Wilfred de Bruijn posted photos of himself with a bloodied face and a missing tooth and wrote an accompanying message that said, “Sorry to show you this . . . it’s the face of homophobia.” De Bruijn also sustained broken bones around his eyes.
A French advocacy group has claimed that the campaign against gay marriage led to a surge in anti-LGBT discrimination in 2013. 
French President François Hollande signed off on his countrycontentious and hard-fought gay-marriage law in May last year.
SOS Homophobie’s annual report states that the group received3,500 reports of homophobic and transphobic discrimination, covering insults posted on the internet or heard on the streets and at work, as well as threats and physical attacks. They claim a 78-percent increase in reports of such incidents last year compared to 2012.

April 16, 2014

After Attack and Overdose Gay Rights Advocate Left Dying 3 Hrs Before Police Gave help

                                                                       Terence McCartney had taken a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs

A coroner has raised serious questions after hearing how the PSNI took three hours to gain entry to a flat where a man had taken an overdose. 

Police told the inquest into the death of Terence McCartney (42) they had no means of getting into the apartment block where he lay dead or dying.

The well-known gay rights campaigner, known as Terry, had taken a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol.

The court heard that an hour before his body was found, Mr McCartney’s sister Caroline Ferry found a Facebook message from him that read: “Thank you for everything. Tell mum I’m sorry.”

He had also been assaulted just hours before he died in a suspected homophobic attack, although his injuries were not major.

Questioned by coroner Jim Kitson, one PSNI officer told the court there was no policy or procedure for keeping contact details for keyholders to apartment blocks in the city, or on how to gain entry to them.

The inquest heard that police had received an emergency call at 6.30am on February 5, 2013 from Mr McCartney's friend, Christine Hegarty.

She was very distressed after a telephone conversation she had just had with him, in which Mr McCartney told her repeatedly: “It's too late, it's over.”

A short time into the call Mr McCartney's speech became very slurred and he started making gurgling noises and could be heard gasping for air.

Ms Hegarty told the court she then used a second phone to call the police while trying to keep her friend talking.

But she said she ended the call to Mr McCartney on the advice of police — without having obtained an exact address for him.

Ms Hegarty explained that although she had previously seen Mr McCartney on a daily basis, he had moved to an apartment in John Street three weeks previously and she was unsure of the exact address.

Police were dispatched to John Street 10 minutes after Ms Hegarty made the call.

Two officers successfully gained entry to one block of apartments there, and were able to establish that Mr McCartney wasn't known there.

But two other officers were unable to gain entry to the second block — Meridian Court apartments — where Mr McCartney was living. A police officer told the court that neither he nor his colleague knew the code for the outer door that would allow them inside. He said that even though they rang the internal buzzers of all 30-plus apartments, no-one answered.

By the time police gained entry to Mr McCartney’s flat at around 9.30am, he was already dead.

The call dispatch officer who was on duty at the time confirmed that there was no policy or procedure within the PSNI in Derry whereby they held contact details for keyholders of apartment blocks, or other details to gain entry.

Mr Kitson voiced his concern about this and said: “If something like this happened in the city tonight does it not concern you that you would not be able to gain entry?”

The officer said it was a matter of concern but added: “There is a large number of apartments in the city so it would be quite a task to actually go around and get codes into all of them.”

Mr Kitson said that this failure to gain entry “was one factor in this case”. He ruled that Mr McCartney had sadly died as a result of choking.

He said this had been brought on by a failure of his gag reflexes due to the effects of the high levels of alcohol and prescription drugs in his system.

“Having heard from Terry's family and friend Christine and from his GP it is clear that Terry was a gentleman who clearly had issues around substance abuse who had previous indulged in self harm and had attempted suicide,” said the coroner.

“I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this was a serious suicide attempt, but was a cry for help.”

Mother weeps as she hears of son’s last hours

Terence McCartney's grieving mother wept as she listened to harrowing evidence about the final few hours of her son's life during his inquest in Londonderry yesterday.

Coroner James Kitson heard from Mr McCartney's friends how he was prone to binge drinking and had in the past taken ‘legal highs' but that he had hoped to go to a detox centre to get help to stop drinking.

His substance abuse was confirmed in a statement from his GP who also provided evidence that Mr McCartney had a history of self-harm and previous suicide attempts.

Margaret McCartney, who is wheelchair bound, was comforted by her family during the difficult and painful evidence about her son.

The court was told how he had been assaulted by a group of men in what is understood to be a homophobic attack on Shipquay Street at around 1.30am on February 5, 2013.

However results of a post-mortem showed that although there were minor cuts and abrasions on Mr McCartney's face consistent with a fall to the ground and a punch to the mouth they would not have contributed to his death a few hours later.

One witness, Gavin Gillespie, told the court that he had been driving around Derry with two friends between 1am and 2am on February 5, 2013 and saw Mr McCartney on Shipquay Street.

Mr Gillespie said they stopped and spent some time with Mr McCartney and shared a bottle of whiskey Mr McCartney had with him.

They left but returned 45 minutes later and saw Mr McCartney still there — but by now there was also a group of around 15 men present.

Mr Gillespie said he got out of the car and his two companions left. Mr McCartney was being verbally abused by some of the crowd, with one man in particular “being mouthy”.

Mr McCartney was described as being polite and had “tried to calm things down”. Mr Gillespie said he left the scene after trying to “stand up” for Mr McCartney when the man who was being abusive to Mr McCartney challenged him.

Mr McCartney's friend Christine Hegarty told the court that when she was talking to him just a few hours later he had said: “You should see the state of my face.” He added: “I am fed up with all of it.”

Ms Hegarty added that she offered to take Mr McCartney to hospital but he repeatedly told her: “It’s done, it's too late.”


March 18, 2014

Two Countries that Experienced Inhumanity Now Are Making Inhuman Their Gay Population

It is a tragic irony that two countries in Africa -- Nigeria and Uganda -- that for many years experienced the subjugation of colonial rule have recently enshrined into law discriminatory practices that dehumanize their own citizens.
In Uganda, a draconian bill recently signed by President Yoweri Museveni makes it a crime to be gay. Any person convicted of "the offense of homosexuality" faces life imprisonment. Anyone found guilty of "funding or sponsoring homosexuality or other related activities" will be sentenced to a seven-year jail term.
Apart from being a flagrant abuse of human rights, the new law will severely impede the efforts of any organization conducting HIV prevention and outreach programs serving gay men in Uganda.
Gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS -- in Uganda and the world over. Driving a community that is already stigmatized further into the shadows will seriously undermine progress on the global epidemic, progress that depends on reaching the most vulnerable populations.
Opprobrium from the U.S. and other nations is greeted by Uganda's leaders with a familiar refrain: Stop trying to impose your values on us. But the United States is as entitled as any nation to espouse a set of values, and if those values enshrine the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect, then we should make every effort to export them.
The struggle against HIV/AIDS, now in its fourth decade, has always also been a human rights issue.
In the early days of AIDS in the United States, when confusion, ignorance and hysteria reigned, there were those who called for people with HIV to be quarantined or tattooed. Until recently, HIV-positive people were barred from entering the United States. Fighting for its life in the early 1980s, the gay community rose up and the struggle for gay rights became the civil rights struggle of the tail end of the 20th century.
It is far from over, but with the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which sanctioned anti-gay discrimination in the military, and victories on same-sex marriage in 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, we have made substantial progress. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called gay rights one of "the defining civil rights challenges of our time."
Responding to the passage of the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda, President Barack Obama said it would "complicate" the United States' relationship with Uganda.
Instead, the passage of this blatantly discriminatory piece of legislation should fundamentally alter our relationship with Uganda, a country that receives close to $500 million annually from the U.S. in foreign assistance, largely for HIV/AIDS programs.
To make its position abundantly clear, the U.S. should redirect its assistance for HIV/AIDS and other health and development concerns toward nongovernmental and civil society organizations working in Uganda. Indeed, if protecting the human rights of gay people is in fact a priority of U.S. foreign policy, then we should re-examine our relationship with all countries receiving foreign aid and restructure our relations with those that criminalize homosexuality.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu rightly declared in condemning the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law: "There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification."
What does exist, however, is the very real possibility that this cancerous bigotry will spread to other countries wishing to scapegoat an easily targeted minority.
If they have an ounce of humanity, the governments of Uganda and Nigeria will repeal these odious laws without delay.

March 17, 2014

Spike in homophobia fuelling LGBT activism


 On a recent Sunday evening in March, the basement community centre in downtown St Petersburg was bustling. Representatives of many of the city’s LGBT activist groups, donning pink triangle pins and rainbow scarves, had gathered to drink coffee, play board games and discuss various projects at a weekly meeting sponsored by safe sex education group, LaSky. The mood was bright and, according to veterans, there were many fresh faces.
“There are about three times the people that were here one month ago,” says Evgeny Jordan, an activist who has been fighting for LGBT rights for more than two years. Jordan attributes the increased number of attendees to Stop Hate, an initiative launched by Dmitriy Chizhevsky on Jan 8.
Stop Hate is a grassroots organization working to mobilize St Petersburg’s LGBT community to participate in demonstrations and to defend their rights. “We are trying to do something that no group has done since the decriminalization of homosexuality 20 years ago,” Chizhevsky says. “We are trying to learn how to inspire the community to act.”
Chizhevsky created the group after he was attacked at LaSky’s coffee gathering in November. Two masked men broke into the space and shot Chizhevsky, leaving him blind in one eye.
The group has spent the last two months canvassing people at clubs, and the results have been surprisingly positive.
“At first everyone told us that people in clubs are not interested in activism,” Chizhevsky explains. “But we surveyed 310 people and got a lot of positive feedback.”
According to Stop Hate’s research, 232 of the 310 respondents have encountered homophobia, and 184 support LGBT activism.
“It turns out that the LGBT community is on the brink of becoming active,” Chizhevsky says. “They understand that what is happening is not right, and they are ready to go out on to the street and to stand up for their rights.”
Chizhevsky and his team have also collected 3,000 phone numbers to invite LGBT people to take part in the rainbow delegation of the annual International Workers Day parade, held in St Petersburg on May 1.
“We believe that homophobia in Russia is fuelled by the government,” Chizhevsky says. “The only way to stop it is to show the government that the harder they try to oppress us, the more we will rally and the more power we will have.”
Stop Hate collaborates with larger, established organizations in the city, including the LGBT Network and Coming Out, both of which provide psychological and legal support services.
LGBT activism in Russia a late bloomer
From the dawn of the Soviet period until 1993, homosexual intercourse was illegal in Russia, and LGBT community members kept their private lives a secret. According to Alexander Kondakov, researcher at the Centre for Independent Social Research in St Petersburg, the invasive nature of the Soviet government discouraged the community from fighting for its rights.
While social reform swept the Western world in the 1960s, with activists pushing issues from the private sphere to the public to demand protection against abuse and violence, Russians clung to what little privacy they had.
 “What you were doing in your bed was already a concern of the state,” Kondakov says. “As a result, people did not want private issues to become political — they wanted to keep the private sphere for themselves — and on that ground a political movement was impossible.”
The first activist group appeared after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. That year Alexander Kukharsky, a professor of physical electronics who had lost his post for helping gay students avoid persecution, gathered twelve people in his St Petersburg apartment to form the Krilija (Wings) Centre. The group was registered as an official not-for-profit organization in December 1991 and continues to operate today.
In its heyday, Krilija provided LGBT people with psychological support, legal help and any other support services they could offer. In 2006, Kukharsky helped organize the first Pride parade in St Petersburg. Today, members meet monthly to discuss pressing issues and organize lectures.
“Our mandate is to help LGBT community members at critical points in their lives,” Kukharsky explains. “We are volunteers, so we cannot provide the amount of support a larger, well-funded organization like the LGBT Network can offer. Still, we help anyone who asks.”
Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, smaller grassroots organizations popped up in Moscow and in St Petersburg. The most successful, Triangle, a Moscow-based group led by Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, attempted to unite the initiatives. The group folded due to a lack of funding, as well as legal and social harassment.
Joining forces
According to Kondakov, two separate currents of activism appeared in the mid-2000s. In Moscow, a  movement focused on bringing people out onto the streets to demand equality began to emerge. In St. Petersburg the LGBT Network began to work towards building a national support network, with small chapters in provincial towns, while Coming Out focussed on local community-building initiatives.
Moscow’s activists, led by Nikolai Alekseev, founder of, were more provocative. “For them Pride was the most important idea,” Kondakov says. “They believed public actions like the gay Pride parade they held in 2005 would result in more respect for human rights.”
In St Petersburg, organizations focussed on providing LGBT people with support. “They wanted to first build strong, closed communities so that they could develop the idea of human rights internally,” Kondakov says. “Then, when they were ready, the community would go out on the streets as a whole.”
Recent anti-gay legislation, accompanied by an escalation in assault, has brought the two currents closer together, and has stimulated the formation of more active groups.
“The state explicitly declared its position, and that position is violent and homophobic, so the LGBT movement is reacting with more resistance,” Kondakov explains.
In May 2012, former politician Natasha Tsymbalova created the Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality. “After the anti-propaganda law came out, I realized I was spending all of my free time on LGBT activism,” she says. “I knew that public action, advocacy and education were needed to improve the situation, and created the alliance.”
The Straight Alliance bridges gaps, both between other activist groups and the two currents of LGBT activism in the country. Tsymbalova’s group collaborates with local political groups, supporting protests against the Sochi Olympics and the war in Ukraine. Also, they do not shy away from making noise by organizing their own public actions and education campaigns.
“We are more aggressive than other organizations because we are not registered, so we do not need to be afraid of being closed down or fined,” she explains. “They are trying to back us into a corner, but we will not stay there. We will continue to come out and blister their eyes. It will be easier for the government to agree to treat the LGBT community with respect, and to protect human rights, because we will not let them forget that they exist.”
Although there is much work to be done before Russia’s LGBT community can hope for conditions to improve, many activists are cautiously optimistic about the future. “LGBT rights in the West are the result of many years of struggle,” says Roman Melnik, an activist and a photographer. “To have our rights we must also pass through this phase.”
For Kondakov, collaboration is the key to success. “Of course the most important thing we can do is change this government,” he says. “But that is no easy task. Political organizations need to redefine their agenda and seek allies. Trade unions, migrant workers, feminists and all those who feel deprived of their rights should unite around the same struggle because all of our aims are the same: we are all struggling against inequality, injustice.”

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