While he isn’t perfect and I don’t idolise him, Peter Tatchell is one of my heroes. He has consistently put his own safety on the line for the sake of human rights, especially LGBT+ rights.
In 2007 he suffered brain damage and lost sight in one of his eyes after being beaten by Russian Nazis. In 1973, he attended the World Youth Festival in East Berlin and after taking the stage to speak about gay rights in East Germany, he was interrogated by the Stasi, and threatened and assaulted by delegates from the Communist Parties.
Last week Tatchell was briefly detained in Moscow after holding a one-man protest about the treatment of LGBT+ people in Chechnya.
He was arrested for holding a placard reading “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people.”
During the World Cup, even one-person protests have been banned in some areas.
Tatchell was released after about an hour. He was able to fly back to Britain but is due to appear in court on 26 June.
Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that LGBT+ rights activists “make up nonsense for money.”
In a BBC interview in January, he said, “All those who defend human rights groups, and the gays we supposedly have in the Chechen Republic, are foreign agents. They’ve sold out their country, their people, their religion — everything.”
According to Amnesty International, in 2017 over a hundred gay men have been rounded up, abducted, tortured and even killed. A year after the “gay purge”, no one has been held to account over the crimes.
In an interview with HBO in July 2017, Kadyrov said: “We don’t have these kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are gays, take them to Canada. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them… They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people. God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the Almighty for this.”
He blamed the US for the accusations, saying, “America is conducting an anti-Russian policy against the country’s leadership. They know that I’m ready to give my life for Russia, and that I have a good army capable of attacking and defending. We’ll say how things go for everyone.”
He said later in the interview, “America is not really strong enough for us to regard it as an enemy of Russia. We have a strong government and a nuclear state. Even if our government was completely destroyed our nuclear missiles would automatically be deployed. We will put the whole world on its knees and screw it from behind.”
Kadyrov has said human rights groups are “enemies of the people.” There was an arson attack on the offices of the last human rights organisation working in Chechnya.
The Chechnya100 campaign group, which is working outside of Russia, has said that the persecutions, detentions and torture continue.
As the leader of All Russia, Putin has the power to investigate and stop the pogroms of LGBT+ people in Chechnya.