Protest against Russian homophobia in Reykjavík

That Russia is not the upholder of human rights is generally known. Just last night the director of the privately owned “museum of power” in St. Petersburg, Tatjana Titowa, was put to jail and interrogated the whole night before she was freed today just to be arrested again a couple of hours later. And this all because of some paintings by Konstantin Altunin, showing for instance Vladimir Putin and Dimitri Medwedew in ladies underwear or the politician Anatoli Milonow with a rainbow flag – the gay movement’s symbol. The pictures were confiscated by the police, searching for “breach of law”. Milonow was significantly involved in pushing the law prohibiting “homosexual propaganda”, meaning speaking with juveniles about homosexuality, which was recently introduced in Russia. The artist fleed to France and now seeks for Asylum as he has to fear for his life in his country.

Now people all around the globe are mobilizing for protest aiming to make the international community of the G20 at the leader’s summit this September in St. Petersburg to push Russia towards accepting plural lifestyles and state against censorship (Iceland is not member of the G20). And so did the small but lively LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) and LGBT supporting community in Reykjavík this Tuesday at 5 pm in front of the Russian Embassy. Even former Icelandic Prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was attending the protest. She was governing from 2009 until May 2013 as a part of the “Social-Democrat-Alliance” and was Iceland’s first female and worldwide the first openly lesbian head of state.

“We made a calm but very clear statement. We can’t accept a nation cutting human rights so violently and we do demand the G20 to put this topic on their agenda in St. Petersburg. Putin is using this tool of hate and homophobia in order to keep his power.” Sigríður Ingibjörg Ingadóttir, member of the Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament for the “Social-Democrat-Alliance”, was so kind to translate me her message to Putin which she told the protestors through her megaphone. Indeed, it was a very calm protest, around maybe 50 people were there, some waving rainbow flags or wearing demonstrative colorful outfits. No shouting, no screaming, no violence. It was just a cheerful but worried get-together in front of the Russian Embassy in the center of Reykjavík. Stefán was also there, my Icelandic friend, saying: “I strongly disagree what is happening right now in Russia. It is ridiculous, especially considering that the Olympic Winter games will take part in Russia this year. One thing I like about Putin though… at least he doesn’t want to attack Syria.”

Iceland is being considered one of the leading countries when it’s about gay (or LGBT, to be “politically correct”) rights. 2010 (under Jóhanna. By the way Icelanders only use their first names, even when it’s about officials) Iceland passed a law allowing gay marriage and giving it the same legal status as opposite-sex marriage. Furthermore since 27 June 2006, Icelandic same-sex couples became eligible to a range of laws including public access to IVF (in-vitro fertilization) insemination treatment, surrogacy and both full joint adoption and adopting your own partner’s biological children.

In fact Kàj and Stefán approved that there is barely any homophobia in Iceland – at least in the capital. Still, they say, it’s definitely not the case that there is none. But generally people just don’t care about what sexual orientation one has and they even said they have the feeling it is kind of “hip” or “cool” to be gay. But I find it quite interesting that this little isolated island made it to be leading about this topic. Somewhere I read as an explanation it’s because the country is so small that one eventually knows a gay person and hence could experience him or herself that there is nothing “bad” about it. That does sound a bit ridiculous to me though, as I guess there are similar little states out there in the world which end up being the complete opposite. In any case, it was nice to attend this gathering and see how quiet and peaceful the Icelanders protest. But I guess that was different at the protest during the financial crisis in 2008…

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