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To Russia, With Love

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Written by David Gibbons

It takes something of a momentous force to shock me, even surprise me. But there is something happening in this world that shakes me hard and deep to my core. I have been sat at this computer, thinking of the words to use to describe the horror and sadness that I feel for this issue. It is an issue that affects me both on a political and deeply personal level. I am going to try my best to get those who don’t know about this horrendous issue to become involved personally, because I take it very personally.

I want to paint you a picture. The picture is of a young person, male or female, drenched in blood. Around this person is stood a group of large, muscular men with bruised knuckles, each with a snarling smile on their face. Scattered around the floor are broken bottles, sharp objects, a gun and large pools of blood. This battered person is not just a person – it may be a close relative of yours. Laying broken, defeated, humiliated and left for dead. The men stood around are laughing and mocking the destruction of a young life.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin: c/o Youtube

 

This is not a painting. This is an everyday occurrence for many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual (LGBT) citizens living in Russia today. LGBT citizens are regularly being taken, against their will, from the streets or from their homes, and savagely tortured, usually with some form of video documentation. I have seen some of these events, in which young men (although this is not just an issue that affects males, it is predominantly an effort to reveal men’s sexualities) are beaten, raped, humiliated and interrogated in an effort to cleanse them of their homosexuality. One of the videos I witnessed brought me to tears, and induced an irremovable pit of sickness in my stomach. One of the victims was forced to rape himself with a broken bottle while others stood around, laughing and mocking the victim and doing nothing to stop it from happening.

I know it seems almost easy to sit back and let this play out – what can one person do? I will tell you. You can spread awareness. Human beings are being persecuted and savagely tortured simply for expressing themselves, whilst freedom of expression for homosexuals is now actually illegal in Russia, as well as the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.

The homosexual witch-hunt is being championed by President Putin who claims that Russia’s recent suppression of gay rights is about ‘protecting children‘. The banning of freedom of expression and ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ has spawned a public neo-Nazi operation called, Occupy Paedophilia of which Maxim Martsinkevich is the creator (he fled his native country to avoid criminal charges of extremism). The website is used to lure young, gay men into false dates in an effort to torture them over their sexualities. This may not be explicitly supported by Putin, but placing homosexuality in the same league as paedophilia is clearly wrong. ‘Gays should not be around children’ is the essential tagline of this witch-hunt.

Now, I am thankful to live in a country where I am legally allowed to express myself regardless of sexuality, yet it was not too long ago that there were laws in Britain which criminalized homosexuals. A particularly disturbing example was the case of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and early computer scientist, whose genius helped the allies to defeat Nazi Germany during World War 2. Turing, who worked at Manchester University following the war, was condemned for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952, under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, which criminalized homosexual acts. He was denied access to the United States and accepted probation. A condition of his probation was to begin hormonal treatment, essentially chemical castration. Turing would later commit suicide by ingesting cyanide, aged just 41. 

Statue of Alan Turing in Manchester

Statue of Alan Turing in Manchester

I myself have been subjected to a certain amount of bullying. People have hit me with bricks, spat at me and shouted hurtful, offensive comments as I walked by. Yet my mind still cannot process the treatment of gay Russian citizens, who want nothing more than equality and respect. These human beings are being subjected to actions that some of us cannot even contemplate. And it is wrong. I am calling for a widespread recognition of these issues, and a national outcry for help. I am not against Russia as a country – I am against Putin’s policy of stigmatising homosexuality and putting the country’s legal standpoint back into the past with other criminalising laws.

To any LGBT Russian citizen who reads this, I want you to know one thing. The world will fight. I will fight. My heart almost bursts out of my chest with love and respect for you all, every single one of you. This intolerance, this violence, this cruelty will not last. Stay strong, stay safe and most of all, stay yourselves. I love you.

David Gibbons is in his second year studying English Literature and Film at MMU. He is an avid music lover and film fanatic. His personal hero and career role model is Tennessee Williams. He is also passionate about Long Island Iced Teas. Follow David on Twitter @david_gibbons or read his personal blog at snobbigdivad.blogspot.com

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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