Authorities in Moscow have arrested and released longtime British LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell, after he took part in demonstrations as the FIFA World Cup began in that city last week.
Tatchell, who has been a vocal critic of the Russian Federation’s treatment of LGBT people, especially in Chechnya, where wholesale beatings and torture have occurred during the ongoing purge of gay men there, said “Getting arrested is standard for Russians who protest for LGBT+ rights or against corruption, economic injustice and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its bombing of civilians in Syria.”
The activist noted his release was secured by his status as a visitor. “Unlike brave Russian protesters, I have the ‘protection’ of a British passport, which means I have been treated more leniently than they are,” Tatchell observed.
The protest marked Tatchell’s sixth visit to the Russian capital, including trips in 2007, when local neo-Nazis attacked him, leaving him with permanent brain damage.
Undeterred by his brief incarceration, Tatchell decried President Vladimir Putin‘s ignorance of the horrors unfolding in Chechnya, pointing out that “President Putin has failed to condemn and act against the homophobic witch-hunts in Chechnya, which have seen scores of LGBT+ people arrested and tortured, with some even being killed.”
Even notable personalities, Tatchell says, are not immune to the purges. “The singer Zelim Bakaev disappeared in Chechnya in August 2017 and has never been seen since,” he stated.
During major international events such as the World Cup, it is common for Russian authorities to quell visible signs of dissent, especially those dealing with mistreatment of LGBTQ communities.
Homophobia has worsened in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to the United Nations, which monitors human rights abuses worldwide.
The Duma, or Parliament, enacted a law just prior to the 2012 Olympics, which were played in Russia, which criminalized discussions of homosexuality in public, or “within earshot of children”. Tatchell was released unharmed, the Peter Tatchell Foundation said.