Widespread support for Sochi protest this Friday

ON FRIDAY 7th February, to coincide with the opening Ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, a protest gathering will be held outside Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The gathering’s aim is to highlight the maltreatment and discrimination of minorities in Russia, especially the LGBT+ population.

Photo - Gaspar Shabad

Photo – Gaspar Shabad

The event, happening between 10a.m and 2p.m on the concourse, has received widespread support from societies and the Students Union, and will be in the form of a peaceful protest, and will include activities such as hand/finger nail painting in the rainbow flag colours of the LGBT+ movement.

Since the 30th June 2013, it has been illegal in Russia to produce ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’, after a law was passed by the Russian parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin. The official punishment for these ‘crimes’ is a fine up to 1 million roubles or 90 days imprisonment, and expulsion from Russia for a foreign national spreading propaganda, which can be as simple as holding hands in public.

The legislation has also been used as a cover by many groups within Russia to commit verbal and physical attacks upon the LGBT+ population, attacks which are largely ignored by the authorities, with victims unlikely to go to the police due to indifferent responses.

High profile celebrities such as Stephen Fry have spoken out against the attacks and actions of the Putin administration, with several Olympians deciding not to attend the Olympics due to the treatment of LGBT+ people in the host state. In addition, Hollywood actor Wentworth Miller, best known for his role in award-winning drama Prison Break, publically came out as gay when declining an invite to the Saint Petersburg International Film Festival, saying:

“I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly”.

The organiser of Friday’s demonstration, Gaspar Shabad, expressed his passion for the cause, stating:

“It is a hard time for those groups being oppressed by Putin’s regime and its inactivity in preserving the human rights of EVERY Russian citizen. It is upon us to show that there are people who care for their struggle; that the people affected are not alone. In addition, this is the perfect opportunity to highlight the extent of abuses.”

“If you would like to support an honest and just cause; if you would like to stand on the right side of history… We welcome anyone that wishes to join us.”