A correspondent questions the relationship between Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage! and the right-wing Russian politician Alexey Mitrofanov.
Mr Peter Tatchell has a particular record on the rights of Muslims and has been very strongly criticized for exaggerating the role of Russian Muslim leaders in opposing Moscow Gay Pride. It is interesting and it has not been widely reported that, while he now proclaims his heroism in Moscow recently, the most prominent role at Moscow Pride was played by an openly fascist, strongly anti-Muslim politician from a viciously anti-semitic party that has called for the elimination of Jews from Russia.
So far as I know Mr Tatchell has not tried to disassociate himself from Alexey Mitrofanov, who was the central figure at the pre-Pride press conference and who by all reports was everywhere at the event. This is despite the fact that several Russian gay organizations distanced themselves very publicly from Mitrofanov, and that the prominent role that organizers gave him has been very strongly criticized even by human rights organizations that supported Moscow Pride.
So far as press reports indicate, Mr Tatchell rode to Moscow Pride in Alexey Mitrofanov’s car. It seems to me that he should be asked publicly what is his position on his public association with this anti-Muslim fascist, and his role (or motives) in supporting Pride (Mr. Mitrofanov’s party has on other occasions called for the death penalty for gays). I would like to draw your attention to the report of Human Rights Watch on Moscow Gay Pride:
“Amid such hatred, it is ironic that on May 11, 2007, the openly racist politician Alexey Mitrofanov, a parliamentary deputy, became the only national political leader to endorse lesbians and gays’ right to hold a pride parade. Mitrofanov is deputy leader of the ultra-nationalist and xenophobic Liberal Democrat Party.
“Mitrofanov had belittled violence against other minorities in the past, mocking claims that prejudice underlay attacks on foreigners and saying that ‘if [the victim is] a foreigner, then [they say] it’s based on nationality. If a Russian professor in [Petersburg] gets knocked on the head, it’s ordinary hooliganism. That’s not right.’ He had also dismissed ‘attacks on blacks’ as ‘mere hooliganism’. Mitrofanov’s party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is notorious for his vocal anti-Semitism and racism. In 2004, he called for the death penalty for homosexual conduct, saying, ‘We can put an end to this perversion, this influence of the Western civilization.’
“Moscow Pride gave Mitrofanov (and, through him, his party) a unique moment of respectability, the chance to appear onstage with European politicians. At the same time, his prominent role – which many supporters of LGBT human rights rejected – did not prevent nationalist violence or police arrests. Meanwhile, other Russian political figures with a contrasting record of supporting rather than slandering minorities nonetheless remained silent on Moscow Pride.
“In conversations with Human Rights Watch and ILGA-Europe, several Russian LGBT activists stressed that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights can only advance in coalition with movements combating hatred, racism, and xenophobia.”
The footnotes to the Human Rights Watch report state: “Mitrofanov is best known, though, for his virulent verbal assaults on Chechens and Russian Muslims. In 2004 he ran for governor of the Pskov region under the slogan ‘Criminal southerners out!’”
I do feel that publicly bringing Mr Tatchell’s attention to the paradoxes around his association with Alexey Mitrofanov would be useful. Does he agree with other Russian gay activists that the interests of the Russian gay movement could be better served by alliance with “movements combating hatred, racism, and xenophobia”?
Very possibly the lesbian and gay rights program at Human Rights Watch may have more information on this situation as well.