Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | 5:30PM
Lowenstein Student Lounge
Hosted by The Russian Forum and Rainbow Alliance
BACK IN THE IRON CLOSET
A New Wave of Homophobia in Today’s Russia
round table discussion and photography slideshow
No More Fear Foundation is an NYC-based non-profit organization providing legal and resettlement support to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the United States. No More Fear provides humanitarian assistance to individuals and couples seeking asylum from persecution in various countries, including the former USSR.
Misha Friedman is an award-winning documentary photographer for the New York Times and other international publications, whose long-term foci include patriotism and corruption in Russia, the war in Ukraine, immigration, etc. He will share his latest series of photos documenting the lives of gays and lesbians across Russia.
Moderated by Dr. Zhenya Pomerantsev, Russian Program Coordinator and Lecturer for the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Fordham University.
Homophobia is on the rise in Russia, and frighteningly, under President Putin, the government is leading the charge. According to recent surveys, 74% of Russians find homosexuality unacceptable by society, as opposed to 60% a decade ago. Most gay men and women live in the closet in fear of what might happen if their sexuality is discovered. Many gay clubs have been shut down or forced to move to city outskirts, cultural events sabotaged, political activists and private citizens attacked and harassed. As the 2014 HBO documentary Hunted In Russia shows, vigilante groups persecute gays and post videos of their tortures on YouTube with complete impunity. Homosexuality and pedophilia are routinely equated in the media. In 2013 a popular Russian comedy actor (who also happens to be a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church) Ivan Okhlobystin, speaking from the stage, said the following about the LGBTQ people: “I would have them all stuffed alive inside an oven. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, as a believer, I cannot remain indifferent to this, it is a living danger to my children!”
As recent as November 5, 2014 Alexei Devotchenko, a popular Russian actor and an outspoken critic of Putin, was found dead in his apartment in Moscow in a pool of blood. Authorities quickly ruled his death an accident, but several people close to the actor insist he was murdered. Devotchenko frequently voiced opposition to official Russia policies and support for LGBTQ rights on his Facebook page. Since his death all of those posts have disappeared. The risk for LGBTQ citizens in today’s Russia is very real, and because of a 2013 law banning distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, the work of making their voices heard is becoming harder and harder every day.