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European LGBTQ+ activists stand in solidarity with Ukraine counterparts

LGBTQ activists across Europe continue to offer assistance to their counterparts in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion

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A Budapest Pride supporter protests outside the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, on Feb. 24, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Budapest Pride/Twitter)

CHISINAU, Moldova — LGBTQ+ activists across Europe continue to stand in solidarity with their counterparts in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion of their country.

“We are ready to host LGBT+ people from Ukraine here,” said Anastasia Danilova, executive director of Genderdoc-M, an LGBTQ+ rights group in Moldova, which borders Ukraine, told the Washington Blade on Sunday. “We will provide all necessary support: Accommodation, meals, counseling and medical support.”

Genderdoc-M members on Feb. 24 participated in a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital.

Danilova described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “crazy guy.” Danilova also noted Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region, is in Moldova.

“[Putin] is sick and he is unstoppable,” said Danilova.

“Moldova used to be a part of the Soviet Union and we have a frozen conflict in the Transnistrian region,” added Danilova. “We have Russian troops.”

Mozaika, an LGBTQ+ rights group in Latvia, a Baltic country that borders Russia, on Sunday tweeted the country’s LGBTQ+ community is “together with Ukraine, both in thought and deed.” Mozaika through its online Diversity Shop is selling Ukraine-specific t-shirts and other clothes to raise money for the country’s LGBTQ+ rights groups.

Diversity Shop in Latvia has created a line of merchandise in support of Ukraine.

EuroPride fundraiser has raised more than €16,000 ($17846.32) for Kyiv Pride and Kharkiv Pride in Ukraine. OutRight Action International has raised more than $105,000 for LGBTQ+ Ukrainians through a fund it created after Russia launched its invasion of the country.

“Let’s give our community some sense of hope and help, by providing the funds they need to survive, and the resilience they need to thrive,” said OutRight Action International in its appeal.

Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia), an LGBTQ+ rights group in Poland, which borders Ukraine, has also urged their members and supporters to help LGBTQ+ Ukrainians. Kampania Przciw Homofobii, like advocacy groups in Hungary and other European countries, have also participated in protests against the invasion.

“Don’t be passive: Act,” proclaimed Kampania Przciw Homofobii in a Feb. 24 tweet.

The Latvian Saeima (Parliament) lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. (Photo courtesy of Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis’ Twitter page)

Situation for LGBTQ+ Ukrainians ‘is dire’

The invasion has sparked worldwide condemnation and sweeping sanctions against Russia, Putin and members of his inner circle. 

Magomed Tushayev, a Chechen warlord who played a role in the anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown in his homeland, on Saturday died during a skirmish with the Ukrainian military’s elite Alpha Group outside of Kyiv, the country’s capital. A White House official late last week told the Blade the Biden administration has “engaged directly” with LGBTQ+ Ukrainians and other groups that Russia may target if it gains control of their country.

“We remain (in Ukraine) to defend ourselves and our country and will continue to help people,” wrote Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ+ rights group, on Feb. 24 in a Blade op-ed. “Our activists from the LGBTQI+ communities are staying and keep working, providing support to the most marginalized ones. Honestly, I don’t know how long we will be able to resist, but we will do our best for sure.”

Anna Sharyhina co-founded the Sphere Women’s Association, which is based in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city that is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in eastern Ukraine. Sphere Women’s Association, among other things, organizes Kharkiv Pride.

“The situation we, activists, human rights defenders, the LGBT+ community and the entire Ukraine, are in is dire,” wrote Sharyhina on Sunday in an email to supporters. “Several times a day, for hours and hours, we hear explosions of varying intensity and receive information about new shelling and attacks by Russian troops.”

“Even now, while I am composing this address, I hear shootings and explosions,” added Sharyhina. “It is extremely hard to work and make even simple decisions in such conditions. Many have left, others are seeking shelter locally.”

Sharyhina said the organization plans to begin to hold “daily online emergency meetings” and has begun to plan on how “to help people in the LGBT+ community because they are in a very vulnerable state.”

“We have come to a conclusion that funds may be needed for housing, food, relocation from dangerous areas, hygiene products, warm blankets, mats, and so on,” wrote Sharyhina, who asked supporters to make donations.

“With sincere faith in freedom, democracy and human rights in Ukraine,” ends the email. 

                

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Norwegian suspect in LGBTQ+ bar shooting refuses to cooperate

Large crowds gathered Sunday near the London Pub to lay flowers and other tributes many of those gathered waved Pride flags

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Screenshot/YouTube Norwegian News Services

OSLO, Norway – A spokesperson for the Norwegian Police Service  (Politi- og lensmannsetaten) said that the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at the London pub in Norwegian capital city’s night-life district is refusing to cooperate with investigators.

The 42-year-old suspect, identified as Zaniar Matapour, is a Norwegian citizen originally from Iran. Two people were killed and more than 20 were injured in what police officials have labeled as an “Islamist terror act.”

Matapour, (left) is shown at the time of his arrest immediately after the shooting on mobile phone video broadcast on Norwegian television.

An official with the Norwegian Police Service told media outlets that investigators tried they tried to question Matapour on Saturday after his arrest and again on Sunday without success.

The Associated Press reported that Matapour’s defense lawyer, John Christian Elden, told the AP in an emailed statement that that his client refused to have his statement recorded and videotaped unless police released the entire recording to the public “with no time delay so it won’t be censored or manipulated.”

Elden previously said to media outlets including the Associated Press his client did not deny being the shooter but had not divulged any motive. The lawyer said Sunday that Matapour did not object to remaining in custody for four weeks so would not appear in court on Monday.

In the Norwegian judicial system pre-trial detention hearings are normally held every four weeks.

Large crowds gathered Sunday near the London Pub to lay flowers and other tributes. Those gathered waved Pride flags as they defiantly commiserated remembering the two victims killed along with the other twenty persons injured in the shooting spree which police say occurred at three locations in the neighborhood around the bar.

The city’s Pride parade had been cancelled as a precaution after the shooting.

 

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and a member of the Royal family, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, joined mourners in a memorial service Sunday at Oslo Cathedral for the victims of the attack.

Speaking in Sunday’s memorial service, the Prime Minister pointed out that “the shooting in the night hours put an end to the Pride parade, but it did not stop the fight and the efforts to fight discrimination, prejudice and hatred.”

Stoere addressed Norway’s Muslim community as well telling them;

“I know how many of you felt when it turned out that the perpetrator belonged to the Islamic community. Many of you experienced fear and unrest. You should know this: We stand together, we are one community and we are responsible for the community together.”

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Europe

Mass shooting in Norwegian capital cancels LGBTQ+ Pride, leaves 2 dead

The Norwegian Police Service are investigating the matter as an act of terrorism. The suspect is a Norwegian citizen originally from Iran

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Inger Kristin Haugsevje, head of Oslo Pride being interviewed after mass shooting (Screenshot/YouTube Global News)

OSLO, Norway – A gunman entered an establishment popular with the LGBTQ+ community in the Norwegian capital city’s night-life district on Saturday morning at approximately 1 a.m. local time and opened fire killing two people and injuring dozens more.

A spokesperson for the Norwegian Police Service  (Politi- og lensmannsetaten) told the Blade in a phone call that officials are investigating the matter as an act of terrorism. According to the official, the suspect is a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran.

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the suspect had entered the bar and produced a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and started shooting.

A reporter with Norway’s largest broadcast media outlet NRK, Olav Roenneberg, who was on scene when the shooting started, told NRK colleagues in an interview;

“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag- He picked up a weapon and started shooting. First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”

The police official while not confirming the weapon used did acknowledge that the shooter had been known to Norwegian officials in the country’s security services since 2015 as a “suspected radicalised Islamist” and also apparently had a history of mental illness. The official also pointed out that up until the incident there were no previous major criminal acts committed by the suspect.

Because of the incident, organisers of the Pride parade which had been scheduled to start hours after the shooting was cancelled. The parade was set to culminate the week long Pride festivities in Oslo.

Norway’s Prime Minister Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere wrote in a public post on Facebook, “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.” He added “We all stand by you,” showing support for the country’s LGBTQ+ citizenry.

Norway’s King Harald V issued a statement offering condolences and said he and Norway’s royal family were “horrified by the night’s shooting tragedy.”

“We sympathize with all relatives and affected and send warm thoughts to all who are now scared, restless and in grief,” the Norwegian monarch said. “We must stand together to defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other. We must continue to stand up for all people to feel safe.”

Oslo Pride issued a statement concerning cancelling the Pride parade;

Oslo Pride has received clear advice and recommendation from the police that the parade, Pride park and other events in connection with Oslo Pride be canceled. Oslo Pride therefore asks everyone who has planned to participate in or watch the parade not to attend. All events in connection with Oslo Pride are canceled.

Now we will follow the police’s recommendations and take care of each other. Warm thoughts and love go to relatives, the injured and others affected. We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will hold and share the pride celebrations from home, says Inger Kristin Haugsevje, leader of Oslo Pride and Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of FRI – The Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity.

Oslo Pride has close communication with the police and is following the situation, and will provide ongoing information.

The White House reacted to the news of the shooting issuing a statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan;

“The horrific shooting in Norway this morning has been felt around the world. The United States strongly condemns this act of terror. We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims, the diverse and strong LGBTQI+ community of Oslo, our close NATO ally Norway, and all who have been devastated by this senseless act. The United States has been in touch with the Norwegian government and offered to provide assistance. We remain committed to continuing to partner with Norway to advance a more equitable and just world for all, free from violence and discrimination.”

Oslo shooting being investigated as act of terrorism:

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Europe

Since 2014 LGBTQ+ Pride has been banned in Istanbul, 2022 no different

“We would like to thank our entire network of lawyers and venues that have supported us. We won’t give up, we are not afraid!”

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LGBTQ+ people gather in Istanbul, Turkey & face-off against police defying ban (Screenshot/YouTube EURONEWS)

ISTANBUL – The Beyoğlu and Kadıköy District Governor’s offices which oversee the mega metropolitan area of this ancient city located on both banks of the straits of the Bosporus connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, have once again banned the city’s LGBTQ+ Pride march.

The Governor’s offices announced a ban on all gatherings in both districts, where Pride Week events have traditionally been held, on Monday, June 20, 2022 the Diken news site reported, citing the Turkish Law on Demonstrations and Public Meetings.

“We have obtained information that between 21 June 2022 (Tuesday) and 23 June 2022 (Thursday) gatherings, press releases, marches, distribution of leaflets, etc are planned to be held within the scope of the 30th ‘Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week,’” the governor’s statement said.

“All events are banned in all open and closed areas for seven days.”

Had the Pride week march and accompanying festivities been allowed to take place, it would have marked the 30th anniversary of Pride in the megacity.  Istanbul’s LGBTQ+ pride parades, which attracted up to 100,000 people from across the region, have been banned since 2014 , with officials citing security reasons for the ban.

In the past years since the ban first was enacted, Turkish Police and LGBTQ+ activists had clashed with police units firing tear-gas pellets at the crowd along with physically violent arrests.

Turkish police confront LGBTQ+ Pride participants at a café in 2019 (Screenshot/YouTube EURONEWS)

Turkish Media Independent Media/News Outlet Ahval reported Monday that Turkey’s LGBTQ+ groups accuse the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of waging a “hate campaign” against them, encouraging violence against a vulnerable community.

Turkey has ranked second worst country in the European Union for LGBT people, scoring only above Azerbaijan, according the 2022 “Rainbow Europe” ranking compiled by Brussels-based NGO advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, ILGA-Europe.

Less than a week ago in Ankara, Turkish Police officers carrying clear-plastic riot shields, wielding batons and deploying pepper powder balls as well as tear gas violently broke up a Pride Parade organized by Middle East Technical University students on their campus.

LGBTQ+ participants of a forbidden gathering in 2019 reacting to tear gas fired by Turkish Police. (Screenshot/YouTube AP)

PinkNewsUK reported that the Istanbul LGBTQ+ Pride Week Committee issued a statement shortly after the announcement, saying that the decision was “illegal” and that they would use “our rights [to] make the necessary objections”.

“Today, with the start of Istanbul 30th LGBTI+ Pride Week, police inspected the venues where the events would take place, under the guise of ‘general control’,” the group said. “The law enforcement officers tried to put pressure on the venues by asking for documents such as tax plates.

“We would like to thank our entire network of lawyers and venues that have supported us. We won’t give up, we are not afraid!”

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