by Rex Wockner
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1.-4. [NEW] Moscow gay pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev. File photo
5. [NEW] Iraqi LGBT founder Ali Hili. Hili is not closeted but fears for his safety in London, where he is under police protection due to several threats. Photo by Rex Wockner
6.-8. Buenos Aires. Photo by Rex Wockner
Organizers of last year’s banned Moscow gay pride parade sued Mayor Yuri Luzhkov for libel Feb. 26.
Nikolai Baev and Nikolai Alekseev seek a retraction of Luzhkov’s statement that gay pride parades are “satanic” and 2,000 rubles ($76) in damages.
“The Moscow mayor insulted me, as one of the organizers of the illegally banned gay pride march, not only as a citizen of this country but also as a believer,” said Alekseev. “[He] has no right to insult people using such words.”
Baev called Luzhkov’s remarks “part of the system of widespread defamation of homosexuals which is used by Russian politicians, public figures and journalists. I am convinced that our court claim will become very important precedent in the fight against insults directed at homosexual people in Russia.”
On Jan. 29, Luzhkov stated: “Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as satanic. We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future. … Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children.”
Last year’s pride ban, supported by the courts, led organizers to replace the planned parade with attempts to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a rally across from City Hall. Participants in both small events were violently attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police. Organizers say they will try to march again this year, on May 27.
They have filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights over last year’s ban, seeking a determination of their right to march and $26,000 in damages.
“Not a single European legal expert we have spoken with doubts in the success of our application to the court,” Alekseev said.
Italian civil union bill shelved
A high-profile political rejiggering that barely kept Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in power likely doomed the ruling party’s civil union bill in late February.
The legislation reportedly was removed from the government’s key agenda items as one of several concessions that allowed Prodi to cobble together a new parliamentary coalition large enough to save his job and prevent an election.
The bill had achieved final-draft form only on Feb. 8. The proposed law applied to both gay and straight couples, and granted rights in areas such as health care, social benefits, pensions, inheritance, rental contracts, and hospital and prison visitation.
A spokesman said Prodi still hopes to enact a civil union law down the road.
Twelve of the European Union’s 27 member nations offer same-sex couples access to either full marriage or marriagelike civil unions.
European Fundamental Rights Agency launches
The new European Fundamental Rights Agency began work March 1. It is charged with ensuring that laws in the European Union properly apply requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
But the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) has expressed “disappointment at … the lack of the agency’s independence.”
“In order to ensure credibility of this agency, it is important that the persons who will be appointed by the states on the management board of the agency are truly independent and have a strong record and expertise on human rights,” the group said.
ILGA-Europe head Patricia Prendiville commented: “We hope that the agency … will employ an integrated approach when dealing with cases of fundamental rights, equality and anti-discrimination. In many instances human rights violations have also discriminatory elements. This is in particular the case in the banning of … LGBT pride marches which occurred in the EU member states in the recent years.”
Iraqi gay activist reports ‘sexual cleansing’
Some officials in Iraq’s government are colluding with death squads responsible for the “sexual cleansing” of GLBT Iraqis, activist Ali Hili told the Faith, Homophobia and Human Rights conference in London last month.
“Iraqi LGBTs are at daily risk of execution by the Shia death squads of the Badr and Sadr militias,” said Hili, an Iraqi refugee and founder of the London-based group Iraqi LGBT.
“Members of these militias have infiltrated the Iraqi police and are abusing their police authority to pursue a plan to eliminate all homosexuals in Iraq. This is happening with the collusion of key ministers in the Iraqi government.
“What is happening today in Iraq is one of the most organized and systematic sexual cleansings in the history of the world,” Hili said.
Last November, five members of Iraqi LGBT reportedly were abducted in Baghdad and, Hili believes, killed.
“For the previous few months these activists had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, and relaying details of homophobic executions to our office in London,” he said. “I have no doubt that they were targeted not just because they were gay, but also to stop them exposing to the outside world the antigay pogrom that is happening in Iraq today.”
On Jan. 18, a United Nations Assistance Mission report validated many of Hili’s assertions.
“Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them,” the report said. “There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq.
“At least five homosexual males were reported to have been kidnapped from Shaab area in the first week of December [sic] by one of the main militias. The mutilated body of Amjad, one of the kidnapped, appeared in the same area after a few days. [We were] also alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried,’ ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed,” the report said.
Buenos Aires residents support same-sex marriage
More than 73 percent of residents of Buenos Aires, Argentina, “agree” with “same-sex marriage,” according to a new Analogias poll released by Pagina 12.
At present, Buenos Aires is one of a handful of locales in Latin America that offer civil unions to same-sex couples.
Pollsters asked 400 adults, “Do you agree or disagree with same-sex marriage?” Seventy-three percent said they agree, 26 percent said they disagree and 1 percent were unsure of their opinion. The poll’s reported margin of error was 4.5 percent.