Glasgow protests Chechnya gay rights violations

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Austen Shakespeare
Reporter

Pride Glasgow, an LGBT charity, recently organised a demonstration in George Square to oppose LGBT rights violations in Chechnya, Russia.

The demonstration featured several guest speakers, including SNP councillor Susan Aitken, Stewart McDonald MP, community activist Alastair Rose, Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, and Patrick Harvie MSP; all of whom expressed solidarity and opposition to the Chechen regime.

Before the speeches, organisers distributed small pink triangles for protesters to wear, a symbol historically pinned to prisoner uniforms in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexuals. Organisers described this as an apt symbol of solidarity, given reports of the running of makeshift concentration camps in Chechnya that are allegedly housing, abusing and torturing homosexuals.

SNP councillor Susan Aitken proceeded to speak, saying that in modern times, political comparisons with the Nazis were usually reductive, but owing to the scale of the abuses by Chechen authorities “there is no other comparison to be made”.

Aitken went on to praise the city of Glasgow for having a unique history of supporting tolerance. The councillor cited the city’s large and warm reception of Nelson Mandela in 1993, as an example of the city’s commitment to this sentiment.

Patrick Harvie MSP berated the UK government for what he called its “shameful record on refuge and asylum”. He also vocalised support for the allocation of special refugee visas to the UK for LGBT people living in Chechnya, and supported an “immediate pressure to offer sanctuary”.

Harvie later stated he wished to see the Council of Europe officially declare the Chechen victimisation of homosexual men as a crime against humanity.

The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sadie Docherty, later expressed agreement with Harvie’s sentiments, stating that Glasgow and Scotland “fails if we do not stand up” to the situation in Chechnya.

Further criticism of the UK government was issued by Stewart McDonald MP, who declared that “now is not the time to discuss foreign aid cuts”.

McDonald also gave support for a proposed governmental position of an LGBT rights envoy, which would involve monitoring LGBT rights abroad, and a report of developments submitted to the Prime Minister.

In comments made directly to The Glasgow Guardian, McDonald expressed hope that the current conservative government would have no issue with labour politician Michael Cashman being appointed to the position of LGBT rights envoy, owing to the bipartisan nature of the job.

He continued to say that pressure from the UK government for the decriminalisation of homosexuality should be a Foreign and Commonwealth Office issue, rather than an issue for the Department of International Development.

McDonald also stressed the importance of the UK “being in the room” in terms of maintaining relations with Russia in order to obtain progress.

Community activist Alastair Rose emphasized the importance of sending a “strong message to regimes” that the abuse of any LGBT community would not be tolerated. He went on to say that it is important to continue defending LGBT rights across the globe including those in Africa and Brazil.

Rose also urged people to contact their elected representatives, in order to put pressure on Glasgow’s Russian twin city, Rostov-on-Don, in an effort to voice the UK’s condemnation to Russian authorities.

The demonstration concluded with Eva Cassidy’s musical rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, during which the organisers requested the audience to be silent as a mark of respect.