. by N. S. S. Jacobs @Harvalan8008
Today we speak of a cause that is near and dear to me and what I believe would also be near and dear to the beautiful hearts and minds of my favorite heroes Alan Turing and Harvey Milk: the vicious persecution of men in Chechnya for the crime of love.
Were they alive today, Harvey would be marching in the streets every day and Alan would no doubt have used a third-generation algorithm to crack Russian and Chechnian military codes to gather critical intel.
This blog post celebrates the work of many noble workers for the cause, with a special focus on Twitter advocacy.
Until recently, much of the great activist work on behalf of our Chechnyan brothers has been situated outside the USA. Pride of place goes to reporter Elena Milashina of Novaya Gazeta, who broke the story.
The work of the Russian LGBT network @rulgbtnet who worked on the ground to rescue men trying to escape, alongside the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad @RainbowRailroad remain the two most important groups to continue to support.
We also honor the decision of Lithiuana to welcome these men as refugees (touching since Harvey was Lithuanian Jew). There are also reports that a total of 5 countries have opened their borders.
We salute the incredible activism of Yuri Guaiana @yurigu and his colleagues in Moscow, as well as those brave activists who had a kiss-in opposite the Kremlin and a flash mob protest in St Petersburg.
We especially salute the work of All Out @AllOut raising awareness and fundraising the world over, as well as sponsoring a successful 3-day protest in Berlin that prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the first world leader to speak out. It’s true, protests are that powerful. We must also praise ILGA-Europe @ILGAEurope who has done much to spread awareness as well as the Human Rights Watch @hrw
But there is a shift, a rising outcry in the United States as well that is beginning to grow in momentum. We shall review briefly the great deeds done abroad to better contextualize the growing USA efforts.
The British Isles, whose finest hour was spent combatting tyranny, has certainly risen to the occasion. The London Russian Embassy was among the earliest to be the site of protest, organized by Amnesty International UK @AmnestyUK and Pride in London @LondonLGBTPride .
In England there have been protests also in Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Derbyshire, Harrowgate, Leeds, Manchester (where Alan Turing last worked), Newcastle, Norwich, Reading, Sheffield, and York. And well loved British Celebrity Elton John @eltonofficial has spoken out early and strongly.
In Scotland: Edinburgh and Glascow
Northern Ireland: Belfast.
Important fundraisers included special plays for Chechnya @chechnyaplays including Ian McKellen, @IanMcKellen and where activist Peter Tatchell @PeterTatchell also partcipatesd. Here is a recent speech by McKellen.
Another fundraiser was showing of the film PARAGRAPH 175, created by Rob Epstein @Epstein_Rob also known for THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK and several fundraisers in Dublin, including Drag Aid for Chechnya.
In this atmosphere of sustained protest and attention the members of the House of Commons, including Sir Alan Duncan @AlanDuncanMP stated their condemnation for the crimes of Chechnya and even the then current PM felt compelled to say something. Likewise Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan @CharlieFlanagan spoke out.
France too, has spoken out including three LGBT groups appealing to the International Criminal Court, as well as President Emmanuel Macron
@EmmanuelMacron whilst still a candidate and also just now in a meeting with the head of the Russian regime and welcoming LGBT refugees into France.
And who was not blown away by the protest of the Cannes Queer jury?
Much thanks is due also to the European Rights Commission which paved the way for the European Parliament’s condemnation of the atrocities, especially MEP Seb Dance @SebDance who delivered this powerful message.
We also celebrate these European protests: Lisbon, Madrid, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Stockholm, Iceland. With gratitude we note those of Tel-Aviv including members of the far-right Likud party, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and in Australia: Durham, Melbourne, Sydney. With delight we mention a fundraising bake sale in Brisbane.
We especially call attention the noble efforts of Australian Senator Janet Rice. @janet_rice and of Michelle Rempel @MichelleRempel in the House of Commons in Canada. We also thank Canadian politician Chris Alexander @calxandr for speaking out.
In the midst this powerful worldwide response the USA has also joined in. There was a fairly early protest at the Russian consulate in NYC organized by Caribbean Equality @CaribEquality . A Jewish rabbi, Josh Lesser, of Congregation Bet Haverim @cbhatl was a speaker at a rally in Atlanta.
Other protests took place to match Europe Day on May 5, including a protest in Los Angeles organized by Jewish LGBTQ Temple BCC @BCC1972 and others organized as part of the HRC @HRC Eyes on Chechnya efforts.
On May 20th another important LA protest made the local news, organized by Jennifer Rivers @jenniferrivers in partnership with the LA LGBT Center @LALGBTCenter JQ International @JQInternational , Friends of Project 10, and the World Congress of LGBT Jews.
Russian citizen and San Francisco resident Vitaly Atayev-Troshin organized a protest in Harvey Milk’s beloved city and to all appearances Curtin Jenson @curtisjunk had much to do with a specifically Castro protest. We can also expect further protests organized by the indomitable Ms Rivers and her partners. Please assist her efforts by signing this petition.
In the political realm, in the steps of Harvey Milk, it is essential to engage positively with any willing partner in this matter if that can help stop the camps. In Canada that means working with LGBTory Canada @LGBToryCanada who have been very active.
In the US that means working with the Log Cabin Republicans @LogCabinGOP who have reached out to the UN. Harvey once said that the gay community embraced all sides of the political spectrum and I think he would fight for them all and work with them if it would advance matters.
Much gratitude toSenator Benjamin Cardin @SenatorCardin who spoke out about welcoming the men as refugees and Whip Steny Hoyer @WhipHoyer who was also outspoken, the by all 100 senators who made an unanimous statement.
We thank the members of the bipartisan House Committee who co-sponsored a bill on Chechnya:
Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen @RosLehtinen who took leadership in this venture.
Rep Eliot Engel @RepEliotEngel
Rep Chris Smith @RepChrisSmith
Rep Darell Issa @DarellIssa
Rep Ed Royce @RepEdRoyce
Rep David Cicilline @RepCicilline
We also call attention to the Bipartisan LGBT Caucus @LGBTEqCaucus made up of LGBTQ Congresspeople and their allies. Harvey Milk would have loved this group. The Co-Chairs of the Caucus are the six openly LGBTQ members of Congress:
Rep David Cicilline @RepCicilline
Rep Sean Patrick Maloney @RepSeanMaloney
Rep Krysten Sinema @RepSinema
Rep Jared Polis @jaredpolis
Rep Mark Pocan @repmarkpocan
Rep Mark Takano @RepMarkTakano
On May 17, IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) @may17IDAHOT Caucus members encouraged their colleagues to speak out. Among those speaking out were committee members:
Rep Ted Lieu @RepTedLieu
Rep Jan Schakowsky @janschakowsky
Rep Jamie Raskin @RepRaskin
Among those who spoke out on Twitter, some with personal videos, were:
Senator Ed Markey @SenMarkey
Senator Chuck Schumer @SenSchumer
Rep. Nydia Velazquez @NydiaVelazquez
Rep. Ro Khanna @RepRoKhanna
Rep. Adriano Espaillat @RepEspaillat
Rep. Alan Lowenthal @RepLowenthal
Rep. D. Wasserman Schultz @RepDWStweets
Rep. Seth Moulton @sethmoulton
Rep. Mike Quigley @RepMikeQuigley
Rep. Tony Cárdenas @RepCardenas
Rep. Pramila Jayapal @RepJayapal
Rep. Jackie Speier @RepSpeier
Rep. Brad Schneider @RepSchneider
Rep. Dan Kildee @RepDanKildee
Rep. Lois Frankel @RepLoisFrankel
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke @RepYvetteClarke
Rep. Bill Foster @RepBillFoster
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman @RepBonnie
Others who have spoken out in one way or another include:
Senator Jeanne Shaheen @SenatorShaheen
and both Senators from California, including
Senator Kamala Harris @SenKamalaHarris who gave a statement to be read at the May 20 LA Chechnya rally
Other helpful US organizations includes the Human Rights First @humanrights1st which has heard direct testimony from these men, the Holocaust Museum @HolocaustMuseum and the Anne Frank Center @AnneFrankCenter both of which have made powerful statements.
One important outspoken activist has been Dustin Lance Black @DLanceBlack who has studied the life of Harvey Milk, is behind the compelling “When We Rise” series @WhenWeRiseABC and has spoken directly on this issue.
Among celebrities, Raymond Braun @raymondbraun was one of the earliest to speak out and encourage his followers to take action.
When I asked Jai Rodgriguez @jairodriguez to donate to Chechnya, he took time from his busy schedule to respond favorably, showing both his classiness and his concern.
Other vocal celebrities have included:
Daniel Newman @DanielNewman
George Takei @GeorgeTakei
Rosie O’Donnell @Rosie
Melissa Etheridge @metheridge
Special praise is due to Debra Messing @DebraMessing
We also commend the efforts of Kevin Orr @KevinDarryl, who not only wrote several Palmer Reports @PalmerReport on Chechnya such as this and this but played a key role in urging celebrities into action.
If you are a celeb and belong here, let us know!
An AllOut @AllOut petition targetting Chancellor Angela Merkel was especially effective.
It is important to stress that even petitions addressed to those unsympathetic to the cause carry a power to them as a gathering of public opinion and help keep the world’s attention on Chechnya throughout social media.
An area of particular concern has been the issue of granting visas to or otherwise helping fleeing men in Canada, the US, and the UK (no longer active), which if acheived, would be a significant advance. Please do consider signing the Canadian and US petitions.
The momentum of all who have spread the word, written poetry, shed tears, raged, cursed,felt despair, yearned to something, donated money, fundraised, protested, all of you, it has not been in vain. It has created a global tidal wave of concern that in time will be unstoppable. I’d like to think that our brothers, trapped and tortured, sense in some way that they are in our thoughts, our hearts, our very souls.
And may that sustain them until we can put a stop to this. From there we will aid our family in Iran, Ukraine, Indonesia and more. And intersectional creatures that we are, we will come to the aid of all populations who currently targetted and threatened both in North America and worldwide.
We bleed for our Syrian family, our Black family, our Muslim family. our Refugee/Immigrant family — in short for all groups that are not part of the current ruling powers: the Usses. as Harvey termed them.
We are truly one earth family and in helping one group, we help all. And indeed this is the mission of the Harvey Milk Foundation @HMilkFoundation, headed by Harvey’s beloved nephew Stuart Milk @StuartMilk , who inspires and organizes the world over.
There is hope yet in the wind. Marriage equality in Taiwan, many positive bills in the US to help our trans family, bills banning conversion therapy. A wall of people united in spirit and love shows us that ‘they cannot conquer forever.’ As we keep their spirit in our hearts, Harvey Milk and Alan Turing truly live. Our combined love is more powerful than the hate of those who are wreaking harm and havoc, especially if we organize and hit the streets and keep the political pressure at a fever pitch.
Looking for Protest Inspiration? Click on the highlighted cities and countries above or click here to seea curated collection of numerous photographs and video footage of wordwide protests .
Have you taken action as a group, or as individual but you are overlooked in this article? Are you eager to take further action on Chechnya? Please do let us know so we can honor you and perhaps put you to work. Also please sign this petition, seeking organizers.
My thanks to these honored advocates and organizations who are inspired by Harvey’s hope and Alan’s merit to continue their great work in service of humanity.
And sending my love and support to our LGBTQ siblings in Chechnya and all in need of love and sunshine in these challenging times.
You can also learn more about the plight of our family in Iran, Nigeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Tanzania, Ukraine, Morocco as well as our trans sisters of color in the US,
READ MORE ABOUT CHECHNYA, POLITICS AND HARVEY