LGBT Football Fans in Moscow must be extremely Vigliant
The 2018 World Cup begins on Thursday in Moscow and thousands of fans from the 32 nations who are participating will be travelling to the Russian capital. However, there has been a stark warning to the LGBT community that Russia does not have a benign attitude to gay people, far from it. There have been threats issued by vigilante groups promising to hunt down any gay British fans who display the slightest hint of gay behaviour.
The far right Russian hooligan groups pose the biggest threat to the LGBT fans, who are effectively damned twice, once by being British and again by being gay. Since the diplomatic freeze between Britain and Russia arising from the recent poisoning of the former Russian double agent and his daughter, the Foreign Office has less ability to protect British citizens in Russia and so far has not delivered very encouraging guidance to the fans as to how to ensure that they can keep safe in such a challenging environment.
Whilst it is not against the law in Russia to be gay but there is a very strong anti-gay attitude and the Russian state does not protect the LBGT community in the same way with the same rights that heterosexuals enjoy. In fact, up until 1999 homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. The Foreign Office has not delivered a great deal in the way of reassurance to the football fans planning to travel to Moscow, so far focussing mainly on getting the fans to sign up to the Foreign Office email alerts, so that should the situation develop or become serious, they will receive immediate warnings by email.
The LGBT football fan alliance, Pride in Football, reports that two threatening emails have been received, one of which incorporated homophobic language warning that LGBT individuals were not welcome in Russia; the other went further making explicit threats of violence coupled with an image of a knife.
The Russian authorities have implied that they will be able to control any outbreaks of violence, which will possibly involve the use of a type of paramilitary force. This may, of course, keep the fans safe. However the LGBT fans would be well advised to be extremely careful about any overt displays of affection or other evidence that they are gay, especially in the light of Russia’s recent purge on the LGBT community in Chechnya when gay men and women were rounded up and allegedly subjected to torture and possibly murder. After all this is a country where there is a new online game called “Play for the President: help Putin kill naked men with a rainbow flag”, when participating in this novel game you can become a former KGB agent (Mr. Putin formerly headed the organisation) and destroy enemies of the State which of course includes the LGBT community.
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