Russia: Lesbian activist pleads mass asylum over anti-gay laws — ‘get us the hell out of here’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A lesbian journalist and activist living in Russia has said that anti-gay violence and legislation has gotten so bad for the country, their only hope now is to get as many LGBT citizens to asylum as possible.

In a Huffington Post interview, Masha Gessen said it is time for Russian LGBT citizens to flee the country in order to escape what she says has now become an “all-out war” against gay people.

President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

On Friday, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children.

Ms Gessen said she has already sent her eldest son overseas because she feared he would be taken by the government.

She said: “My situation is that my partner and I are raising three kids, one of whom is adopted and two of whom are biological.

“In June the Russian parliament banned adoption by same-sex couples. It was a fair assumption that the law could be used to annul the adoption of our oldest son, so we made the decision to send our oldest son out of the country immediately.”

She added: “I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning. I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, ‘They’ve finally filed the bill.’ Obviously we’ve talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up.

“And she’s 11. She sat there thinking. After about 15 minutes she said, ‘Can I stay with my other mom if they take me away from you?’ She can’t grasp this, that they’re trying to outlaw our whole family, that there isn’t the option of going with one or the other.”

Ms Gessen claimed that despite international protests, the crackdown on LGBT people in Russia has only gotten worse, and that LGBT Russians are “living through an all-out hatred campaign that’s been unleashed by the Kremlin.”

She said: “You turn on the television, you see somebody highly placed, talking about whether the homosexual ‘propaganda’ law is enough, or if we need to take it further. That sounds like a call to violence.

“It’s taken as a call to violence, sometimes operating in many cities, in the very center of Moscow, in the trendiest of bars, where people have been getting beaten up, and the police do not interfere. Anti-gay violence is seen as par for the course, and if you don’t want violence, remove the gays, not the perpetrators.”

Ms Gessen believes that the events of recent days, and Putin’s interview with the Associated Press this week, in which he claimed that charges of homophobia were exaggerated and that Russia could not be homophobic because “Tchaikovsky was said to have been gay” and Russians love his music, show that criticism from outside is not going to change anything inside Russia.

She said: “At this point, with the fact that they’re proposing this law during the G20 Summit, it shows that no Western pressure is going to keep Russia from passing anti-gay laws, from endangering the lives of lesbian and gay people, from endangering our families.”

“It’s high time to talk about asylum,” she added. “The only way at this point that the US can help Russian gays and lesbians is get us the hell out of here.”

As President Obama met with LGBT activists as his last official engagement during his trip to St Petersburg for the G20 summit this week, the activists noted the significance of the fact that he met with them.

The head of the Russian LGBT Network Igor Kochetkov, said: “For me the very fact that members of the LGBT community were invited to this meeting is important.”

He went on to say, however that Obama said “nothing concrete” about internal Russian affairs, respite assurances that the US had communicated its concerns.

In his meeting with Vladimir Putin at G20 this week, Prime Minister David Cameron also revealed he had “raised concerns” with the Russian President