STOCKHOLM SALUTE TO EASTERN EUROPEAN RAINBOW BARRICADES
Stockholm -- Tupilak (Nordic rainbow cultural workers), ILGCN (international rainbow cultural network), Swedish Green Party and Folk Lore Centrum in Stockholm joined forces on November 13, 2013 in the Swedish capital to make an international salute to colleagues on the Eastern European Rainbow Barricades .
Speakers and participants from Sweden, USA, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Turkey and Azerbeijan included parliamentarians, diplomats, NGO LGBT activists and supporters -- commenting on the importance of international solidarity, the role of visting parliamentarians and ambassadors coming to support threatened Prides and other events and the use of rainbow culture to complement the legislative struggles and to combat homophobia and invisibility.
"We really appreciated the early Swedish support from the embassy, from visiting parliamentarians and supporters from Tupilak, the ILGCN other other NGO organizations," said Robert Biedrón, the first gay member of the Polish Parliament and the first LGBT rights rapporteur of the Council of Europe, brought to the Stockholm event by the Polish Institute here.
"I'm honored to be here today and to see Robert again as we are working together for LGBT rights in the Council of Europe," said gay Swedish Social Democratic Parliamentarian, Jonas Gunnarsson, commenting on this event in the First Chamber of the Swedish Parliament-- the historic chamber where Swedish welfare state legislation was passed.
"This conference is a salute to our LGBT friends in Eastern Europe who keep fighting for a society where all of us can be ourselves and show it without fear," said Helena Leander, Swedish Green Party Parliamentarian and LGBT spokesperson.
"I was honored to be invited to the Polish Parliament recently to discuss the importance of parliaments speaking out in support of LGBT rights," said Swedish Liberal Parliamentarian, Barbro Westerholm.
Polish Institute Support for LGBT Culture
"We are proud to include LGBT cultural activities, to have helped bring such guests as well-known Polish gay art curator Pawel Leszkowicz to Stockholm and to have received an award diploma from Tupilak," said the new director of the Polish Institute in Stockholm, Arkadiusz Bernás.
"The Russian law banning so called "LGBT propaganda" is a clear violation of human rights and there are real dangers of other countries following Russia's example," said Cecilia Rosing of Sweden's Civil Rights Defenders.
"The political turmoil in Turkey is worsening the conditions for the LGBT struggle in my country -- so international co-operation is even more important than ever," said Ömer Akpinar, web editor of Kaos GL --the Turkish human rights organization in Ankara.
"The new law in Russia banning positive LGBT information is clearly responsible for recent hate crimes of violence and even murder of LGBT people in Russia," said Aleksandr Kukharskii, of the gay organization Kirilja (Wings) of St. Petersburg.
"The situation for LGBT people in Belarus continues to worsen, with police raids on gay-friendly bars, humiliating interrogations and violence -- driving some into exile," said Dzmitry Karmazin, working at the Radio Radcyja which beams information to Belarus from across the border in Poland.
The Turkish, Russian and Belarus journalists were able to attend the Stockholm events thanks to support from the Swedish Institute.
"Realities are different behind the "modern" buildings in a homophobic Azerbaijan. LGBTQ people suffer from discrimination in all aspects of their lives -- domestic violence, hate crimes, police harrassment and brutality, stigma, blackmail, intimdation, bribery and invasions of privacy. They have no legal protection against discrimination," said Aytan Mammadi of Azerbaijan and now seeking asylum in Sweden.
"Our Swedish and Belarus delegations to Kiev Pride earlier this year, sponsored by the Swedish Institute, with a hundred participants facing large crowds of homophobic counter demonstrators, was a successful example of international solidarity and Ukrainian police doing their job to protect both the foreign visitors and the Ukrainian participants," said Monica Collins ofTupilak-Sweden.
"It's an honor for us to be here in this chamber and to have some of our colleagues from the Eastern European barricades with us here," said Tomas Woodski, chairman of Tupilak.
"The international humanist movement has long supported LGBT rights and criticizes discrimination and persecution of LGBT persons by all the worlds' religions," said Carl-Johan Kleberg of the Swedish Humanists.
"We have a strong need to discuss and work out strategies for future LGBT work," said Ulrika Westerlund, president of the Swedish LGBTQ organization RFSL.
LGBT Monuments -- Past or Future?
"We were pleased to screen our short film here about our LGBT monument created with stones in the Swedish island capital of Visby -- so that Sweden could join others in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Matthausen, Auschwitz and elsewhere with their symbols honornng those persecuted, imprisonted, executed and mudered over the centuries. Work which parliamentarians and NGO's could get together on -- since history is never only the past...? " asked Bill Schiller, Tupilak's international secretary and secretary general of the ILGCN Information Secretariat-Stockolm.
"Perhaps Lithunia, Poland and Sweden could work togther on a future LGBT project," suggested Lithuanian Culture Attaché, Saulé Mazeikaité in the discussions following the formal presentations.
Joining many of the participants later in the day at the Folk Lore Centrum, director Izzy Young provided American LGBT poems, Sweden's Anders Ödvall with Brazilian songs from his work with youngsters in Rio de Janeiro each year and songs and music from Swedish singer and song writer, Robert Hill.
"Films are a powerful tool to reach over cultural and geographic borders and to focus on all aspects of the diversified LGBT community everywhere," Gunnar Almér, working with international relations at the Swedish Film Institute, told the gathering. Also part of the program, a poem from Azerbaijan and a Mad Monk monologe about the search for "rainbow clouds."
The event was also a salute to colleagues around the world honoring the November 9 international day against facism.