Russian LGBT leader Nicolai Alekseev speaks tonight

A true international male

Nikolai Alekseev has become the face of Russia’s LGBT community. He comes to Dallas to discuss the plight and triumphs of gays worldwide and how today’s community can work toward equality everywhere. Gay Liberation Network’s Andy Thayer from Chicago joins Alekseev talking about his experiences in Russia.

DEETS: Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. InterfaithPeaceChapel.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 03.04

A true international male
Nikolai Alekseev has become the face of Russia’s LGBT community. He comes to Dallas to discuss the plight and triumphs of gays worldwide and how today’s community can work toward equality everywhere. Gay Liberation Network’s Andy Thayer from Chicago joins Alekseev talking about his experiences in Russia.
DEETS: Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. InterfaithPeaceChapel.org.

Saturday 03.05

Let’s try this again, shall we?
Caven celebrates Mardi Gras across its clubs with Carnivale VI. With Ricky Sinz at TMC: The Mining Company and aerial artist Amber Monson at Sue’s, the night is highlighted by the return of Cazwell at Station 4. We’re not expecting the same Super Bowl party debacle that canceled his last show here. We are expecting a major crowd, if it’s anything like his last S4 gig.
DEETS: Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. $15–$20. PartyatTheBlock.com

Thursday 03.10

Denton deals a pair of queens
The NX35 Music Conferette gets underway for a four-day music conference in little ol’ Denton. Little D’s answer to SXSW, NX35 gets way impressive with some pretty familiar names on the roster. The fest begins with legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples and ends with outrageous sissy bouncer Big Freedia on Saturday.
DEETS: NX35 event grounds, 110 W. Hickory St., Denton. 35Conferette.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Update on Alekseev in Dallas

As we reported last Friday, Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is will be making two appearances in North Texas this week.

On Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m., Alekseev will speak at Brite Divinity School, and we just received some updated information on his Friday, March 4 appearance in Dallas.

Alekseev will speak Friday, at 7 p.m. at the Interfaith Peace Chapel, and for that appearance he will be joined by Andy Thayer, the co-founder of Gay Liberation Network who is accompanying the Russian activist on his U.S. tour, as well as several local LGBT leaders who will take part in a panel discussion to compare and contrast the fight for LGBT equality in Russia with the movement in North Texas.

Panelists will include moderator Blake Wilkinson, Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas, Agape MCC pastor the Rev. David Wynn and Dawn Meifert of MergeMedia Group.

Both events are free and open to the public.

—  admin

Taking a stand for freedom

Russian activist hopes U.S. tour will focus attention on gay rights battle in his country, and that international attention will keep LGBTs there safer

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

A tide of revolution is sweeping the Mideast and Africa right now, proving to the world that citizens can stand up to unfair governments and make a difference. That’s a lesson that Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev has been intent on proving for more than five years, many times at great risk to his own personal safety.

Beginning in 2005, Alekseev has each year organized LGBT Pride celebrations in Moscow where he lives, and each year those celebrations have been banned in city officials there. But Alekseev and his colleagues have forged ahead, each year holding their events anyway.

Alekseev eventually filed suit in the European courts against Russian government officials, claiming that they were violating LGBT human rights by banning Pride events. Last year, the courts ruled in Alekseev’s favor, but last month the government officials asked the courts to reconsider the ruling, and the Moscow mayor vowed to once again ban Pride events planned for May.

Last Sept. 5, Alekseev was arrested at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was preparing to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva. There was at the time no clear information on who had taken the activist from the airport, why he was taken or where he was being held.

Interfax Belarus news agency reported that Alekseev had sent texts saying he was seeking political asylum in Belarus and was dropping his lawsuits in the European courts. However, friends and associates questioned those reports, saying that such statements were out of character, and helping focus international attention on his situation.

Alekseev finally resurfaced in Moscow, where he told his colleagues he was never in Minsk, never sent the texts and had no intention of dropping the lawsuits.

This month Alekseev, with the help of the Gay Liberation Network based in Chicago, is touring seven U.S. cities in hopes of raising awareness on the ongoing gay rights struggle in Russia. Prior to his visit to Dallas next week, Alekseev answered some questions, via e-mail, for Dallas Voice.

Dallas Voice: What happened that made you willing to put your personal safety on the line to fight for LGBT rights in Russia? Was there a single event or was it a culmination of things?

Alekseev: I never really thought about it, in fact, when I started and even after. If we go back to the origins, there was my dismissal from Russia’s most prestigious university where I was studying for my Ph.D., simply because I wanted to make my research on same-sex marriage issue. The faculty believed that it is not an appropriate topic for the Moscow State University.

But I am a person with principles and they were not able to persuade me to change this topic. So they sacked me. I sued them and I lost in Russia. Well, I had little hope to win. But now the case is pending with the European Court of Human Rights.

Working on this research made me look into activism. Quickly I understood that gay activism did not really exist in Russia. So I thought I could have an impact there. Then I came up with this campaign for Moscow Pride. It quickly became a hot topic for the media because the mayor immediately chose to confront us and try to scare us. But I was still so angry that I could not complete my Ph.D., that not the mayor or anyone else could frighten me.

Everything came very quickly after that. We had the first Pride. It was banned; I was arrested. We managed to put our cause in front of the media and, as a result, in front of the society. That was the aim.

After, we launched several other campaigns on freedom of association, same-sex marriage, the [men who have sex with men] blood ban.

We managed to change one thing: The MSM blood ban was repealed after our actions.

DV: Has there been a specific incident in which you feared for your own life, or the lives of family and close friends?

Alekseev: Russian authorities like to pressure people. Some of our activists were pressured. The police ringed their doors, told their parents that they were arrested while taking part in “illegal actions of faggots” and that next time there could be consequences for them or for their other children. Sometimes, it created dramatic outings.

My family doesn’t really care. My parents are retired. The only thing one could do is cut their $200 a month pension. Not a big deal.

And when police ring our doors or sometimes call by phone, it became my dad’s best moment of the day. He likes to drive them nuts!

As for my own life, of course I had fears. But the more you are in this fight, the less you think about it.

I know that my phone is constantly being illegally [tapped] and that I was followed several times while preparing the Pride events. In May [when Pride is held each year], I have to move from place to place to make sure I am not arrested before the day of the Pride. This has a huge psychological impact.

DV: What happened when Russian officials abducted you from the airport? Why do you think they let you go?

Alekseev: The only aim was to scare me and to pressure me to withdraw our historic case from the European Court of Human Rights, which at that point was in its final stages. Ironically, just two weeks after that, the judges met privately and decided the case in our favor.

During detention, I had to bear every possible verbal insult towards gay people, which was far from being very pleasant. But when I returned and saw all the international solidarity I was amazed. So many people did protests around the world and so many people sent messages of support. At this point, I understood that international LGBT solidarity really exists and that it is not an empty word. But we should realize that it should be expressed not only at such difficult moments but every day in our fight for gay equality. I think this media and international attention saved me then.

DV: What do you hope to accomplish with this visit to the United States?

Alekseev: In short, I’d like to give people a message that wherever they are, they can make a change.

It’s not about supporting a cause by giving money. I don’t come here for that. I don’t need financial support. I have food at home and I don’t need to get paid for the ideal I pursue.

I’d like to explain to people that if all of them stand at the same time, they can really achieve something. American activists are often seen overseas as being self-centered and not interested in international issues. Perhaps this has to do with a fear of being seen as too colonialist.

You know, if 1,000 Americans sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before her trip to Russia in 2009, I doubt she would have quietly dedicated a statue to an American gay poet hand-in-hand with the homophobic then-mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov.

That was very close to the place where weeks before we were arrested for trying to stage our fourth Pride. She made a very good advertisement for him, which was used against us at that time by his PR team. She did not challenge him on his homophobia while she said she cares for LGBT rights and wants to put it forward in her diplomacy. I saw how she cared.

This should not repeat in Russia or elsewhere. I know some usually say “We cannot care for all the world,” but often it’s the same people who care for nobody! When you want to change things, you don’t pick and choose usually. You just follow your instinct.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Russian gay leader Alekseev coming to Dallas

Nikolai Alekseev

According to information I received this morning Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is coming to the U.S. at the end of February for a short tour that will include a stop in Dallas. He will be in Dallas March 3-4, but speaking venues have not yet been finalized.

Alekseev is probably best known to Americans as the man who organized Moscow’s first gay Pride parade, which city officials then banned that year and each subsequent year, threatening organizers and marchers with arrest when they persist in marching anyway. Alekseev himself has been arrested several times, including once last year when he was taken from an airport as he was leaving for a visit to Switzerland and held for three days. He was released after a flood of international protests against what his supporters called a kidnapping.

One of his primary opponents in his activism has been Moscow’s rabidly homophobic former mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who once called gay Pride marches “satanic.” Since Russian President Dmitri Medvedev fired Luzhkov last year, Alekseev and other activists hope that they will be able to hold a Pride march this year without threat of violence or arrest. Moscow’s gay Pride march this year is scheduled for May 28.

Alekseev has also been instrumental in organizing LGBT activists around Russia and in other countries, and has used the European court system to fight back against anti-gay oppression. Last year, Alekseev won the battle when the European Court issued a sweeping ruling in his favor.

Alekseev’s U.S. tour was organized by the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, and he will be accompanied by GLN’s Andy Thayer. Supporters hope the tour will raise Alekseev’s profile here in the U.S. and bring more international scrutiny to the plight of LGBT Russians, thereby providing even more protection for them by increasing international scrutiny on the way Russia treats its LGBT citizens and activists.

Watch Dallas Voice for an interview with Alekseev at the end of February.

—  admin

Annise Parker won’t get her wish to confront the anti-gay and now former mayor of Moscow

In her exclusive interview with DV last week, Mayor Annise Parker said she wanted to confront Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov at an upcoming meeting in China. She will apparently not get her wish. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sacked Luzhkov for corruption on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

Luzhkov has been mayor of Moscow since 1992 and is credited with reviving and modernizing the city.

But he has also been notoriously homophobic. He has regularly denied permits for Pride parades, calling them “a satanic act.” Last weekend he jailed gay rights leader Nikolai Alekseev, who was arrested at a protest outside of city hall. Alekseev had filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights against Luzhkov for prohibiting Pride celebrations in the city.

Parker was to meet Luzhkov at a meeting in China later this year. Her city and Moscow are finalists for an international petroleum convention. While in Dallas, Parker said she hoped to confront Luzhkov about his human rights record.

—  David Taffet

Nikolai Alekseev, Gay Activists Arrested in Protest of Moscow Mayor

Alekseev

UK Gay News reports that eleven activists including Nikolai Alekseev have been arrested during a protest outside Moscow City Hall:

"They were taking part in a demonstration against the homophobic mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, and his 'faggots' remark which a Moscow court ruled recently was not hate speech. Those arrested were said to have chained themselves to the railings outside City Hall. Also reported arrested was a reporter from Agence France Presse.  She was seen by activists being hauled into a police van.  But Mr. Alekseev told UK Gay News later that she was not taken to the police station and was presumably released without charge. The eleven activists were taken to the Tverskoy Police Station in Moscow. Mr. Alekseev said that he was injured during his arrest. He was speaking by telephone from inside a police van from which  other  activists were heard chanting 'happy birthday Mayor Luzhkov' – it is the Mayor’s 74th birthday today."

The AP adds:

"The two dozen demonstrators had been protesting the policies of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called homosexuals 'satanic' and thwarted attempts to hold a gay pride rally in the city. Police detained most, if not all, of those participating in Tuesday's rally, which was held without a required permit near city hall. The activists handcuffed themselves to a monument for the 13th-century Russian prince who founded Moscow, displayed a papier-mache mummy resembling Luzhkov and unfurled posters ridiculing the mayor and his billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina. The activists said they objected to Luzhkov's recent use of the word 'fag,' and a court's subsequent ruling that the word could not be deemed offensive."

Alekseev called for the rally after being abducted by men thought to be with the Russian secret police over the weekend. 


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Gay Inc. Forgot/Couldn’t Be Bothered To Notice Russia’s Leading Activist Nikolai Alexseev Was Abducted

To be fair, Nikolai Alexseev did go missing on a Wednesday, and that is the traditional Hump Day in the United States, where little work gets done because everybody is hoping for the weekend, and Wednesday is two days shy of Friday, the beginning of the weekend, and then there is Saturday and Sunday, which constitutes the weekend and the much-needed downtime required to relax and generate enough energy to return to the office on Monday to hope it's Friday again. [Petrelis]


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Queerty

—  John Wright

Leading Gay Russian Activist Nikolai Alekseev Safe in Moscow, Says He Was Harassed, Drugged by Captors

Leading Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev is safely back in Moscow, and has written an account of his harrowing abduction by captors thought to be with Russia's secret police. Alekseev says the captors harassed, threatened, and possibly drugged him.

Alexeyev Early Saturday morning Alekseev left the following message on Facebook:

"My dear friends, I just entered Moscow. Thank you to all of you for support. All I want now is to brush my teeth and to shave. I will try to describe all that happened tonight! I never thought so many people care for me, it brings tears to my eyes."

Alekseev has written the personal account of his abduction HERE (translated via Google).

Radio Free Europe reports:

"A spokeswoman for the airport told Russian news agencies that Alekseyev was detained after refusing to take off his shoes at the security check. The activist rejects this account and claims airport security officials arbitrarily detained him for two hours before handing him over to a group of unidentified men in plainclothes. He told RFE/RL that he was then driven to a police station in Kashira, a small town some 100 kilometers south of Moscow, where he spent the next two days."

In his personal account, Alekseev notes that he discovered his location by using an iPad, which the authorities had not taken from him.

Radio Free Europe continues:

"[In Kashira], he says he was threatened, harassed, and possibly drugged. 'The first night, I slept on a chair and a table. I spent the second night on a kind of banquette. They gave me water, but I think it was laced with something because my reactions were very slow and I felt completely disoriented. I was given very simple food like biscuits,' Alekseyev says. Conflicting reports had emerged in the wake of Alekseyev's mysterious disappearance. While the activist did not respond to repeated calls to his mobile telephone, news agencies said they had received text messages from him saying he had been taken to Belarus and intended to seek political asylum there. Alekseyev denies such intentions and says the text messages were sent by his captors from his confiscated telephone."

During his abduction, Alekseev was pressured to withdraw a complaint he had filed with the European Court of Human Rights over Moscow's banning of Gay Pride parades.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Are Russian Police Sending Fake Text Messages to Make Everyone Think Activist Nikolai Alekseev Is Safe?

Nikolai Alekseev, the Russian activist and Moscow Gay Pride organizer who went missing after an arrest at Moscow's airport, is supposedly safe in Minsk, Bealrus. If he ever wants to return to his mother country, he'll have to disavow his claim in the European Court of Human Rights that state authorities are unfairly discriminating against the gays, and drop his demands that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov — this jerk — resign. UPDATE: Is an impostor pretending to be Alekseev and text messaging activist friends to make them think he's safe? Not only have Belerussian activists not seen or spoken to him, but when personal questions are asked of Alekseev, there is no SMS response, indicating whomever is sending messages from his phone is not him.


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Queerty

—  John Wright