Open letter of Belarusian league for sexual equally «Lambda»

Submitted by Lambda

Minsk, February 15, 2007

In November 2006 TEMA group issued the series of information about cancellation of International LGBT conference in Minsk because of arrest of a number of Organizing Committee. On the held a few days ago round table of Belarusian LGBT organizations so “called” imprisoned LGBT activist Vyacheslav Bortnik openly admitted that it was not true. Belarusian League for Sexual Equality “Lambda” wants to express our worry about the situation with some LGBT rights protection groups, which for now can be described as at least “strange”.

Last November Svyatoslav Sementsov and Vyacheslav Bortnik tried to organize an International Conference in Minsk. Preparation of such conference in Minsk was a top secret not only for independent media and journalists, but even for all Belarusian NGO including LGBT organizations and particularly BLL. Then, according to the information, provided from the names of the above mentioned activists, the conference was canceled by “special police”, which, first, does not exist, and second, such issues has always been, since Soviet times till the moment being, under the competence of Belarusian KGB. More than this, if really captured by Belarusian KGB for an unregistered NGO activity + illegal financial support from abroad, the guys would go to jail for up to 5-8 years, not to an ordinary police station for a night and then released without any charges, protocols and even unable to state the names of the police officers. And even moreover, according to the information that we got from Belarusian independent journalists from Gomel, nobody among the mentioned in TEMA statement people were arrested and detained in Gomel on those dates. As far as the so-called “TEMA group” is concerned, the strangest thing is that no one among Belarusian LGBT community can confirm that he/she has ever met any other member of this “well-known national level organization” than Mr Sementsov, neither has seen any of their booklets/materials/films, excepting some printer made papers with already multiple times published texts of 6 years old, nor attended their seminars.

We think it is needless to say that any other “international conferences” in Belarus, announced before by the same activists were also canceled on different reasons. On the other hand, in the annual report of TEMA group we can see number of “successful” local seminars, which were hold by the group in 2006 and lots of publications in wide circulation. So for sure the main reason of cancelling was some foreign observers’ probable attending Minsk conference, which could really estimate its success. On the other hand, the experience of our organization can also tell about the real possibility to hold in Minsk International LGBT events, a lot of LGBT events that we organized were visited by a number of foreign guests. The only events, which were really particularly canceled by Belarusian authorities, were Belarusian Gay Prides in 1999 and 2000; most of the canceled events were anyway carried out in other places and in other time. But since 2004, BLL suspended organizing large public events focusing on LGBT issues. At the time being we only continue to lead LGBT working group in the framework of Belarusian Social Forum and organizing seminars and workshops for activists.

Of course, it was not our fault, but the choice of donors, which make decisions how to spend their money and who to support. Although we think that damage from such activity to Belarusian LGBT movement definitely cannot be underestimated. Announcing and cancellation of such events are surely making foreign organizations and donors feel that it is definitely impossible to organize any LGBT events or activity in Belarus what is simply not true.

One more really strange thing is the plan of the same activists to organize in 2007 number of events “in exile” which was widely advertised unlike the concrete information about any event in past and for sure in future. First of all, we actually do not understand how it can help Belarusian LGBT movement to proceed in promoting LGBT rights and fighting homophobia in Belarus. If Belarusian participants of these conferences even could not organize a meeting for themselves in Belarus, what can they do in Belarus at all? Speaking about the sharing of experience of foreign LGBT right protection organization we want to outline, that according to TEMA group report for 2006, above mentioned activists in 2006 participated in at least 8 international events, which from our point of view is more than enough for communicating with foreign LGBT activists. Just a few weeks ago Svyatoslav Sementsov and Vyacheslav Bortnik issued the information about planning (!) one more “effective” action – sending a letter to the Warsaw city authorities demanding to install a monument in to commemorate gays and lesbians victims of the World War II killed in the concentration camps. The idea of addressing such kind of letter to the authorities of any Belarusian city obviously doesn’t come to the minds of the above mentioned activists.

So to summarize the above we want to express our strong opinion that for changing the situation with LGBT rights and stately supported homophobia in Belarus one needs to work, and work in Belarus and for Belarusians.


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