‘No LGBT People’ Signs Crop Up In Russian Businesses

Some Russians on social media are expressing support for a series of horrific stories alleging anti-LGBT persecutions in Chechnya

DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images) — AFP/Getty Images
Apr 12, 2017 at 12:48 PM ET

After a startling series of stories accusing authorities in the Russian territory of Chechnya of brutally persecuting gay men, a growing group of Russians are expressing support for attacks on the gay community.

One user on Vkontakte, Russia’s largest social network, is organizing a campaign calling on storeowners to forbid LGBT customers from entering their businesses.

German Sterligov, who owns five bakeries in Russia, including in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, posted on Tuesday urging other business owners to hang signs like he has. The original post has been shared more than 100 times.

Other uses took photos in his bakeries the signs in his bakeries, describing the idea as very “appropriate” — and other say they’re going to join in. One, named Vadim Udintzev, posted on Vkontakte that his recreation center is now also closed to gays, sharing the pictures of the center with an anti-gay sign at the entrance.

A 2004 Russian law forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, race, and other categories, but does not include sexual orientation.

The blatant homophobia is more disheartening in the context of news coming out of Chechnya. Reports that more than 100 Chechen gay men have been detained, and three gay men killed “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such” were first posted by a liberal-leaning Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on the first of April. Later, in another report from the paper, a former military headquarters in the town of Argun was reportedly identified as the site of the camp.

Along with these stories came a new wave of Russians expressing support of the reported crackdown online. “These freaks just want everyone to align with their dirty lifestyle, in the 80’s there was a criminal article for such behavior and such were considered mentally ill, because a normal person would not do that,” wrote one commenter. Others advocated for the mass killing of LGBT people.

Alexander Artemyev, the media manager for Russia and Eurasia at Amnesty International, told Vocativ that while Amnesty cannot independently confirm the Chechen reports, his organization has reasons to believe they are accurate.

“Reports of unlawful detention in Chechnya are not at all surprising, since this part of Russia is notorious for violating human rights, including kidnapping people, and torture.” He added, “We have credible reasons to be concerned about this problem.”

Asked specifically about the anti-gay signs in Russian businesses, Artemyev said that “homophobia in Russia is not in decline; it’s actually broadly supported, including by the state.” He noted the so-called “gay propaganda” law passed by Russian lawmakers in 2013, forbidding LGBT people from “promoting” homosexuality to children. That law has been broadly interpreted to justify a wide range of crackdowns on gay Russians.

Amnesty International has launched a petition requesting Russian authorities investigate the situation in Chechnya. Chechen officials deny persecuting LGBT people, claiming in fact that there are no gay Chechens. A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told the Russian news agency Interfax, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist.”