“Do not be afraid and do not be silent!” Igor Kochetkov Gives a Speech During the Rainbow Flashmob 2017 in St. Petersburg

May 17 is a day that tells us about silence. In particular, it tell us that silence can be deadly dangerous. It's a day that reminds us that it is deadly dangerous to agree with the silence that the homophobic part of our society forces us to engage with.They suggest that we should sit at home and remain invisible. That we should sit at home, that we should pretend that we are the same as they are. Pretend that we share their cowardice, their conformity, their facelessness. But we say no to that! We value our individuality and our freedom. We do not agree to hide it.

This year, what is happening right now in Chechnya, has taught us a lot. Over the past 10 years many people, including some of the human rights activists, told us that it's impossible to raise the topic of discrimination of gays, lesbians, and transsexuals in the North Caucasus. They told us that under no circumstances we should talk about this issue because there are traditions that we must respect. They told us that if we violate the existing rules we can create a dangerous situation for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals in the North Caucasus. But now those who were silent, those who were afraid to declare who they are, are dying. They are now kidnapped, tortured, and killed only because of who they are. They are completely traditional, they tried to be traditional, but this was not enough. Because a person who is silent, who does not know how to speak up about who they are - they lose their humanness for others. A person who is silent loses their human dignity. They turn into an abstraction: an abstract gay, an abstract lesbian. 

When we are silent, we become vulnerable. What is happening now in Chechnya proves this. In 2013, when the federal law against the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors was adopted by the Parliament, we warned everyone. We said: first we will shut us up, and you will be next. Today we see that unfortunately, we were right about it. Today, one can not speak about who they are. This is not only true about gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. Today one can not talk about themselves if what they think is not in line with what is ideologically considered to be right. Today we are being kidnapped, we are already being tortured, we are already being killed. And we ask - what will happen next? Will we continue to be afraid, to keep silent, and to pretend that nothing is happening? Or will we finally raise our voice for those to need our protection - today and every other day? The only opportunity to prevent the continuation of what is happening today in Chechnya, to prevent this from happening all over Russia is not to be afraid and not to be silent!

Do not be afraid and do not be silent!

Igor Kochetkov,
Member of the Council of the Russian LGBT Network
Speech at the Rainbow Flashmob, May 17, 2017
St. Petersburg