It’s not like me to get all political. I take everything in and weigh up the pros and cons but very rarely do I speak out. It’s just not in my nature.

Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press
Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press

The Russian youths in the image above are being arrested for attending a pro LGBT rally. Russia’s law banning the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” was passed in June 2013, giving it plenty of time to propagate in the national psyche and give President Vladimir Putin the right ammunition for his political survival. By passing this law Putin set into motion months of confrontation that would have a two-fold effect. Firstly he would show his opposition to the West, and secondly he would generate fear amongst the Russian populace, a fear that only he and his government could assuage.

As a result of this new law, vigilante groups have taken it upon themselves to kidnap and torture gay teens. An established group calling itself Occupy Pedofilyaj (Occupy Pedophilia – a play on the US Occupy Wall Street movement – who think homosexuality is intrinsically linked to pedophilia) have very publicly posted photographs on Facebook of their achievements and posted videos on YouTube. And the Russian authorities are doing nothing about it. In fact they seem to condone it.

russia3The young man on his knees in the picture above is one of many victims of these so called vigilantes. He was abducted, doused with urine, degraded and humiliated, amongst other things. He may now be dead according to the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance and a report here.

On August 12th, 2013 Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed that the country’s new anti-gay law would be enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympics, stating that:

Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded or contrived.

Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, took this further by stating:

If a person does not put his views across in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken. People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever.

What exactly putting one’s “views across in the presence of children” actually means is anyone’s guess. Are children in Russia not going to be allowed to watch the Olympics then? Are they banned from all the events as spectators? Will their television privileges be revoked for the duration?  As far as I can tell those are the only ways they will be shielded from any form of evil Western “views”.

Jacques Rogge, during his final press conference as head of the International Olympic Committee conceded that nothing could be done to influence the anti-gay laws of Russia. He stated:

We have received some oral and written assurances about the fact the Russian Federation will respect the Olympic charter and no negative affect will occur for people attending in or participating in the Games. But one should not forget that we are staging the games in a sovereign state and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence on the sovereign affairs of a country.

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi is this Friday. Within the Olympic Charter  there are seven Fundamental Principles of Olympism. I’m not going to go through all of them, but I would like to draw your attention to numbers four and six. They state:

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

And:

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

I can’t help but feel that Mr Rogge and the rest of the International Olympic Committee need to be reminded of these principles. Surely Russia’s anti-gay laws violate the phrase “discrimination of any kind”. They certainly do not belong to the Olympic Movement as far as I can tell.

I have no doubt that economics came into play here. The Russian Federation would have had to have forked out millions in order to stage the Olympics, millions some would argue the country can ill afford. Preparations would have been well underway and indeed very near completion before Putin very cannily passed this anti-gay law. There is no way the IOC would have withdrawn Sochi as the host for the Games – how could they so near to the event? But that doesn’t excuse the fact that no public statement was made by the IOC standing against the Russian Federation. By not doing so they have called into question the very Fundamental Principles they hold in such high esteem.

And I would just like to add here that by insisting a boycott of the Olympics is the wrong way to tackle the issue, leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron have shown the world they are spineless. If this does not have repercussions I will be very surprised.

I am disgusted that Putin has used the Olympics to advance his own political agenda. And yet I cannot help but be reminded of a certain Summer Olympics in Berlin. Jesse Owens winning gold. In front of Adolf Hitler. If ever there was a moment in history that epitomized and encapsulated the struggles of the oppressed against the might of the oppressor, it was that one. Televised for the whole world to see in perpetuity too no less.

Regimes come and go, as do their leaders. I cannot help but feel that Putin has forever tarnished his country’s name with these outdated and barbaric violations against human rights. Ultimately it is the people that will decide.

Reporters Sans Frontieres
Reporters Sans Frontieres
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