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Belarus to host LGBT events despite dictatorship

in BELARUS, 13/07/2004

World Homo Culture Conference & Moonbow Festival to be held in Minsk

On August 28-29, Minsk, the capital of the East European dictatorship, Belarus, is to host both the first stage of this year's 7th ILGCN (International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network) World Conference on Lesbian & Gay Culture and the final phase of the 4th Moonbow Human Rights & Homo Cultural Festival 2004, which has been taking place on both sides of the Baltic Sea.

"During Soviet times from 1933 till 1993, at least 60,000 homosexuals in the Soviet Union were sent to prisons and labor camps and it is an interesting study to compare Soviet and Facist German policies towards homosexuals," says Viachaslau Bortnik, chairman of Belarus-Amnesty International -co-organizer of the ILGCN events.

"On August 29, we also plan to visit the biggest concentration camp on Soviet territory - Trostinets - not far from Minsk where homosexuals were among the prisoners. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Belarus 10 years ago, but homophobia and violent discrimantory police policies still remain," Bortnik adds.

Nordic Co-operation on the Eastern Barricades

"We Nordic homo activists are proud to return once again to join Belarus colleagues on the barricades, Says Bill Schiller, co-ordinator of the ILGCN conferences and Moonbow festivals. "Last time, we were denied visas to Belarus and twice earlier our events in Minsk were attacked by police or closed down in the middle of performances, forcing us to hold seminars and press conferences in the streets and parks. Few realize as clearly as Eastern Europeans do just how important homo culture is for survival and for combatting homophobia, invisibility and silence," Schiller concludes.

"The Minsk event will take place in the Narcissus Club, and will be supported by all Belarusian LGBT groups: Lambda Belarus, "YANA" lesbian group, NGO "Vstrecha" (Meeting), Gomel local NGO "TEMA" (Theme)," Bortnik says.

Solidarity via ILGA, Jerusalem & Montreal

The Minsk event will also include art and photo exhibits, poetry readings and discussions on such subjects as global work with Amnesty International, the World Humanists and the ILGA, solidarity efforts though the Nordic Homo Council, contacts with the coming World Pride in Jerusalem in 2005 and the giant homo rights conference in Montreal as part of the Rendez-Vous games in 2006.

The other stages of the 7th ILGCN world homo cultural conference include San Juan (September 24-27) and Sarajevo in November, 2004. The earlier Moonbow hosts this year have been Warsaw and St. Petersburg, with Stockholm (July 25-August 1), Riga (August 6-7) and Tallinn (August 11-14) still to come. "Moonbow" is an alternative East-West festival emphasizing international solidarity and homo culture.
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