The first whistle has barely sounded at the football World Cup in Russia, but the consequences of state-sanctioned homophobia and hate are already becoming clear. A French gay man is hospitalized in St. Petersburg with a broken jaw and brain damage after a brutal attack on him and his partner. While the Icelandic nation waits with bated breath for „our boys“ to walk onto the World Cup pitch for the first time, this man’s nearest and dearest wait for news of his health and survival. And LGBTIQ+ people the world over wait in nervous anticipation of the next attack, which seems inevitable.
Five years ago, legislation was passed in Russia banning „propaganda“ in favor of homosexuality. This law is systematically used to silence LGBTIQ+ people, limit their freedom of speech and assembly and force them to hide their sexuality, their relationships and their gender expression. According to the European Court of Human Rights, hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people have doubled in frequency since the law went into effect. Instead of working to combat prejudice and make their LGBTIQ+ citizens more safe, the Russian authorities have given encouragement to forces of hate in their society. The consequences should come as no surprise.
International events like the World Cup are simultaneously an ad campaign for the host country and an injection of funds into its economy. Fans, funds and media are streaming into Russia now to observe the grand festival of the world’s most popular sport, and we can expect no better in four years when the „human rights paradise“ of Qatar hosts the 2022 World Cup. FIFA should be ashamed to hold the World Cup repeatedly in countries that have no interest whatsoever in respecting human rights or guaranteeing the safety of their residents and guests.
Now is not a time for inaction.
Samtökin ’78 challenge KSÍ, the National Football Federation of Iceland, and the Icelandic government to take a clear stance against violations of LGBTIQ+ people’s human rights. We are proud of the Icelandic national teams’ success abroad. We are even prouder that KSÍ should work actively to combat prejudice within its work, and that Iceland should be one of few countries where training on LGBTIQ+ issues is a part of the national curriculum for football coaches. Let us seize this historic moment and show the world that equality and success go hand in hand.
Samtökin ’78 challenge Icelandic football fans who are not in Russia to declare their contempt for the Russian government’s homophobia by participating in this campaign. It’s simple: post a picture on social media that qualifies as “gay propaganda“ – for instance, a picture of yourself with a rainbow flag, kissing a same-sex partner or with a phrase in support of LGBTIQ+ people – and label it with the hashtag #WorldCup and set Moscow as its location. As the organizers at AllOut say: “If thousands of us take part, anytime people search for World Cup updates on social media – in Russia or anywhere – we'll be right there, showing Russian authorities that they can't intimidate us.” Let’s fill the World Cup with “gay propaganda”!
Samtökin ’78 encourage LGBTIQ+ football fans and others who are in Russia to be exceedingly careful and not risk their safety by participating in protests. Violent gangs in Russia have threatened to seek out and attack LGBTIQ+ football fans; there is no reason to doubt the credibility of these threats. Please take note of the following helplines:
In Moscow: contact Stimul at +7 (495) 241 03 10.
In St Petersburg: contact Coming Out at +7 (953) 170 97 71 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other cities: contact the Russian LGBT Network at +7 (952) 230 19 31 or email@example.com.