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Belarus Authorities Forbid Year 2000 Gay Pride Festival

Police Evacuation Ignites Angry International Protests

Action Alert: Contacting All Belarus Embassies Locally

Compiled by GayToday

minsk.jpg - 8.59 K Minsk, Belarus--Films, seminars, performances and exhibitions were cancelled last week in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, as the authorities acted to prevent any events related to the 2nd Belarus Gay Pride festival--September 7-10, 2000.

A planned Gay Pride march through the city was banned by the authorities 24 hours before it was due to take place. The explanation given was that the organisers had failed to ask permission for the march in time. However the authorities then acted swiftly to prevent any of the other programmed events from taking place.

Uniformed police arrived at the inauguration performance which had already begun. They ordered the lights to be shut off and gave participants only minutes to evacuate the building.

Police then followed the festival participants through the street to another club which they then ordered to shut its doors, trapping other customers inside.

The following day, the authorities shut down the festival office which had been provided by the Belarus Society for the Deaf and closed the entire building in which it was housed. The authorities also ordered the closing of another festival site where further performances and art exhibits were due to take place. A programme of foreign lesbian and gay film screenings at a city cinema was cancelled.

Despite the harassment, one press conference was successfully organized and well-attended by the ex-soviet state's opposition press, and an afternoon of seminars was held al-fresco in a city park.

In a spontaneous action, a crowd of Pride participants marched to a downtown city monument honoring the dead of WWII and spread a giant rainbow flag at its base along with bouquets of flowers, held a moment of silence and then spoke with a group of opposition journalists.

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A closing press conference defying an explicit ban by the authorities was held in front of the city opera house, where Belarusian and Swedish activists denounced the actions of the authorities.

Sending Letters of Protest

Amsterdam-based Aputheatre who were due to perform as part of the festival are urging members of the public to join the international protest against this repression and send letters to and/ or organize demonstrations at Belarusian consultates and embassies worldwide

Addresses of Belarusian Embassies can be found at:www.belarustourist.minsk.by/english/visit/diplomatic.htm

Please feel free to use the following template as a basis for your letter of protest:

Ambassador of Belarus Embassy of Belarus

Dear Ambassador,

I am deeply disturbed to learn of and urgently request that you convey our strongest protests to your nation's authorities for the outlawing of the 2nd Belarus Gay Pride, 7-10 September, 2000, in Minsk--organized by the Belarus Lambda League and the publication, Forum Lambda.

The use of uniformed police to stop a theater performance, the closing of the festival office and other locales, the preventing of the screening of films and the display of art and photo exhibits, the forbidding of a peaceful walk down the street with a rainbow-colored banner, the banning of press conferences and seminars, all this not only violates basic human rights but also contradicts your nation's declared ambition to increase contacts with the rest of the world.

To force an international gathering of participants to hold discussions, workshops and press conferences in the streets and in parks seriously damages Belarusia's image at a time when many are eager to unite the peoples of Eastern and Western Europe. This also smothers the enormous cultural contribution from professional singers, dancers, artists, photographers, journalists and others who gathered from Belarus, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, Poland and Germany.

In the spirit of deep concern for human rights and with the sincere hope for the future development of cultural exchanges between our nations we trust that you will take our concerns seriously and make them known to your government. We seek an assurance that future gay and lesbian cultural events, in particular the 5th World Conference on Lesbian & Gay Culture scheduled for Minsk in 2002 will be permitted and enabled to take place without hindrance or intimidation.

I sincerely await your response

(Signed)



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