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Intimate photos of a queer New York kiss-in

Voices 4 staged a mass demonstration of queer resistance to demonstrate solidarity with LGBT communities in ex-Soviet countries

The past year has seen the treatment of LGBT people in parts of Eastern Europe hit headlines. Reports from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Chechnya were brutal, with many sharing accounts of being detained and beaten by law enforcement. Government officials either denied involvement or remained unrepentant. It is a highly dangerous time for queer communities in that area of the world, with many not only being detained, but forced to give up their friends.

Voices 4 describes itself as “a non-violent and direct action advocacy group” and in partnership with RUSA LGBT, on February 11 they held a mass kiss-in outside the Uzbek consulate in New York. In a statement they said, “Appealing to “traditional” values, the governments of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan have been abusing their respective powers, rounding up, detaining, assaulting, and physically abusing LGBTQIA+ people. In some cases, law enforcement have started registering LGBTQIA+ people, blackmailing, and torturing detainees, forcing them to give up the names of their LGBTQIA+ friends and peers. We at Voices4 utilised this historical protest format to demand the governments of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan immediately stop the genocide.”

One anonymous queer asylee from Uzbekistan had a statement read out by one of the speakers at the kiss-in – here we publish a condensed version. “We all are here to protest ill treatment of LGBTQI communities in former Soviet Countries,” they said. “As someone who is originally from Uzbekistan and has gone through immeasurable pain as for being different, I can say that it really is hard for our community to exist in those parts of the world. In Uzbekistan, there is still a sodomy law, one of only two countries of ex Soviet Union that still maintains sodomy law. An openly gay man can end up in prison for three years. An individual can be shunned (best scenario), or hurt or even killed by family members or community for bringing disgrace. That’s why I ran away.

“An openly gay man can end up in prison for three years. An individual can be shunned (best scenario), or hurt or even killed by family members” – anonymous Uzbek asylee

“When I came to New York I was 28-years-old. With a certainty I have to say that I have not lived those 28 years, I simply have existed. I started to live after coming to New York. I started to live after accepting my identity as a gay man, I started to live after I stopped being afraid, I started to live after a long healing and forgiving. In the 21st century we are still seen as a threat. In some countries of the world we can be killed for simply being a member of the LGBTQI community, in many others we can be imprisoned, or attacked by the mob. Even in the USA hate crimes against us have grown. We might be different in many ways; race, religion, nationality, social status, etc. but the time has come for us to unite and fight for our rights around the world.”

Read more about the persecution of LGBT communities in Chechnya here.