As a result of recent anti-gay legislation and increases in anti-gay attacks, Russia has found itself at the center of extensive controversy as of late. Part of this controversy has surrounded the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. LGBT rights advocates are already calling foul to the U.S. government and to NBC. Some are even calling for a boycott. Unfortunately, none of this controversy is likely to die anytime soon, now that Vocativ is releasing the story of Martiros Demerchyan, a construction worker from Sochi who was assulted, brutalized, and forcibly sodomized by police. According to Vocativ and organizations such as Human Rights Watch, this incident is indicative of patterns that have become "a frequent complaint in Sochi, a once sleepy resort town on Russia’s Black Sea coastline."
The incident in question took place after a pay dispute, which took place after the Okhotskaya Building Companys allegedly underpaid Demerchyan approximately 20,000 rubles (or $600 USD). After compaining to his supervisor, he was accused of stealing electrical wire from his job. Demerchyan subsequently offered to let authorities search his home for the "missing" wire, which seemed to satisfy his supervisor. After being told to "come by and pick up your pay," Demerchyan was then ambushed by police and taken to the police station, where they attempted to intimidate him into signing a confession for the wire theft. When he refused, police allegedly donned boxing gloves and beat him until he lost consciousness. Vocativ shares what happened next:
"When Demerchyan awoke, he again refused to confess to the crime he says he did not commit. The police then allegedly bent him over, shoved his face to the ground and sodomized him with a red fireman’s crowbar. 'I screamed,' Demerchyan says. 'I said, ‘I’ll sign whatever you want, just please don’t torture me anymore. I can’t bear any more of this.'' Demerchyan’s relative and co-worker, Sergei Krbashyan, accompanied him to the station, and was beaten as well, though less severely. Reportedly, Krbashyan said that he’d rather be shot than have the crowbar used on him."
After the incident, Demerchyan was taken to a private medical center. According to medical reports, his injuries corrobarate the story he shared: a concussion, two cracked teeth, and “intestinal injuries obtained from penetration by a foreign object.”
Demerchyan's employer, the Okhotskaya Building Company, denies the incident in its entirety, and refused to comment on accusations that they are mistreating workers. His lawyer also tried to bring concerns to the police. The investigator assigned to the case then delayed the investigation for one month, long enough for Demerchyan's injuries to heal and seem less severe, before dismissing it altogether. The delay tactic is supposedly a safeguard should Demerchyan and his attorney attempt to take the matter before the courts.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, complaints of mistreatment, underpayment, and police corruption have become increasingly common as constuction has kept increasing in Sochi. Vocativ also reports that "Russian opposition leaders such as Boris Nemtsov, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, have accused the government of widespread embezzlement of Olympic funds." They go on to say that...
"The cost of the games, once estimated at $12 billion, about the same as the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, is now expected to be roughly four times that amount. If true, this would make Sochi—the only Winter Olympics to be held in city with a subtropical climate—the most expensive games in history."
Add to this the fact that a large portion of construction workers for the Sochi games are foreign-born, thus making it much easier for their supervisors to deny them wages, steal their identification papers, place them in overcrowded housing facilities, and underfeed them. Human Rights Watch added in their report that, “the Russian government has obligations under national and international law to protect workers, including migrant workers.” They say that such corruption and human rights violations are frighteningly common when cities prepare for Olympic games, especially in authoritarian states. One analyst explained...
“We’ve gone to [the IOC] several times with allegations of a pattern of abuse across Olympic sites...They were interested in seeing individual cases brought to them, but refused to examine them as a pattern.”
Meanwhile, Demerchyan says that he still suffers from blurred vision and pain in his back and kidneys as a result of the injuries he sustained in his altercation with police. He is subsequently unable to work and support his family. He told Vocativ, “I have already borrowed all the money that I could from relatives...I don’t know what we will do.”
The IOC has yet to comment on any of the current controversy surrounding the homophobia and human rights violations taking place in Sochi and throughout Russia.
You can read Vocativ's more extensive coverage and analysis HERE.
You can read the full report by Human Rights Watch HERE.
The two alleged perpetrators, Colin Hayes, 21, and Derek Ruiz, 28, were identified and arrested earlier this morning after an anti-gay attack that took place on July 20th. Police say the two men taunted the unidentified victim with anti-gay slurs as he waited for a train. After being told to go away, the two allegedly returned and punched the victim in the face before stealing his cell phone. According to the Patriot Ledger, Hayes and Ruiz are expected to be arraigned later today in Boston Municipal Court.
The attack took place at the South Station commuter rail station at approximately 6 AM. The victim was taken to Tufts Medical Emergency Center after suffering multiple facial injuries and a fractured nose. No word has been released as to whether this incident is at all connected to other anti-gay robberies taking place in Boston earlier this year, during which victims are lured online into inviting the attacker(s) into their home before being drugged.
The report and video come from Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group in Eastern Europe...
"Infamous Russian ultranationalist and former skin head, Maxim Martsinkevich, known under the nickname "Cleaver"...spearheaded a country wide campaign against LGBT teens using a popular social network VK.com to lure unsuspected victims through personal ads. Mr. Martsinkevich's numerous and enthusiastic followers started two projects: 'Occupy Pedophilyaj' and 'Occupy Gerontilyaj'. Allegedly they are trying to identify and report pedophiles using these 'movements'. In reality, over 500 online groups have been created inside VK.com social network in order to organize illegal militant groups in every Russian city. Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video. These self-proclaimed "crime fighters" perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to general public that indifferently passes by or even commend them. Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized. So far Russian police took no action against these "movements" even though Russian criminal code was clearly violated and despite numerous complaints from parents, victims and LGBT activists. Social network VK.com intermittently shuts down selected groups and profiles only to allow them to be re-open on the next day. Currently, the founder of VK.com, Pavel Durov, resides in the US and so far has not released any comments."
The attacks came very shortly after President Vladimir Putin signed a series of blatantly anti-gay laws. These laws have been the subject of controversy the world over, especially surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The resulting violence will likely only fuel the already fierce and impassioned debate. There is almost no doubt, as well, that videos like the one below will play a significant role in the debate. According to one commenter from YouTube...
"This teenager who happens to be 15, went online and started communicating with a fake profile called 'dada deema'.'Mr.Deema' offered to have sex with this fake profile for 20000 rubles ($600) hoping to buy a laptop, however a group of 15 year old boys stopped him and confronted him over his attempt to sell himself, these boys were the creators of Dada Deem. In the end they peed in the beer bottle and spilled it over him."
Spectrum also made sure to note that the attack on video occurred in "broad daylight".
This latest threat came during a campaign rally in Mutare at the Aerodrome Ground. The Zimbabwean president has an extensive history of fiercely anti-gay remarks. During the rally, Mugabe told a crowd of his followers:
“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads. This thing (homosexuality) seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed. Imagine this son born out of an African father...Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.”
According to SW Radio Africa, Mugabe has verbally attacked gay people publicly no less than seven times during the month of July alone...
"Regardless of any personal feelings about homosexuality, a country’s leader should never call for violence against any group or individual. These unprovoked utterances by a Head of State whose rallies have so far been immediately followed by a surge in harassment of political opponents, are likely to spread fear and despondency within the gay community."
Mugabe's verbal attacks have also elicited grievances from GALZ, Zimbabwe's LGBT advocacy group. The organization sent a letter to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Wednesday decrying the president's continued use of "hate speech"...
"GALZ notes with concern that ZANU PF’s instruments of intimidation and electioneering, which include the subject of gays, remains as strong as ever and is once again being used during its campaign rallies. It has become customary for the President to attempt to whip up a climate of hysterical homophobia against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people before, during and after elections."
Said "hysterical homophobia" was also why GALZ was subject to an armed assault on June 6, according to the letter, which also called for an investigation to ensure that Mugabe and his party would not hijack the political process.
Mugabe's hateful rhetoric is also being condemned by other LGBT activists throughout Africa. Frank Malaba, a South African actor and human rights activist, has also warned of the potential repercussions of such hate speech:
“Mugabe should know that his followers listen to him and so if he gives them the go-ahead to be violent and to behead gay people, they will do that. Today it is gays and lesbians, tomorrow it will be women, albinos, whites, and anyone Mugabe dislikes. This should not be allowed in an independent country.”
Not surprisingly, NOM president Brian Brown is "outraged" by the recent decision by Montgomery County officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in spite of there being a ban in place in the state constitution.
"The Montgomery County Register of Wills, D. Bruce Hanes, who issues marriage licenses for the county, has decided that he — a county bureaucrat — has the authority to unilaterally rewrite Pennsylvania marriage law. Who does he think he is? The job of enacting laws belong to the legislature and the governor, not county bureaucrats. It's absolute lawlessness in Montgomery County, and it must stop — today! (original emphasis kept)."
Brown claims that "this goes way beyond marriage — it undermines the rule of law," and calls the decision made by Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes "sheer legal madness". The post on NOM Blog also includes a link to send a pre-written message to Governor Tom Corbett "demanding that he put a stop to it right away," either by email or printed letter. It also begs, at the bottom, for supporters to "use the buttons below to forward this email and share it on Facebook and Twitter so that all pro-marriage Pennsylvanians can speak up about this outrage in Montgomery County!"
San Diego Supervisor Ron Roberts announced yesterday that Ernest J. Dronenburg, the San Diego County Clerk who recently asked the California Supreme Court to halt gay marriages state-wide, will be the subject of a special meeting of the county's board of supervisors to be held next week. Roberts said in a statement posted on Facebook,
As Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk, Ernest Dronenburg is an independently elected official. I strongly disagree with his decision to file this lawsuit and his subsequent public statements. He is acting on his own, without any direction or consultation from the Board of Supervisors, which was made clear last Friday in a statement I issued and a joint statement on behalf of the entire Board. We will be reviewing this matter with county attorneys during a closed session next week.
Perhaps of particular concern to the board is the question of whether Dronenburg violated the County's Administrative Code of ordinances by hiring Charles LiMandri of Rancho Santa Fe, a vocal supporter of Prop. 8., to represent his petition before the court when the code states that only the County Counsel can be hired for legal services that serve "county purposes." According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dronenburg insists that because San Diego's County Counsel Tom Montgomery rejected his initial petition it was permissible for him to seek outside counsel.
Dronenburg claims his main motivation in filing suit is to seek clarification from the high court as to whether Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling, currently the preeminent ruling following the US Supreme Court's dismissal of Hollingsworth v. Perry on the grounds of standing, has the power to amend the California Constitution by way of overriding Proposition 8 when, according to Dronenburg, only an appellate court has the power to change the state constitution. However, Susan Jester, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego, may have said it best: “Hiring Charles LiMandri for clarification of this issue would be like sending the fox into the henhouse to count the chicken and the eggs. His job is to implement the law, not to try to change it."
Perhaps even more difficult to reconcile with what we know about this is case is Dronenburg's assertion that he has the best interests of LGBT Californians at heart. According to the Union-Tribune,
"[Dronenburg] said his intention was to protect same-sex couples from the possible disappointment of having their marriages voided if a future court decision affirms the validity of Prop. 8. 'I asked for a stay because I believe it’s cruel to set up people,' he said. Dronenburg recalled that in 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom instructed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and then the state Supreme Court ordered the city to stop such marriages after almost 4,000 licenses had been issued."
Nonetheless, Dronenburg has been widely panned for his actions. A new poll released by the Union-Tribune shows a majority (52%) of San Diegans oppose Dronenburg's efforts to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. Dronenburg's decision to get involved in this issue came as a surprise to some. VoiceofSanDiego.org reports that in his 2010 campaign for county clerk, Dronenburg pledged that if, "Prop. 8 is ultimately negated, his office [would] treat same-sex couples with respect and dignity." Many in San Diego have also felt that Dronenburg's actions have cast a pall over the city's once glistening reputation as a bastion of bipartisan support for LGBT rights and equality.