Wednesday, January 16, 2019


The reports of the activists: On 14 January, the Russian LGBT Network, a non-governmental LGBT rights organization working for the social acceptance and protection of the LGBT people in Russia, stated that there has been a new crackdown against gay people in Chechnya. Their statement has been reported by several major news broadcasters and newspapers, including the CNN, BBC and The Guardian. The Russian LGBT Network believes that about 40 people have been imprisoned since December 2018 – and that two of them died under torture. Activists affirmed that the people arrested are currently detained in a semi-legal facility near Argun - a town 20km from the city of Grozny. The government spokesman has dismissed their latest report as "complete lies". 

Fig. 1: The LGBT flag

A history of discrimination started in 2013: If confirmed, these events will follow another report about brutal attacks on gay men and women in Chechnya in 2017, when hundreds of men were allegedly held and tortured in detention. The suspicions about the government and its violence led to international outrage and sanctions against the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who denied issuing an order for the crackdown. In late 2017, Kadyrov was targeted by the US Magnitsky Act for supporting “extrajudicial killings” and an “anti-gay purge”. The Act, also known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, authorizes the US government to sanction human rights offenders, freezing their assets, and ban them from entering the American soil. 
The violations in Russia throughout the years are said to have been sparked by a "gay propaganda" measure signed by President Putin in 2013 into federal law. Human Rights Watch said it had "a deeply damaging effect on LGBT children" and "contributed to an intensification of stigma, harassment, and violence against LGBT people in Russia." The discriminations following Putin’s signature led the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to publish, in December 2018, a report documenting wide scale rights violations in Chechnya. Condemning the extrajudicial arrests, torture and killing of LGBT+ people, the report is now opening up the possibility of future prosecutions in the International Criminal Court. 

Giulia Mizzon 


· The Russian LGBT Network is the front line of efforts to protect at-risk Chechens. The group provides psychological support and organises evacuation to safer Russian regions and abroad. 

· Read this article if you are interested and want to know more. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Looking for freedom in Asia

The story: Saudi Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18 years old, was on vacation in Kuwait with her family. Without her parents knowing, she took a plane and tried to flee to Australia. She had renounced Islam, and she was afraid of her family, of her country, and for her life. As soon as she arrived to the airport in Bangkok, Thailand, to take a connection flight, she was held by Saudi embassy officials and had her passport confiscated. She asked for the protection of Thai immigration officials, which escorted her to a transit hotel. She then barricaded herself inside and posted several pictures saying she was seeking refugee status from any country that would protect her from getting harmed or killed due to leaving her religion. Her Twitter account attracted more than 50,000 followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the attention of foreign governments as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which eventually granted her the refugee status. Al-Qunun's case reached the international community thank to a global social media campaign started by her supporters and human rights activists (using the hashtag #saverahaf), who are trying to urge the authorities in Thailand not to deport the teen back. The incident happens as Saudi Arabia faces scrutiny over the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Saudi Arabia and women’s rights: In Saudi Arabia, apostasy laws make it illegal for a Muslim to change his or her religion or to renounce Islam. The country adheres to strict interpretations of Sunni Islam, and has a long history of preventing women from taking on a larger role in society. Male guardians have the power to decide whether they can marry and get divorce, travel or get a job. Moreover, Saudi women who flee their families can face serious harm from relatives, especially if returned against their will. However, there has been encouraging news from Saudi Arabia in the past year, which leaves room for hope. In June 2018, Saudi Arabia issued driving licences to women for the first time in decades, just weeks before a ban on female drivers was lifted. On Sunday 6 January 2019, Saudi courts were enabled by the government to notify women by text message when they get divorced, in a new regulation aiming at ending the many cases of men secretly ending marriages without informing their wives.

Giulia Mizzon

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fighting discrimination through sport

Sport is part of every man and woman's heritage and its absence can never be compensated for.
Pierre de Coubertin

Stereotypes and prejudices are everywhere, we are literally surrounded by them. Whether it is on the news or experienced personally, we are able to see episodes of discrimination every day, from the lady who hide her bag when a gypsy enters the bus to the recent news about Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe. Intolerance can be overtaken. People, associations, international organizations, together stand to fight discrimination, and one of the main and effective way to do it is through sport. Without any doubt, sport is an integral part of our society, and this is because people are now aware of the crucial importance and benefits of doing sports for living a healthy life. But sport is also entertainment. Everyday millions of people turn on the TV to watch their favorite matches or just to follow the news about the sport they like.

Sport spreads values. It allows knowledge and helps communication as it’s a non-verbal language. But yet, more often than expected we hear about episodes of intolerance, racism, violence, gender discrimination. People with a different color of the skin or a different religious belief, people that are gay or lesbian or that have disabilities are usually excluded from the game. Racist incidents among spectators of sport events are often reported in the media. Famous is the episode that happened in 2014 during the football match Villareal-Barca where somebody from the stands threw a banana toward the Brazilian player Dani Alves just because of the color of his skin. Fans are usually recorded as the main perpetrators of such incidents; however, racist incidents also take place among players, particularly in amateur sports.

Discrimination stems from the lack of knowledge that we have on who is considered “different”.

In many sports across the European Union, minorities and migrants are not represented enough, particularly in the management positions of sport organizations. The International Olympic Committee, for instance, is composed of 106 members, but only 20 of them are women. In some countries, social exclusion and geographical isolation can lead to low participation levels of Roma and migrants in sport activities. In the European report about “Promoting the social inclusion of Roma” the Bulgarian experts highlighted well the problem when they concluded that “Roma neighborhoods and settlements in general do not offer any opportunities for sport and recreation”, while a Czech expert presented a report showing that “most of the Roma (70%) took part in no sport activities and spent leisure time with “sitting activities” or were completely passive”, however, he pointed out that “the Roma themselves – with the aid of NGOs and also European Social Fund (ESF) projects – organize many activities like sport events, Roma folklore and music group. Nevertheless, all these initiatives do not provide enough opportunities for Roma to access valuable leisure time activities”.
The EU is trying to take advantage of the potential that sport has in conveying human values promoting several initiatives such as the MoveWeek, which will take place the next May, and other projects related to the Erasmus+. The Europen Commission, as stated in the EU White Paper on Sport, believes that “better use can be made of the potential of sport as an instrument for social inclusion in the policies, actions and programmes of the European Union and of Member States. This includes the contribution of sport to job creation and to economic growth and revitalisation, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Non-profit sport activities contributing to social cohesion and social inclusion of vulnerable groups can be considered as social services of general interest”.

What can we do to fight discrimination in sport? Sport has an incredible potential to convey human values. Therefore, it is not rare that sport events are used to raise awareness about the importance of human rights, like for example the New York City Marathon where people can choose to run for one of the charity partners and help them raise funds to support their missions and services. Especially in the last years, many famous athletes from all around the world have stepped on the first line becoming ambassadors of huge campaigns against all forms of discrimination. David Beckham, the British born football star, is also known for his commitment with UNICEF to help protect children in danger.
Sport involves all citizens regardless of gender, race, age, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation and social or economic background. Therefore all manifestations of racism and xenophobia, which are incompatible with these values must be condemned.

Nicandro Rosni