Crackdown in the New Russia: LGBT rights in Russia and Crimea

March 12, 2015
Nora FitzGerald and Misha Friedman

Photo: From left, Nora FitzGerald and Misha Friedman.

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center and the Arcus Foundation, presents “Crackdown in the New Russia: LGBT rights in Russia and Crimea” with grantees Nora FitzGerald and Misha Friedman, and special guest Dmitry Chizhevsky, a Russian who was a victim of anti-LGBT violence in St. Petersburg. The program is the second in the series “Faith, Freedom, Sexuality & Silence.”

Journalist Nora FitzGerald discusses her reporting on Russia’s government crackdown on the LGBT community and how it fuels an increase in the AIDS epidemic in Russia. Photojournalist Misha Friedman shares images from “Crimea: The Human Toll” and “Official Homophobia in Russia”, projects documenting the impact on the LGBT community in Crimea of the homophobic rhetoric now legitimized by federal law after Russia’s military annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Dmitry Chizhevsky, 26, now lives in Washington, D.C., and is seeking political asylum. In November 2013, Dmitry was the victim of a hate crime in Saint Petersburg. He was at a community party at the local LGBT center when assailants burst in shouting anti-gay epithets and shooting people randomly with a pellet gun. As a result, he lost the sight in one eye.

Misha Friedman photographed Dmitry in the hospital in Saint Petersburg. There was no arrest at the time of the attack and a rather lackluster investigation, as often happens in Russia with these crimes. The violent attack reflects a disturbing trend of harassment and intimidation of the LGBT community, a trend that has worsened with the government crackdown of the past few years.