By Sergey Yenin
(probably the most dramatic 1,000 words written about a Gay
Pride event anywhere in the world this year)
MINSK, May 19, 2010 - This is an account of the most dramatic 48 hours in my life as a gay activist in Belarus.
There were four of us in the taxi. Myself, Logan (and Australian filmmaker), Jack (his boyfriend) and Chad (a photographer working on a project Walk with Pride). I couldn't help shivering in anticipation of the upcoming Pride march and the possible extreme few hours that I would probably face. But I couldn't let my friends worry as well. The taxi driver noticed that something was really wrong with the place he had to drop us off.
"What's going on here? Who are you?" - the taxi driver asked me. "Just tourists going to the hotel" - I responded. It was the place where the Pride was going to take place and was situated near a hotel.
Logan prepared his camera and Jack took a paper notebook and a pen into his hands: "I hope I will look like a journalist," he remarked.
Seven taxies stopped in the immediate area and participants of the Slavic Pride got out of the cars. The place was full of journalists ready for the action. Everything looked like a flash mob: we all walked along the street a bit and suddenly one of us took out a 12-meter rainbow flag out of his bag. Later, events passed by very quickly. A group of Russian guys took out smaller flags and posters, I grabbed the huge flag and everyone rushed ahead shouting out slogans: "Homophobia is a disease", "Belarus free of homophobia" etc.
The journalists didn't spend their time in vain: as soon as the notices the 12-meter flag were displayed, they turned on their cameras and aimed them at us. We stopped for a while near a Belarusian institute of arts, expanded the flag and continued shouting out our slogans.
After a while we continued marching down the street. I noticed two journalists quarrelling because one of them occupied the other's place for photo shooting and it made me smile. I suspect I had looked quite serious before.
Suddenly a police car full of big, severe guys stopped. The doors opened and an army of policemen rushed on us. Oleg and I lost control and started running back. Everything messed up in my head and I couldn't understand where exactly I was running to.
There was one aim: to run somewhere away from this massacre. Passing by one of the journalists I saw him throwing an egg at me. He missed, but it made me run faster.
Two plain-clothes policemen were a real obstacle for me: I could figure out that these men were from the police only by a walkie-talkie stashed in a pocket of one of these guys. With great subtlety one of them hit my leg with his knee and threw me down on the ground.
When I was recovering my glasses, he grabbed my collar and dragged me behind him for a while. With a rapid move he picked me up and punched me hard in the chest. I can still remember his face during this heavy handed treatment: his eyes were full of anger and the mouth was deformed with a blush of hatred. At the same time he understood I was his target and I was maybe twice young as him. He wasn't a human anymore:
Another guy grabbed my collar in order to prevent me from running away.
Then I saw Oleg. He was suffering from pain caused by gastric ulcer he had. No one was paying attention to his suffering, all the police were concerned about was a way to take us to a police department. The mother of one of our activists quickly appeared in front of us and introduced herself as a doctor in order to lead us away from the threat. She was totally ignored and we were tossed into a police car.
We were sitting on the floor of the police department. I felt blood running down my arms. My shirt was tattered with dark red spots all over. I put myself together and made a statement that we needed an ambulance. Should I say that it's obvious that the statement was ignored?
Then the others were brought-in. My friends were thrown out of another police car and were forced to go inside the police department. They looked so fragile in comparison to huge clumsy policemen. The short walk was followed by kicks. I could do nothing but look at this happening. I felt so helpless.
The police then brought the 12-meter Rainbow flag in to the room. They put it on the floor and started mocking at us. One of my friends told me that while he was in the car the policemen were forcing a baton into his mouth and promised they would force it up his backside in case he tried sucking the baton.
They then took us to another room for interrogation. We spent another two hours there. They were humiliating us all that time. One of them kept a gas balloon in front of my face saying: "I will fucking burn your eyes right now!" We were terrified. We couldn't ever imagine the safest place in the world could be so insecure:
We were released on Monday. We were waiting for this moment eagerly all this time. Two nights in the police department seemed an eternity for us. So now when I'm free I can't keep it to myself. I don't appear to have any freedom of speech in my country, but I have the freedom on the internet.
- Sergey Yenin
þ Sergey Yenin is vice chairman of the LGBT Human Rights Group GayBelarus.By, the group which co-organised last Saturday's Slavic Pride in Minsk. A student in classical philology, Sergey, is also writing for Gay: Good As You, Belarus's only exclusively LGBT magazine.
þ On Moday, a court in Minsk ordered the seven arrested at Slavic Gay Pride, including Mr. Yenin, to pay a fine of 17,500 Belarus rouble fine (about $US 6.00 or ?4.00)