Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Youth’

Peter Tatchell and LGBT Rights in Russia

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st May, 2013

LGBT RussiaPeter TatchellBy a spooky coincidence, while the House of Commons was debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Liberal International British Group (LIBG), in collaboration with Liberal Youth, was holding a long-planned meeting on LGBT Rights in Russia, at the National Liberal Club. Through a skype link we had a long exchange with a brave young lesbian in Moscow, who for her own protection I shall simply call “A”, and who declared that essentially LGBT individuals have no fundamental rights in Russia. She is fortunate in having parents who accept her, as well as her boss at work, but the prevailing atmosphere is homophobic, from the government, the Orthodox Church and a large swath of public opinion. Neo-nazi groups are particularly hostile — a point Peter Tatchell also made, when he came to address the meeting, taking time out from following the House of Commons debate. Peter was of course badly beaten in Moscow some years ago when he was attending a Gay Pride event. Such events are now generally banned and Peter argued that probably there are other ways that LGBT groups can campaign for improvements in their situation. Earlier I had asked A whether LGBT individuals feel any common cause with political dissidents, journalists and others who are also suffering harassment, including death in the worst cases, so I was interested when Peter emphasized the point that human rights restrictions in Russia should be seen as a whole. He also made the point that many Russians reject Western values (a phenomenon I have noticed in parts of Asia and Africa), so what we may think of as universal rights or norms can appear to them alien and unacceptable. It is no coincidence that it is among the ultra-nationalists that one finds the highest levels of intolerance.

Link: http://www.petertatchell.net

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Scrutinising Belarus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th February, 2012

Belarus is often portrayed as the Bad Boy of Europe — the only European state that is not a member of the Council of Europe, thanks to its retention (and use) of the death penalty, the apparently fraudulent nature of its elections and its poor record on human rights. Opposition figures are regularly imprisoned (often for short periods), harrassed and denounced in the official media, and the KGB — which still keeps its Soviet-era name — is a looming, ominous presence, with a large headquarters on the main drag in the capital, Minsk. When I went there a few years ago to meet political and human rights activists, I felt I had walked onto the set of a film of one of John Le Carré’s novels. Rendezvous were made with people at their request in parks or noisy restaurants; Even the head of the Communist party insisted on meeting clandestinely in a café. Yet it is an over-simplification to denounce Belarus blithely as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’, for all the self-evident shortcomings of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. People can access the Internet in the numerous cyber-cafés, and young Belorussians with enough money to pay for a Schengen visa can travel West, notably to Lithuania and Poland. They don’t need a visa for Russia, to which Belarus remains tied with an umbilical cord, And even if Lukashenko has sometimes irritated Putin and other Kremlin figures, Belarus is a useful ally for Moscow. Some of the subtleties of the situation came out in a meeting that I chaired this evening at the National Liberal Club, on behalf of Liberal International British Group (LIBG) and Liberal Youth. This was the first such joint venture, which not only packed out the room but also produced some high-level debate, not only from the panel — Jo Swinson MP, Dr Yaraslau Kryvoi of Belarus Digest and Alex Nyce, former East European specialist at Chatham House — but also from the floor. Several members of the audience had had direct or indirect experience of working in or with Belarus and there was considerable discussion about what sort of stance the European Union should take on relations with the recalcitrant state. Intriguingly, a parallel was drawn between Belarus and Myanmar (Burma) and the question was posed as to whether constructive engagement might be a way forward in the hope of encouraging reform — though Lukashenko would have to release prominent dissidents before his good faith would be taken seriously.

http://libg.co.uk and www.belarusdigest.com

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IDAHO

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th May, 2009

IDAHOToday is the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Some people in Britain and other parts of Western Europe might think such an event is unnecessary, as great advances have been made here in countering discrimination against peope on grounds of their sexual orientation. But the rough handling of Gay Pride activists in Moscow only hours before yesterday’s Eurovision Song Contest was a timely but unpleasant reminder of the prejudice and injustice that still exists in parts of eastern Europe, let alone beyond.

Liberal Democrats, such as Evan Harris MP and the MEPs Sarah Ludford and Sharon Bowles, have been in the forefront of action in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament to get proper legislation guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities, as well as countering homophobia. I have pledged that if I am elected on 4 June, I will press for European legislation to ensure the mutual recognition of civil partnerships between EU member states that have them, as this is not the case at present. Liberal Youth and DELGA (the LibDems’ LGBT group) have also been particularly strong in raising awareness and campaigning about homophobic bullying in schools.

In some countries of the the Middle East, the situation  for LGBT people has seriously deteriorated, not least in Iraq, where killings are now common — yet another negative consequence of the US-led illegal war. So, IDAHO is important, to remind us all of human rights abuses targeted at people solely on the grounds of their sexuality. 

Links: www.homophobiaday.org and www.idaho.org.uk

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Long Live Instability!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 12th February, 2009

chinese-liberal-democrats     Rather like Christmas, Chinese New Year tends to go on for several weeks, but the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ (CLD) banquet to celebrate the Year of the Ox in the Top of the Town restaurant in London’s Chinatown this evening certainly crowned the festive period.  CLD, in partnership with Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD), took the entire top floor of the venue and filled it. The food was superb and the proceedings were envigorated by a political debate, featuring speakers from Liberal Youth, in favour and against the motion that the Year of the Ox will see stability. I was pleased to see the motion heavily defeated, as I myself spoke from the floor arguing that the old Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times!’ should be turned on its head. Historically, China sought stability and harmony (that was the Communist regime’s excuse for crushing the Tiananmen democracy movement), but stability in Britain today would mean yet more years of hard New Labour, with all its illiberal policies and instincts. Instead, particularly in the run-up to June’s European elections, we need constructive instability in the UK: a challenge to the old Labour-Tory see-saw and a recognition and resurgence of liberal values, as enshrined in the LibDems.

Link: www.ethnicminority-libdems.org.uk

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