Russia’s descent into 1930s Germany continued unabated yesterday (Sunday) as masked gunmen broke into an HIV clinic in St. Petersburg, shot one man in the face (he still may lose his eye), then beat a young woman with a baseball bat.
When the Russian police showed up, they claimed to have found no evidence of a crime, and promptly left.
The attack came one day after St. Petersburg’s March Against Hate, whose slogan is “Russia without pogroms.”
As Anastasia Smirnova’s Facebook post notes, Russia has already had a problem with growing attacks on migrants and anyone considered to be “black,” and now the Russians are taking their bigoted aggression out on Russia’s gay and trans community.
More from Valery Sozaev, manager of the project LaSky-St.Petersburg, which runs the community center where the HIV clinic takes place:
At about 19.20 on Sunday, November 3, 2013 the “Rainbow Coffee-Party” traditionally held at the community center of the project LaSky-St.Petersburg was attacked by two assailants. They entered community center pretending to be “looking for a friend”. Then one of them pulled a pneumatic gun and opened fire while the other was brandishing a baseball bat.
Two persons were injured in the attack. A young man, who was shot in the face and has got a bullet stuck in his eye, was taken to the hospital. Doctors say his prognosis is not good – his injured eye will hardly be recovered. A second victim was a young lady who was injured by baseball bat.
Not that any of this is a surprise. Russian President Putin made clear that gays were the new Jews, and as Guardian columnist Nancy Goldstein warned, a pogrom was just around the corner. Well, it’s arrived. From Nancy:
Had Putin reignited Russia’s abuse of its Jewish citizens, it would have been unthinkable for the IOC to issue a statement suggesting that non-Russian Jewish athletes, pundits, and spectators could go have a blast in Sochi because we’d be spared the anti-Semitic violence sweeping the rest of the country. There’s just no way. The American Jewish community and the Obama administration would have (rightly) enacted trade sanctions instantly. There would have been no statement from the State Department like the one issued the same day as the IOC announcement saying that it does not support a boycott of the games.
So how does a pogrom against LGBT people and our allies pass muster in 2013?
It happens with our complicity.
Not only are the 2014 Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi, Russia, but American organizations like Princeton are actively courting business investment in Russia at a time when the world should be shunning this increasingly rogue state. And companies like Coke, Visa and McDonald’s are happy to associate their brands with a country that shoots men in the eye and beats women with bats.
The violence against gays began long before this incident. Groups of skinheads have organized nationwide and are kidnapping young gays, trying to “cure” them of their homosexuality by forcing them to drink urine and/or raping them with baseball bats. So it’s not exactly a surprise that the tacitly sanctioned violence continues to grow.
It’s unclear why any business would want to invest in a country that isn’t safe for blacks and gays, for example. Could you imagine an American company investing in a country where its own black and gay employees wouldn’t be safe? Well, of course, you could. We’ve done it before, as Nancy notes:
We’ve been here before. And we know the power of economic sanctions and boycotts. When Congress finally came around in 1986 and passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (overriding President Ronald Reagan’s veto) that banned all new trade and investments in South Africa, other countries followed suit, South Africa’s economy went into free fall. Five years later, its Parliament voted to repeal the legal framework for apartheid.
I wish I could say that this is finally a wake up call for Visa, McDonald’s and Coke to stop sponsoring the hate. But past is prologue, and if people didn’t blanche at holding the Olympics in Nazi Germany, it’s difficult to imagine that they’ll suddenly discover a conscience in Putin’s Russia.