Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

How (Not) To Stop Gay Rights: Russian Activist Kidnapped

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 18, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: human rights abuses, Moscow, Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia, Strasbourg, Swissair

The Associated Press is reporting that Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev resurfaced early this morning in Moscow.Alexeyev.jpg

It's a strange story, and one never knows quite what to believe about such stories. But airport authorities confirmed that Alexeyev showed up at the Moscow airport on September 15, preparing to board a flight to Geneva.

But they said he refused to take off his shoes, and they had SwissAir remove him from the flight.

Then he went missing and his friends and colleagues had feared for his life.

He turned up again in Moscow this morning with quite a story. Apparently, someone was pretty upset that he had filed a human rights case against Moscow with the European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg. So they kidnapped him.

According to Alexyev, he was taken from the airport, put in a car, and driven 200 miles away.

He was held by men who did not identify themselves and wore no uniforms, but who pressed him to give up his human rights complaint. They gave him water that seemed to have some drug in it, because he felt disoriented afterwards. They mocked him and called him "fag" and other epithets. They used his cellphone to text friends that he was going to Belarus to claim asylum. He wasn't physically injured, but he certainly endured a terrible ordeal.

His assumption is that it wasn't federal security forces, but people connected with Moscow.

When they couldn't persuade him to drop the case, they let him go, and he caught a bus back to Moscow this morning.

Lezgetreal.com has more information on the story, and links to information from Alexeyev's blog.

It's a pretty frightening, harrowing story. Of course, one can't call the Moscow authorities and ask for proof. But at least according to the airport authorities, he was there for a flight to Geneva and he was removed from the flight list.

One has to wonder about the complete lack of concern on the part of the authorities who presumably initiated this harassment. It sounds as if they are so protected by the establishment there that it didn't really concern them that when they let him go, he would go to the press.

And so we are left to shake our heads at the backwardness of Russia, or at least Moscow, and the raw prejudice that infects that land. Russia is by no means the only place on earth that engages in such evils, but it is one that holds itself out as an advanced and modern country that should have a strong voice in world affairs.

I don't know whether proof of this incident can ever be obtained. But Alexeyev did say that he had his iPad with him, and that he was able to look at the location. I hope we hear more about that.

Heavy-handed incidents like this are not the way to stop gay rights in Russia. In fact, they're a pretty sure way to increase interest in the issue. But they don't seem to understand that.

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The sources (including Nikolai himself) are pretty reliable. Russian officials are notoriously dirty too.

I'm still in quite a lot of shock that these things still happen. Just naive I guess.

But yeah, this incident, provided the mainstream media actually pay attention (first mainstream story was tonight's AP story) it could really incite some international pressure on Russia to sort themselves out. On the other hand, international efforts previously have shown our embassies in Russia to be weak and unwilling to challenge Moscow's decisions.

Sounds kinda hard to believe.

He was "taken" Wednesday, but was sending text messages Thursday. AP tried to call him on Thursday, but the phone was "off."

Expect some interesting details in the next few days. This story has too many missing parts. Somebody knows the rest of the story.

But, I agree - if this is real, the Mayor of Moscow is creating a big story and that's bad for him.

On a related note, 68% of Russians consider themselves "Russian Orthodox Christians" (including the Mayor of Moscow) about the same as Jim Webb's State - Virginia.

The texts being sent yesterday were fake according to Nikolai. Friends tried replying, asking questions only he could answer and got no reply. That's when everyone got very worried.

I'm so glad you covered this Jill. I must have missed it earlier - I was going to do something today because it's such a sensational story.