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GAY PRIDE & LIBERATION EVENTS

Moscow Pride 2009 SIDE-BAR:

Edward Murzin:
A "Politician" Who Gave More For Gay Pride Than Most Gays Themselves

GLN permalink posted May 18, 2009

In the Spring of 2008, Edward Murzin was a member of a provincial Duma, the Russian equivalent of a state legislature. In Russia's increasingly undemocratic political structure, that made his seat more secure than the most gerrymandered, "safe" U.S. Congressional district.

Edward Murzin serving up barbeque on the first evening our two-day conference outside of Moscow

But he did an unusual thing for a politician - something that marked him as not a politician at all. He listened to a persecuted minority within his district and despite their unpopularity, he stood up for what is right, and paid a higher price for fighting against inequality of gays than most gays themselves.

It's not like he set out to become a martyr. In his humility, he freely admits that he didn't know what he was getting into when he, as a politician, stood up for gay equality in anti-gay official Russia.

"I didn't know [that] it would be so unpopular. I wasn't so aware. I didn't know what would happen if I protected gay rights. I had people in my region who are gay, and they asked me to protect their rights."

"I [knew] I could go to the election, and all the people in my section would vote for me. They're not going to change their minds because I protect gays, but the authorities didn't like that." They refused to allow him to run for re-election and he lost his job.

"Now I feel that homophobia is real (he laughs). And I will participate next year in gay actions like Slavik Pride because I think it is one of the main points to change society."

For doing the right thing he paid a high price. He lost his job and is unemployed in a region of the world where unemployment and destitution far surpasses what most of us in the United States experience.

"Now I work as an [unpaid] human rights activist. I'm not a politician anymore."

And his concerns are not limited to gays alone.

Fascist violence against national minorities in Russia is endemic, with "non-white" peoples of Asian Russia and the Caucuses routinely subjected to unofficial violence and official harassment. The blatant discrimination is so rife that even a few of the guidebooks to Moscow that I purchased before my visit specifically warned people who couldn't pass for European, that they would likely face harassment by police on the streets of the city.

"Every year, violence in the field of xenophobia rises in Russia, 18% or 20% per year," said Murzin. "We have to be more tolerant to survive, because in Russia we are multinational. I am a human rights activist."

A far more honorable "profession," albeit poorly paid.



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