CEO Declines St. Petersburg Invitation Over Russia's Anti-Gay Law
Another day, another high profile personality is declining a cultural invitation from Russia in protest of the country's heinous anti-gay law.
Liz O'Neill, CEO of Z-Arts, a youth organization based in Manchester, United Kingdom, has respectfully declined a partnership with a St. Petersburg group with an eloquent letter of protest.
Liz writes in part (which you can read in full here):
Dear Julia Volkova,
Many thanks to you and to the Director of the Youth Palace for your kind invitation to visit in April 2014. As you know, we have been working together to try to re-establish links between our two organisations for a couple of years now, with the intention of enabling young people from both countries to learn about each other’s cultures and find inspiration from shared visits to each others’ venues.
Z-arts opened as an arts centre for young people, fashioned after the Palace of Youth Creativity in St Petersburg following a research trip in 1997 and I’ve been very keen to rekindle the relationship since I took office in 2009.
However, with the current situation in Russia around treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, I have had to seriously rethink your generous offer.
At first I thought of asking to meet LGBT groups in St Petersburg, to show solidarity and support; perhaps help them connect with groups in the UK who could offer moral support, but the more I learned the more I realized that even this could result in me, a heterosexual woman, being detained for 15 days for “promoting” a homosexual lifestyle, fined up to 100,000 rubles and deported. These circumstances make any potential visit of mine both dangerous and hypocritical.
I would love to come to St Petersburg, and share culture, art and inspiration between our organisations, and I am very grateful for the invitation. I would love to be able to facilitate some inspired learning and discovery trips for our children and young people, but how can I do this, when it would counter everything we believe in and promote at Z-arts about respect, equality and positive conduct towards others. I would like our children to learn from each other’s cultures, but how can I allow this to happen when I would be exposing our young people to abusive behaviour, fascism and putting young people from Manchester into a position of danger, just for expressing their views on equality and fairness.
Until these barbaric, terrifying regulations and attitudes change, it is with sad heart that I have to decline your kind offer of hospitality. Hospitality should never be selective, and whilst I am sure that is not your intention, sadly we are crippled by the views and legislation of your government.
Not only are Russia's LGBT citizens suffering from the draconian measures, but Russian culture is starting to fracture due to the barbaric war on gays.