In that Russia currently has a ban on 'gay propaganda' – which would include even a simple rainbow flag – a group of activists have undertaken a secret mission to share the colors of pride.
According to Buzzfeed, Spain-based digital ad agency LOLA MullenLowe recently teamed up with FELGTB, Spain's federation for LGBT rights, to take a series of rainbow-themed photos in Russia during the World Cup.
Calling themselves 'The Hidden Flag,' they took the rainbow flag to the streets of Russia hiding in plain sight.
From the official website:
We have taken advantage of the fact the country is hosting the World Cup at the same time as Pride Month, to denounce their behaviour and take the rainbow flag to the streets of Russia.
Yes, in the plain light of day, in front of the Russian authorities, Russian society and the whole world, we wave the flag with pride.
How? In a way that no one would ever suspect. Football shirts.
Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. Six countries. Six brave LGBT activists, that together, form the flag that toured around iconic sites in Russia, traveling to every corner to fight against a struggle that will never be silenced.
There was one scary moment for the activists. As they were leaving Russia, one of the six participants, Colombian Mateo Fernandez, was detained for 15 hours by officials at the airport.
Fernandez told Gay Star News he wasn’t sure if he was detained because he’s Colombian or if the authorities in Russia had come to realize he is engaged in LGBTQ activism. He was placed in a small room and interrogated about his activities while in Russia.
The authorities took his phone and belongings and held him for almost a full day asking questions. Fernandez says the group had agreed, if anything happened, they would all just say they were in the country as tourists.
At one point his phone was returned and he contacted the ad company. A rep for the ad company offered to come help but Fernandez worried it would only raise more suspicions.
The 29-year-old admits he cried three times during the questioning but was eventually released. Having missed two flights, he flew to safety in Amsterdam.
Fernandez told Gay Star News that as a gay Colombian, he’s been ‘randomly selected’ more often than most travelers at international airports.
Members of The Hidden Flag confirmed that the campaign photos weren’t released until the entire group was safely out of Russia.
“When we were doing it, I was scared shitless,” says the Colombian. But he adds, “It was completely worth it.”
Visit the official website for more photos from the campaign as well as info about each activist.