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Failure of Belarus Gay Pride 2000

"Belarus Gay Pride 2000 was bound to fail because of its organizers," several sources in Belarus unanimously affirm. "The whole story was staged to squeeze more money out of Western gay organizations. President of Belarus Lambda League [Edward Tarletsky] acted as a typical agent provocateur".

So speak many gay people in Belarus after the failure of much publicized Belarus Gay Pride 2000. Since the spring 2000 Belarus Lambda League (BLL) and its President Edward Tarletsky have been actively advertising the event world-wide - sending press-releases, inviting foreign journalists and gay rights activists, printing booklets and posting banners in the streets of Minsk. They were extremely efficient in making believe that the pride was bound to become the most flamboyant gay happening on the post-Soviet territory.

Belarus Gay Pride was opened on Thursday, September 7, at 11 pm in a Minsk club. After approximately one hour of drag queen show the light and sound on the stage were cut off and club visitors were requested to leave the club. When asked for comments, the director of the club stated that no official authorisation from the Minsk city authorities had been issued for the event and the show could not continue, but he welcomed the visitors to continue the disco. Tarletsky suggested to move the event to an alternative location, but he was only followed by a few individuals.

On Friday, September 8, all initially scheduled seminars and movies were cancelled, and pride guests found the premises closed 'for technical reasons'. The night show in another Minsk club also failed due an electricity cut-off in the entire block where the club was located. Prizes and diplomas were awarded the next day, September 9, in a small Minsk cafe where only BLL's members and their personal friends were invited. The conclusion of the Pride took place September 10 on a clearing in a suburban forest.

Who is to be blamed for the failure of Belarus Gay Pride 2000? Belarus Lambda League swiftly issued a statement signed by Tarletsky accusing Belarussian authorities of imposing a ban on the festivities and alleging that the main reason of the failure was a poor democratic track record of Belarus. But this version failed to withstand the public scrutiny of locals. Tarletsky made every effort to hush up the rumours. After the web-master of BLL web-site ( publicly voiced out his concerns on the site and welcomed the free exchange of opinions on the failure, the site was immediately shut down, the index page was replaced with 'under construction' sign.

As it appears, BLL has been playing the double game since its creation. The main target of their efforts was self-promotion as the only group advocating lesbian and gay rights in Belarus. For a long time they have been fairly successful in this endeavour, distributing press-releases and publishing a gay magazine. In fact, the protection of individual gays or lesbians in Belarus has never been on the agenda of the League - they have never engaged in cause lawyering or impact litigation, nor co-operated with other human rights organizations, or, for that matter, organized Belarussian opposition.

The hidden agenda of their activities was to get as many foreign grants as possible. They never missed an opportunity to swell a scandal and advertise it world-wide. They overlooked outright violations, widespread labour and housing discrimination against lesbians and gays in Belarus. They had more important concerns - earlier in 2000 they sent out a press-release calling for urgent action and pressure on the editorial board of a magazine that halved a monthly salary bonus of their photographer who published his office phone in a 'models wanted' advertisement.

Edward TarletskyThe facts demonstrate that Tarletsky acted in full awareness of the imminent failure of the Pride. In Belarus street marches and public events require official authorization from the Minsk city authorities (Minskgorispolkom). Tarletsky filed a request for the authorization one day after the deadline. All the more, it was signed by a non-existant organization - Belarus Lambda League was never registered. This cannot be attributed to negligence or incompetence on his part. The experience of organized opposition in Belarus suggests that the authorities never comply with overdue requests from non-registered groups, and such a request should have been filed on behalf of a group of individuals. Tarletsky discarded all advice and decided to force his way. Besides, he could not pretend not to understand that such authorization was most likely to be denied and should have provided a sufficient period of time to appeal such denial in court. None of this has been done.

The reason behind that decision was that BLL could not possibly care less about the success or failure of the Belarus Gay Pride. In reality, the failure suited their needs better. A failure would have demonstrated the oppressed state of Belarussian lesbians and gays and increased the flow of cash into the purses of their self-proclaimed protectors. Despite the warnings and concerns expressed both in the Russian press and by dissenting Belarussian gays, BLL stopped at nothing, resolute to confront the authorities and fail.

There is also circumstantial evidence proving that Tarletsky knew of the failure in advance. He never mentioned the purposes of the gathering to the director of the Minsk club where the opening was to take place. Witnesses say that as early as at 9 pm (remember, the opening was scheduled for 11 pm) Tarletsky picked up the phone of the information line and replied that the event had been cancelled.

Fortunately, there was no violence or harassment during the Pride. The only victims were young Belarussian lesbians and gays who paid a hefty entrance fee to partake in the international gay liberation, if only for one night. As a result, their dream fell into pieces. But who cares about them? Certainly, not Belarus Lambda League - Tarletsky is now cashing a new Western grant 'to protect human rights of gays and lesbians in Belarus'

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Statement of Belarus Lambda League
BLL referred to the article as 'fascist-style propaganda'.

ILGCN and Tupilak Press Statement
ILGCN and Tupilak are invoking the gay solidarity to cover misdeeds of the Pride's organizers.

Response from a Belarus Citizen
Belarus citizens do care who and how protects - or claims to protect - their rights.

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