The Belarussian gay website gay.by reports that Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenkо — who has been described as “Europe’s last dictator” — was unable to pronounce the word ‘homosexuality’ on the first try at a October 7th press conference with Russian journalists.
After several unsuccessful attempts, he specified: “Well, what you may call it, when a man with a man… homosexuality.”
At the press conference Lukashenkо explained how he had “unwillingly” offended the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland by criticizing homosexual relations.
Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, is gay and lives openly with his partner, Michael Mronz. A year ago at a state dinner Lukashenko is reported to have advised Westerwelle on how to lead a “normal life.”
“Westerwelle remembers this even now. I still feel guilty – who made me say this? I did not mean to offend him. If he likes this and this is normal for them… But it’s beyond my comprehension. I said this honestly,” Lukashenko said on Friday .
Der Spiegel described the apology as “too late…and unconvincing.”
“As for lesbians, this is the blame of men, this is tolerable. But if men – I do not understand this.”
LGBT are repressed in Belarus and Deputy Chairman Sergey Yenin of Belorussian LGBT rights group IDAHO-BELARUS is currently touring with showings of the documentary East Bloc Love.
In advance of a visit to the UK on October 15, he said:
“I’ve been beaten by police, thrown out of my university by the secret police and exiled to Warsaw, but I will not be silenced by the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenka.”
“Gay people in Belarus have no voice, so I’m grateful for being given the opportunity to highlight our cause to the wider European community.”
According to the results of a survey conducted by Gay.by in April 2011, 65.6% of respondents have thought of leaving Belarus because of homophobia.
In June the Executive Committee of the Belarus’ capital Minsk banned the display of the rainbow flag, the international symbol of the LGBT movement designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978.
Last month, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, said
that Europe needed to defend human rights workers on the continent. He wrote:
The clampdown on human rights defenders in Belarus continues unabated. In early August, Ales Bialiatski, the chair of the Human Rights Centre Viasna and vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was arrested. He is still being held in pre-trial detention. Activists who have demonstrated for his release have been summoned by the police and one of them is awaiting trial.
Picture by Ethan Zuckerman