Unit works with 10 countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, supporting publications on queer topics, connecting journalists and activists, and following the great work they do. Once monthly, we put together a selection of queer stories, opportunities, analysis and art to help you stay up-to-date with the ever-developing queer spaces without relying on social media algorithms. Check out this issue from November 2023 and subscribe below to get the next one right into your inbox.
Vika here, from cold Warsaw. I am doing a two-week internship in Belsat’s video newsroom. In the first week I have already managed to produce a short story about lab rats on ketamine, as well as to go live from a literary award ceremony. We’ll see what the second week brings, but in the meantime let’s outline some of the key themes of November.
In Kazakhstan, the topic of gender-based violence was heard in the media with unprecedented force. The occasion is by far not a happy one (I am putting a trigger-warning here) – women continue to be killed, beaten and raped in the most brutal ways possible. Among the aggressors are officials, including those close to President Tokayev. The most notorious case was certainly the murder of Saltanat Nukenova by her husband, ex-minister Bishimbayev. He beat his wife in a restaurant and she died of a closed head injury. Unfortunately, there are many similar cases. Here are just a few headlines from November publications on BatyrJamal:
“A girl was raped by a security guard from a street bar in Almaty. The police tried to convince her to withdraw her statement”
“The police chief of Taldykorgan is suspected in the rape of a girl”
“A man orally raped a 12-year-old girl in Pavlodar region.”
Media in Kazakhstan actively cover this topic, but international publicity is needed for the authorities to really notice the problem. Meanwhile, some deputies are proposing to prosecute women who have suffered domestic violence… for provoking their husbands! At the same time, there is still no law on domestic violence in the country. These are all links in the same chain: many men in the state apparatus do not consider domestic violence to be a serious crime, sometimes being the aggressors themselves.
Elsewhere in Central Asia, there is bad news too. In Kyrgyzstan, a law on foreign agents has passed its first reading. Guess who they’ve written off. The second and third readings are also likely to pass without heated debate. If they do, many NGOs will be threatened with closure, and freedom of the press and activist work will be curtailed.
On November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed around the world. Transgender Europe (TGEU) released a touching video with subtitles in, attention, 39 languages (I was especially happy to find Belarusian there). We would also like to remind you about the freshly published Trans Media Guide of TGEU. It contains links to reliable sources of information about trans and non-binary issues, as well as a list of contacts of activist communities and human rights organizations.
Meanwhile, new homo- and transphobic laws continue to appear in Russia. This time “international LGBT social movement” is to be recognized as extremist, whatever that means. The organization Quarteera, which surely checks off the “international” and “social movement” marks, has launched a petition to simplify Germany’s migration laws for trans people from Russia. If you live in Germany and want to do a good deed today (with a couple of clicks!), here you go.
Wow, that was a tough newsletter. What can you do: such is the world we live in. In conclusion, I would like to share something good.
Belarusian Vasily Yadchenko makes awesome videos for Instagram and TikTok, and is also the editor of Gay Press Info website. These creative “Belarusian lessons” are damn worth watching! My favorites are the stallion one and the one about bananas.
*Subtitle reads: “I’m a slightly wet stallion, but well-mannered and shaved.”
And finally: if you’re in Berlin on December 7, come to our office for a party! The program includes books, movies, drinks, food, dancing – basically, all the things your heart desires in December.
That’ll be all. As before, we wish imperial russia death, and Ukraine – strength and victory.
See you in another newsletter,