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LGBT activists defy law by using football shirts to display Pride flag in Russia

"LOVE 1 - RUSSIA 0"

Anna Johnstone

While every football fan in Russia is flying their country’s flag as a way of supporting their team for the World Cup, those in the LGBT+ community are not quite as fortunate. In 2013, the Russian government enacted a federal law which criminalised the promotion and distribution of materials in support of non-traditional relationships to minors. This includes the rainbow flag, which is a symbol used all around the world for LGBT+ people to express their pride and diversity. However, in an extraordinary display of resilience, activists have found a way to fly the flag in public for the month of Pride - and even better, they are using Russia’s hosting of the football tournament to display it.

The group pose in an art gallery

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FELGTB (Spain’s largest organisation for LGBT+ rights) sent six brave activists to Russia, who took to the streets in their colourful football shirts to form the iconic rainbow flag. These were made up of Spain in red, Holland in orange, Brazil in yellow, Mexico in green, Argentina in blue, and Colombia in purple - so if they walk in the right order, they form the rainbow that we have seen so much on the streets of our own home countries this month.

The activists even boldly pose next to a police officer

Hate crimes against the LGBT+ community have doubled since 2013, and Human Rights Watch International says, “Russian police consistently fail to prevent harassment and attacks and to investigate anti-LGBT crimes”. According to reports, around 100 gay men have been imprisoned and tortured in Chechnya, and at least three people have died.

The flag is no longer hidden! They march in public

MORE: Prince William is football mad but can’t go to Russia to watch the World Cup - and here’s why

The six activists are:

Marta Márquez, Spain - Writer and President of GALEHI Association of LGBT Families

“I accepted the challenge knowing that it could be complicated. I know I did the right thing in being a part of it.”

Eric Houter, Holland - Estate Agent

“The heart is big and should be free."

Eloi Pierozan Junior, Brazil - Marketing Manager

“'Are you crazy?' My boyfriend asked me. 'It’s really dangerous'. 'I’m not worried about the risk, it’s a project that I really want to be involved in' I told him. I hope it touches the hearts of many people. It’s a call to love.”

Guillermo León, Mexico - Office worker and documentary worker

"We are looking to launch a message of empathy towards the homosexuals that are there, living in fear and that aren’t able to show their true selves."

Vanesa Paola Ferrario, Argentina - Audiovosial editor

"For me, Russia is a symbol of homophobia, with a government that allows discriminators to be protected by the law, and somewhere where people aren’t free to love. I was interested in this project because it allows us to use our voices for those that cannot."

Mateo Fernández Gómez, Colombia - Advertising Art Director

"Being there it has really made me realise that this is real life, I became aware of the dark side of Russia and I heard so many stories. I hope that this makes its all the way to Putin and that things can be changed.”

The colourful activists also created a rainbow on the subway

Despite their fear, they proudly waved their 'hidden flag' as a symbol of love, hope, and resistence against the anti-LGBT laws of Russia. The group travelled to all the iconic sites of the country and formulated their flag to prove that they will not be silenced - and if we have all been so proud to wave our country's flag this month, why shouldn't the Pride movement also show theirs?

 “In the plain light of day, in front of the Russian authorities, Russian society and the whole world, we wave the flag with pride.”

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