‘They don’t even see us as human!’

STANDING PROUD: Scottish solidarity against homophobia in Poland. Photo: Craig Maclean

by Scott Macdonald

· LGBT+ friends and comrades have taken to the streets across Scotland, calling on the Scottish Government, the Polish Embassy and local authorities to demand the release of queer Polish activist Margot—Malgorzata Szutowicz—and stand in solidarity with a wave of protests against homophobia and queer repression in Poland.

Margot, part of the queer anarchist collective Stop Bzdurom (“stop the bullshit”), has been arrested twice. The first time—dragged from her home without a coat or even socks or shoes—on a charge of “desecrating” (affixing a Pride flag to) a statue of Jesus in Warsaw.

The second arrest was after a spontaneous “Pride march” on 7 August; starting from the headquarters of the Campaign Against Homophobia. The police arrested 48 LGBT+ activists on that day.

Margot is presently being held in detention on suspicion of criminal damage to a van—which bore homophobic hate slogans, comparing LGBT+ people to paedophiles.

LGBT-free zones
In July, President Andrzej Duda narrowly won re-election, standing on a platform of harsh opposition to LGBT+ rights. The hard-right politician, backed by the Law and Justice Party, attacked gay “ideology” throughout his campaign.

Echoing prior battles in Britain, Duda pledged to “prohibit the propagation of this ideology” in public institutions and “defend the institution of marriage”—as a “relationship between a woman and a man”.

Late in the election race, he also proposed an amendment to Poland’s constitution banning same-sex couples from adopting.

In February, nearly 100 Polish municipal and local governments proclaimed themselves to be “free from LGBT ideology”, spanning a third of the country. With this institutional gay-bashing, many Polish queers now fear for their safety.

Stop Bzdurom began in the spring of 2019. Organising against those who spread homophobic hate—the collective promotes sexual healthcare, education and lively, musical and colourful protest.

They support queer youth, fight for acceptance, and have distributed over fifty thousand pieces of material across the nation.

LGBT+ activism has a proud history of queering up iconography—demonstrations, slogans, posters and placards. In response to repression, Stop Bzdurom held protests, draping rainbow flags and pink bandanas over the Jesus statue in the centre of Warsaw and other bronzes.

In solidarity, Scottish and Polish queers and supporters held local demonstrations: draping the Robert Burns statue in Dundee with a rainbow makeover, picketing the Polish consul, and gathering in big numbers on Princes Street, Edinburgh City Chambers and at the Dewar statue in Glasgow—with more to come.

Resistance
Polish queer artist Basia Mindewicz told the Voice: “I am no longer comfortable travelling [to Poland]. I’m worried for my queer friends there.

I didn’t think it could get any worse, until August 7th. I knew that Margot was going to be detained—but when I went online, I saw horrendous scenes from Warsaw.

“Dozens of videos and social media posts from my friends. I was so shocked, I cried. The police brutality that day was something that I’ve never seen before. You can’t help but imagine ‘This is what they think they should do with me too.’”

Mindewicz welcomes the resistance: “In recent months, there has been much online and media discussion in Poland—on queer people and their right to live full happy lives.

But I’m fed up with the ‘you shouldn’t be so radical’ dialectic. There are homophobic incidents almost daily. People are scared to show who they are; wearing rainbow colours is likely to get you beaten.”

“My heart goes to all brave activists like Margot that are not afraid to fight for our rights.”

Subsequent to these Scottish protests, left-wing LGBT+ activists in Edinburgh have formed a new organisation to demand justice—the Edinburgh Queer Collective. Their aim: raising funds for Margot’s defence, and to build material and fraternal support with queer siblings facing oppression and violence.

You can link up with them on Facebook: “Edinburgh Queer Collective”. And can contribute directly to Stop Bzdurom’s fund here

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