In the country where human rights organizations and lawyers are working overtime, our Prime Minister will visit the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. In his place I'd love to fly along with the Dutch delegation to Sochi, early February. Mark Rutte could do what François Hollande, Angela Merkel and Barack Obama already did. For clarity: I am against a boycott, but I'd love to see that we, the Netherlands, do make a statement at the Olympics. President Barack Obama named former tennis player Billie Jean-King as one of two openly gay ambassadors to represent the US at the opening and closing ceremonies. The British government said that sports minister Helen Grant, who is also equalities minister, will attend on its behalf. Positive statements: who's to follow?
Although no explanations are given, the actions of Hollande, Merkel and Obama are widely seen as direct challenges to the new laws in Russia. For example the 'anti-gay propaganda law'. This vague law makes daily life for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders (LGBT) and their supporters in Russia hard and difficult. We need to support them that's exactly what Obama is doing.
The fact that I was held in Murmansk this summer, while making a documentary about daily life for LGBT's, also shows that the safety of gay athletes and fans in Sochi, in principle, is not guaranteed. Russian sports minister, Vitaly Moetko, stated some time ago that all athletes and visitors to Sochi should respect the local laws. And while Russia and the IOC wrote a letter saying that there will be a no discrimination during the Games, Putin declared Sotchi as a non-demonstration zone. How inconsistent do you want it?
Many people in Russia believe that there is no use in fighting homophobia, and they are pretty depressed about the situation. I hear stories of people thinking they'll either have to get used to it or emigrate. Then there are ones who want to fight it. There aren't many opportunities for human rights defenders or LGBT-activists to go to Russia and find ways to start dialogues about the current situation in Russia. The Olympics is a change, and we must seize it!
Enough reasons for our prime minister not to go and for other to go. When Rutte might consider sending me and my crew to Sotchi he could even help me a bit. Because how can we ensure that the travel ban that was imposed on me will be lifted? The ban was one of the fines I received after my visit to Russia; and applies for three years. But I'd love to get rid of it so I can see my friends soon and fight with them, side by side, for equal rights.