Singer Marc Almond has commented on the persecution facing LGBTI people in regions such as Chechnya and Brunei.
Speaking exclusively to Gay Star News, Almond’s comments came after the unveiling of a fundraising portrait of him in aid of Amnesty International.
Almond shot to fame in the early 80s with his band, Soft Cell and the global smash, Tainted Love. After the band disbanded in 1984, he went on to enjoy a successful solo career. This has included several performances in Russia and the release of an album of Russian romance songs, Heart on Snow, in 2003.
‘There is no soundbite answer to this terrible situation in Chechnya,’ he said in a statement to GSN. ‘Putin likely has little or no real control over Ramzan Kadyrov. It is a heartbreaking situation for people there from the LGBT community who need our help.’
‘Imprisonment, torture and death’
Almond went on to criticize the European Union for not doing more to help LGBT Chechens facing persecution.
‘But EU current asylum procedures are standardized, and do not allow Chechen refugees a lot of attention. Most of these LGBT asylum seekers were turned down and had to return. These people could have helped shed light on the situation in Chechnya but “who would say anything when they know they aren’t protected.”
‘Many were sent back to face imprisonment, torture and death.’
He went on to suggest the UK government and businesses could be do much more to apply pressure to anti-gay regimes.
‘As for Brunei, how is that so different from Saudi Arabia? We do business and sell arms to both these shameful regimes. People stay at their hotels and welcome doing business with them and turn their heads away, and the shame is on all of us.
‘The best way to show support is donate to Amnesty International and support their important work.’
Almond agreed to sit for British artist Dan Llywelyn Hall’s Portrait Amnesty project. The project launched last Thursday evening at a special event at L’Escargot restaurant in Soho, London.
Accompanied by a pianist, Almond performed an intimate set of four songs. This included classics such as Torch and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. Llywelyn then unveiled portraits of Almond and Rachel Johnson. Freelance journalist Johnson was formerly the editor of The Lady and is also famed for being the sister of MP Boris Johnson.
After the unveiling, Johnson and Llewlyn were interviewed about the process of producing the paintings.
‘I wanted two very different personalities involved from the outset,’ Llewlyn Hall turned GSN afterwards.
‘Marc being an iconic performer and somebody who I have long admired has been on my mind as a subject for a portrait. He has a wonderfully expressive heartfelt manner that emotionally connects him to his audience. I can relate to this baring of one’s soul as it’s important in my painting.
‘Rachel, in her great eloquence has spent a lot of time writing about others and is an interesting observer of people. She has her finger on the pulse and strikes me as a barometer of our times. Like Marc, Rachel has emotional sincerity and they make an unlikely pairing.’
Llewlyn Hall is to produce further portraits for donating to Amnesty. The #PortraitAmnesty will culminate in an exhibition and auction later this year.
The situation in Chechnya
Chechnya is located in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation.
Its president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been in power since 2007. He rules the country in accordance with traditional Islamic social codes, even if these contravene Russian law. Since late 2016, the country has arrested, detained and tortured LGBT citizens. Some men have disappeared, believed murdered.
In recent weeks, Gay Star News has been running a fundraising appeal to benefit the Russian LGBT Network, specifically to aid it in its work helping LGBTI people escape Chechnya.
At the end of March, Gay Star News broke the story about Brunei introducing a new Sharia penal code. This includes death by stoning for those found guilty of having gay sex.
Chechnya Crisis Appeal
As well as using our investigative journalism to keep you informed about what’s happening on-the-ground as it happens; we’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Gay Star News Chechyna Crisis Appeal.