Police hauled the organizer of a youth festival in Russia in for questioning as she received online death threats.
Yulia Tsvetkova put together the Colour of Saffron festival in the far eastern town of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Due to run this weekend, local authorities cancelled the event over concerns one of the plays in the festival promoted a ‘LGBTI agenda’.
The play called Blue and Pink featured teenage actors and discussed gender. But the colors blue and pink are often represent the gay and lesbian community in Russia.
A police anti-extremism unit questioned Tsvetkova and the child actors in the lead up to the festival. Authorities accused her of subversive activity and promoting ‘hatred against men and non-traditional family relations’.
But Tsvetkova told a local media source the festival featured no LGBTI content.
‘Pink and blue are seen as typically “male” and “female colors”, that’s it,’ she said.
‘That’s what the play is about, the name was suggested by one of the actors, a 11-year-old child.’
In 2013 Russian president, Vladimir Putin, passed the ‘gay propaganda law’ which banned ‘information promoting the denial of traditional family values’ and ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations’. Activists argued the law censored the LGBTI community.
Its introduction has led to a vast increase of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attacks. Support groups for LGBTI minors have been shut down, gay festivals have been raided and attack groups torturing and murdering LGBTI people have surfaced.
On Friday (15 March), authorities told festival organisers it would not be going ahead. They accused Tsvetkova of importing ‘corruption and persecution’ from Europe.
‘Our director Julia is accused of living in Europe and bringing out corruption and propaganda from there,’ festival directors wrote on Russian social media site, VKontakte (VK).
‘We will look for how to show our productions as widely as possible – in Russia and in the world.
‘We ask to spread information as widely as possible. Because Russia is the bottom, and the city of Komsomolsk is the bottom of the bottom — a place where people have not heard about human rights and where the names of colors are considered propaganda.’
During the days of the police interrogations, Tsvetkova received death threats online.
‘I haven’t eaten or slept in three days–I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown,’ she wrote on VK.
‘I have only one question, why is someone so intent on sabotaging our small and peaceful youth festival. Can it be that youth activism so frightens our authorities?’
Despite the ban, organizers ran a downsized version of the festival in a small classroom.