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Monday, 31 March 2014

My support goes to all who are victims of Government sponsored subjugation of the individual, not necessarily for their beliefs.

The two pasted articles under #LouisArmstrong and his #WonderfulWorld are must reads for any folks who may have been confused by the "messages" conveyed from and during #EuroMaidan #ArabSpring #IranElection

In the past two decades I have travelled widely across #Arabia and #CIS and lived in a few of those nations, so I believe I have a level of experience and exposure to justify my comments.

First and foremost I believe I am a #humanist , rapidly followed by being a believer in the #democratic process.

Supporters of #democracy  and #opposition  to authoritarian/corrupt governments takes many forms and all should be welcomed.

I would state that whilst I support their activities, few would get my vote, if I was entitled to one.

What #Putin  is labelling as #fascists  in #Ukraine  do actually, from my viewpoint, echo what many Russians think and say. The fascist label is an easy propaganda tool to stir up historical emotions. For me they are extremists and generally the ballot-box shows they are on the margins.

Ironically over the past few years, since #ArabSpring ,  I have been accused of being an #Islamist , also a #terrorist , due to my support of the democratically elected government in #Egypt  , which was overthrown by a brutal, bloody #coup .

When #IranElection  took place in 2009 I was accused of being a #Pahlavi  supporter, which is utterly ridiculous.

One day global society may be non-partisan, but not in my lifetime. Sorry Satchmo!

My support goes to all who are victims of Government sponsored subjugation of the individual, not necessarily for their beliefs.

LGBT Rights Sidelined After Ukrainian Revolution | New Republic:
Kiev is getting back to normal. Downtown streets that just one month ago looked like battlefields are now full of busy crowds and tourists. In one of the newly revitalized city squares, I met Olena Shevchenko, an LGBT-activist-turned-revolutionary. I had heard a lot of about her—an openly gay woman who managed to form a female-only military unit. Some call them the “Maidan Amazons.”
Olena joined the revolution in its very first days, but the idea to form a women-only “sotnya” (a Cossack term for a group of one hundred fighters) came a bit later, as a response to rising sexism within Maidan (Independence) Square. The women in Maidan Square were being asked to make sandwiches; meanwhile, they had been building the barricades.
At the start, Olena had only eight women in her military unit (mostly human rights activists from feminist or LGBT groups). But thanks to social media, the number rose to 500 people in Independence Square and more than 1,500 at other locations. (For comparison, the right-wing Right Sector, had around 2,500 fighters in downtown Kiev on a regular basis.) “It was amazing, because ‘feminism’ is still a dirty word in Ukraine,” she says, “the same as ‘gay.’”
It’s more surprising, in the end, that the Maidan protesters—particularly the far-right groups that became a driving force against President Yanukovych—were able to accept a gay fighter rather than a feminist one. Homophobia has been on the rise in Ukraine. A 2013 GFK Ukraine study showed that 80 percent of those polled had negative attitudes towards gay people. That's at least 8 percent more than the previous year. In another 2013 poll by the Ukrainian Gay Alliance NGO and the Ukrainian State Sociology Institute, 63 percent of surveyed Ukrainians said homosexuality is a perversion or mental disease; only 9 percent supported same-sex marriages. And post-revolution Ukraine does not seem to be much better for LGBT Ukrainians.
First, many open homophobes are still among the country’s top-officials. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov (also a Baptist preacher) famously said, back in 2007, “If a man has normal views, then you label him a conservative, but those who use drugs or promote sodomy—you label them a progressive person. All of these are perversions.” Several leaders from the far-right Ukrainian nationalist party, Svoboda, have been given ministerial posts in the post-revolution government, including the vice-prime minister position. In fairness, Svoboda has toned down its anti-gay rhetoric in recent months. One of the party’s MPs, Yuriy Syrotyuk, called the first gay pride parade in Kiev “an act of aggression” against Ukraine in 2012, but now presents a more moderate, if still limited, position. “We respect rights of all minorities, but LGBT legalization will blow up this country,” he stated in an interview. “If we take this discussion to the parliament, not only Crimea will secede, but Ukrainian provinces will also start to leave the country.”

The new government is also actively trying to block an anti-discrimination law that would protect 
LGBT people in workplaces. This piece of legislation, pushed as part of integration talks with EU is, frankly, the only progressive thing to happen for the local gay community since 1991, when Ukraine became the first post-Soviet country to decriminalize homosexuality. (Some opponents of the law argue that support for it would give Russia a cart-blanche; in the past, the Kremlin has showed amazing capabilities to organize quickly and effectively against any kind of gay movement inside Ukraine.) Now, a law similar to the Russian’s "gay propaganda" law—which criminalizes even discussion of gay rights—is pending in the Ukrainian parliament.
A wave of recent violence against gay people in Ukraine has underlined how precarious the situation is for LGBT activists. During January and February, far-right revolutionary fighters attacked a famous gay club in Kiev five times. The owners didn’t want to go public with the story, afraid of more attacks and allegations of being “unpatriotic” or “Kremlin provocateurs,” so they just closed the place down. Nearby luxury boutiques were left untouched. Here is footage from the vandalized club, which the owners posted on YouTube following my request:

But despite these aggressions, LGBT activists are in a tricky position when it comes to the revolution. When I approached revolutionary campaigner Bohdana Babich, whoposted about the attacks on the gay club on her Facebook page, she refused to speak with me, saying that I shouldn’t create “informational noise” at a time of a crisis in Ukraine. When a group of LGBT activists decided to support the revolution last year, they did so with the understanding that they would have to do so quietly. “A majority of LGBT activists decided to fully support and participate in the revolution, because European values are close to our values and goals,” said Bogdan Globa, a well-known local LGBT activist, in an interview with Hromadske TV in January. “But, at the same time, we decided not to use our rainbow flags in joining the protest, not to demand a special attention to us and to publicly demonstrate our concerns.”
Svoboda MP Yuriy Syrotyuk is right when he says that “the majority of local members of the parliament would not [vote for gay marriage legislation]. Absolutely all attempts to put this legislation up for a vote have resulted in public fury and mass protests.” The consensus here—among conservative and liberal politicians—is that Ukrainian gays should wait another 15 or 30 years for the expansion of civil rights. This is the message I’ve heard from almost every local politician I spoke to in the last three months.
There are even reports that the European Union has considered tabling LGBT civil rights in Ukraine. Pavel Petrenko, the country's Justice Minister, said Monday that the European Commission had dropped a demand to include "sexual minorities" in an anti-discrimination law, a requirement for EU integration. Later, the EU embassy in Kiev responded: “There is no change of the EU position; we prefer a solution whereby the law covers sexual orientation,” stated David Stulík, press and information officer for the EU delegation to Ukraine. According to a source involved in these talks, the EU hinted at the possibility of dropping the LGBT-rights provision in integration talks, and the Ukrainian government rushed to announce the shift as a done deal. According to Globa, who attended talks on Wednesday between European Commission representatives and Ukrainian civil rights groups, the European Commission has dropped gay rights provisions from its negotiation requirements.
So what of those LGBT activists who were on the front lines? “Personally, I feel betrayed. It’s like a sellout, from both sides,” says Ukrainian gay activist Zoryan Kis. “The new Ukrainian government uses the chaotic, post-revolution situation as a pretext for not letting any kind of gay rights legislation to pass through the parliament.” Zoryan is not naïve; he understands that gay marriage and full equality are years away. But equality at the workplace was a crucial first step in the right direction, and now the measure to ensure workplace equality is in trouble.
I asked Shevchenko of the “Maidan Amazons” the same question: Does she feel “betrayed” by the new, post-revolution government? For Shevchenko, the alternative—some kind of union with Russia—seems much worse. “What gay rights would we be talking about in that case?” she says. “Despite all ongoing controversies, we made a couple of clear steps towards the EU. And it means hope for all of us.” 
Maxim Eristavi is a freelance writer based in Kiev. He previously worked as executive producer for the Voice of Russia and journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Azerbaijan’s Illiberal Opposition – OpEd | Eurasia Review:

By Eldar Mamedov
A common assumption among Western observers is that political opponents of authoritarian leaders in the Caucasus and Central Asia tend to be themselves relatively liberal in their political beliefs and tolerant in social views. But several recent incidents in Azerbaijan challenge this assumption.
Before examining the Azerbaijani examples in depth, it should be noted that President Ilham Aliyev’s administration in Baku has clamped down in recent years on basic freedoms, closing open space in the political arena and muzzling the press. At the same time, the political opposition in the country lacks cohesionand doesn’t seem likely to pose a serious political challenge to Aliyev’s authority anytime soon.
The weakness of the political opposition may actually help hide the illiberal attitudes held by some of its most prominent elements: some relatively high-profile Aliyev critics have recently voiced opinions that are at odds with the principles of democratization.
The first incident involved the late January suicide of a young gay-rights activist,Isa Shahmarli. In reacting to the tragedy, most civil society activists deplored the pervasive homophobia in Azerbaijani society that was widely seen as a factor in prompting Shahmarli to take his life. Several opposition politicians, however, embraced a socially conservative viewpoint: for example, Erkin Gadirli, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican Alternative (ReAl) stated that the homosexuality was a “choice”, which is why “all religions” condemned it. Meanwhile, another opposition activist, Murad Gassanly, a UK-based exile who used to represent the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), an umbrella opposition organization, criticized “ultra-liberals” for prioritizing LGBT rights, while downplaying the “mainstream of Azerbaijani public opinion.”
A few weeks later, at the end of February, again the same duo made news. Gadirli called for the assassination of Armenian officials, including the president of the country, for their role in ethnic cleansing of Azeris from the village of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh. When Richard Kauzlarich, a former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, condemned the call as “a pure incitement to terrorism,” Gadirli refused to retract and proudly announced that he was neither liberal nor humanist. Meanwhile, Gassanly, in what looked more like a Facebook rant than a serious counter-argument, accused Kauzlarich of “hypocrisy” and “ultra-liberals” of being ready to “give up Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenians”.
It is telling that both Gadirli and Gassanly emphatically rejected liberalism in their comments. That, however, does not make them non-democrats because they both endorse the principle that people should be able to choose their rulers via the ballot box. Also, sadly, their dismissive attitude of LGBT rights may well reflect the feelings of many Azerbaijanis. What the incidents also show is they are not liberal democrats in the sense that they can tolerate differences, champion individual rights or show a willingness to protect the rights of the minority against the will of the majority.
Azerbaijani opposition parties on the whole don’t exude much of a liberal vibe. Most are structured along the same lines as the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP); each has an unrivaled leader who expects unquestioning obedience from the rank-and-file; and each tends to reflect the will of its respective leader, rather than reflect a well-defined political philosophy.
An example of an illiberal pattern that Azerbaijan could easily mimic is Turkey. There, Prime-Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent, trying to impose its own religiously conservative values on society, while at the same time undermining judicial independence and freedom of speech. And it is doing all this in the name of the majority’s will.
The reality in Azerbaijan should prompt US and European Union officials to rethink their democratization strategy for Azerbaijan, and perhaps for other countries in the region.
Establishing the formal institutions of democracy is relatively easy – they already exist in Azerbaijan. But for genuine change to be possible, it is much more important to promote liberal values. This is going to be an inevitably long and frustrating process. It will not satisfy those who, faced with pervasive corruption and abuse, yearn for immediate change. But, over the long term, the spread of liberal values would increase the odds that any future political change would be sustainable.
The example of Turkey shows that liberalism is not a luxury, but a basic requirement for a well-functioning society. The heavy-handed treatment of dissent by Erdogan threatens to reverse many of the democratic and economic gains made by Turkey over the last decade.
Eldar Mamedov is a political adviser to the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament. He writes in his personal capacity.
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