The former manager of Central Station Nightclub in Moscow, Arkady Gyngazov, is seeking asylum in the United States due to the anti-LGBT harassment he faced.
“I’m not going to go back to Russia because I feel my safety, even my life, is threatened,” said Gyngazov to Washington Blade.
Under Gyngazov’s management, on November 16th 2013 two men tried to enter the club. Due to their aggressive demeanor, the security staff denied them access to the building. Shortly after, the men returned and opened fire. None of the estimated 500 people inside of the night club got hurt. This incident was followed by several others such as poisonous gas in the club..Following the vandalism episode, the owner of Central Station wrote to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his letter Andrei Lishchinsky blamed the controversial “gay propaganda law” for the intolerance in Russia.
"The building was seized by a professional raiding company that served the interests of unknown foreign legal entities that ordered multiple illegal actions against LGBT visitors of the club," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which he posted to Facebook. "These actions were obviously motivated by hatred toward representatives of the LGBT community and had a clear extremist tone." Lishchinsky said to The Moscow Times.
Due to the ongoing anti-LGBT harassment in Russia, Gyngazov fled to United States on December 14th because of the threat to his well-being. After his visa expires, he will seek an asylum, a protection as a political refuge of Russia. The asylum will assure his safety.
Gyngazov also commented on the recent release of Russian punk band Pussy Riot who staged a protest against Putin as well as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, convicted on fraud charges. Gyngazov believes that Putin granted amnesty to the Pussy Riot, Khodorkovsky and Greenpeace members as a way to settle Russia’s reputation of discrimination towards members of the LGBT community. Since the political move according to Gyngazov is specifically taken before the start of the winter Olympic games in Sochi, Gyngazov is afraid for the status of the LGBT individuals in Russia after the conclusion of the 2014 winter Olympics. Gyngazov had to travel to United States to protect himself from anti-gay harassment and discrimination. He is one of few individuals to speak up about his own experience with the intolerance of LGBT individuals in Russia.
Along with a club manager escaping his own country in fear of anti-LGBT harassment, other instances have demonstrated the ongoing discrimination of the LGBT community in Russia. A creative director of one of the biggest phone retailer in Russia expressed his opinion about homosexuality which many argued should be a reason for Apple to back away from the contract. He believes that LGBT individuals should be thrown "alive into an oven."
The LGBT rights coalition wrote an official letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook:
"[Okhlobystin's] statements have been enthusiastically published by the Kremlin's propaganda press and distributed across entire Russia just adding additional fuel to the rampant homophobic campaign that already resulted in at least 26 murders and countless hate crimes against Russian LGBT population [sic]" As told by Mother Jones.
Tim Cook now faces a crucial decision. His decision can severely hurt Apple’s great reputation for the support of the LGBT community.Both Gyngazov’s story and Ivan Okhlobystin’s stance on the LGBT community, serves as a glimpse of the severity of discrimination of LGBT individuals in Russia