“We are proud of who we are,” said Valentina Likhoshva from Russia, after participating in a unique Pride parade in Norway.
Pride parades may seem like isolated events, but they make an important statement: You are free to choose who you are and to love who you want.
It was a historical moment when 200 Russians and Norwegians gathered for the first ever Barents Pride in Kirkenes, just half an hour drive from the Russian border.
A new kind of feeling
“We are concerned about the increasingly brutal attacks on LGBTI persons and activists in Russia. Still, it was amazing to witness the many brave activists marching in the streets of Kirkenes,” says Mina Skouen, Senior Adviser at the NHC.
In September 2017, Mina Skouen co-ordinated Barents Pride together with FRI (the Norwegian Organisation for Sexual and Gender Diversity), Amnesty International Norway and Queer World.
Russians and Norwegians went out into the streets to celebrate diversity, while also drawing attention to the difficulties faced by LGBTI persons in Russia.
After the parade, Valentina Likhoshva was repeatedly asked how she felt now.
“I don’t know what I feel because it’s a new kind of feeling. We have never experienced this before,” she replied.
Likhoshva represents Maksimum, an LGBTI group in Murmansk, which has been attacked with gas grenades and whose members have been arrested and fined. Being a part of the LGBTI community puts you at risk all over Russia.
An unprecedented wave of persecution has targeted people, believed to be gay, in Chechnya. Hundreds have been detained, many of them tortured and an unknown number killed.
Barents Pride was an example of solidarity within a marginalised group of people under attack.
In recognition of their efforts, the NHC and the other organisers of Barents Pride were awarded the Keep Going Award at the Norwegian GayGalla 2018.
“Barents Pride was an example of genuine solidarity, of what acceptance and freedom feels like,” says Valentina Likhoshva, who was deeply moved as a recipient of the award.