Nonviolent direct action activist group Voices4 have organized a peaceful protest supporting the release of Ali Feruz, a queer journalist currently being held in a detention center in Moscow.
Feruz was arrested and tortured while living in Uzbekistan in 2008, ultimately leading him to flee to Kyrgyzstan, and then Kazakhstan, where he was able to apply for refugee status through the United Nations. After travelling on to Moscow, he began writing for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where he reported on issues including refugee and migrant rights, as well as hate crimes and LGBTQ stories.
While the circumstances surrounding his current situation remain unclear, Feruz was arrested again by Russian officials for reportedly violating immigration legislation. A judge ruled that Feruz be returned to Uzbekistan—after hearing of the decision, Feruz tried to slash his wrists with a ballpoint pen in the courthouse. He remains in a Russian detention center, with his requests to seek asylum repeatedly denied.
The case was brought to Voices4's attention by member Elly Brinkley, an employee for the literary and human rights organization PEN America, self-described as dedicated to uniting "writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible." Brinkley met Feruz just before his arrest while on a trip to Moscow.
"By protesting outside the consulate we are sending a clear message to Russia, Uzbekistan and all other governments that torture and imprison their queer citizens," explains Adam Eli, a founding member of Voices4. "We are joining an ever growing chorus of voices that says 'It is our obligation to stand up for queer people all over the world. As queer people we are responsible for all queer people.' Gone are the days where governments can simply detain queer journalists with no ramifications. When you mess with one queer, you mess with us all."
Until the European Court of Human Rights has formally reviewed his case, his deportation remains on hold, though if it decided that he will return to Uzbekistan Feruz will be sentenced to near-certain doom.
“Ali Feruz is openly gay, a human rights activist and a correspondent for the independent Novaya
Gazeta newspaper. This is a near-lethal combination for someone who is about to be handed over to
Uzbekistan, where 'sodomy' is a crime and torture is endemic,” says Denis Krivosheev, Deputy
Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
Voices4 will congregate outside of New York City's Russian consolate (9 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128) tomorrow, January 9, at 1 PM EST to support Feruz's freedom. At the same time, activists are meeting in Berlin to read aloud Feruz's detention center diary entries.
Those not in New York can help as well: "We need to spread the word about Ali's case," Brinkley explains. "Governments are able to get away with such flagrant human rights abuses because they think they can escape international notice. We need to let the Russian and Uzbek governments know that they cannot get away with it and that we're watching them. It's also important to support all the independent journalists in Russia who are risking their lives to defend truth and expose tyranny and corruption."