Diversity House - aimed at providing a tolerant environment for LGBT and ethnic-minority football fans - in St Petersburg was shut without prior warning on the eve of the World Cup
18 Junio 2018 13:17
An organisation that hoped to provide LGBT and ethnic-minority football fans a ‘safe space’ in Russia says it was evicted from its premises in St Petersburg as the World Cup started.
Diversity House - which was aimed at providing a tolerant environment for gay and non-white football fans to watch matches - had planned to be open for the duration of the World Cup.
However, without any prior warning, the building's owners locked the organisers out and terminated their contract.
‘They asked us to leave the place very rudely, switched off the electricity and they explained nothing to us,’ a local organiser told BBC News.
The international Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) network, which was behind the initiative, said it could have been politically motivated due to the hostile attitude towards the LGBT community in Russia.
It was a ‘political attack of the kind that shows how debates about human rights are curtailed by powerful conservative political forces in Russia’, said Fare director Piara Powar in a statement on Saturday.
According to Powar, there is a long history of equality rights groups being closed or pressured in Russia, and particularly in St Petersburg.
New premises for Diversity House in the city centre have since been found and opened on Saturday, organisers confirmed.
Football's ruling body Fifa, which works with Fare, said it had contacted St Petersburg authorities to try to find a solution and said it ‘regretted’ what had happened.
There is another Diversity House in Moscow that is open and has been running events. The spaces feature football exhibitions, World Cup match-viewings, discussions, and meetings with Russian supporters and residents, Fare says.