A month ago when the first sketchy, unverified reports of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya being rounded up and detained, tortured, murdered in a state organised purge started leaking through; a feeling of dread filled my body. And I’m ashamed to say it, but those first feelings of fear were for myself.
If this is happening now, in Europe, in something reminiscent of what took place when the Nazis took hold of Germany in the thirties; then what’s to stop it happening here, in the UK, to me?
It is only by accident of birth that any of us are where we are, with whatever freedoms or horrors are associated with that place, and as a gay man who can see the European Convention on Human Rights slipping out of our hands and everything that protects us disappearing with it, I am fearful for what will come.
I’ve signed the petitions. I’ve been to some rallies. I’ve done some of the things we’re being prompted to do in order to let our government (and the Chechen and Russian regimes) know that, here in the UK, we believe that what they are doing to our brethren is unacceptable. And I still feel like shit. Because now the fear has turned to anger, and I feel impotent at my inability to protect those men in Chechnya, and in the rest of the world where sexuality and gender identity are used as justification for persecution and murder.
In response to these feelings, I’ve done what I always seem to do when I’m at odds with the world and I feel I can do nothing positive about it; I’ve written a play. In the second week of May two shorts plays will be presented in order to raise awareness of the situation; one I wrote through similar impotence in response to Russia’s gay-propaganda law going federal, and the other in direct response to the government orchestrated imprisonment of our brothers in Chechnya.
I wrote them to make more noise, to help keep this topic in our thoughts, and to raise cash for Amnesty International UK so that they can help the people on the ground.
Does that make me feel better, so that I can go off now for a cup of tea and think about something else?
Does it stop me lamenting the fact that I can’t just go over to Chechnya and remove those persecuted people from the grip of Ramzan Kadyrov and his bestie President Putin?
No, it doesn’t
Does it stop me wanting to put my hands around the neck of the Foreign Office and Home Office and throttle them until they agree to grant asylum in the UK for anyone who identifies as LGBT and is fleeing persecution.
No, not at all.
But it means I haven’t been silent. It means I have spoken out.
Because to turn our face away, to say nothing; is to be complicit.
Words by Leon Fleming
Leon's two plays - Boris Got Bu**ered & Ramazanland is Freedomland will be performed at Theatre Delicatessen Old Library, 39 Wells Way, SE5 0PX on May 11, 12, 13 at 7:30pm