On the eve of the World Cup, a diversity house and safe space for LGBT+ and non-white football fans has been shut down in St Petersburg.
The Fare Network, an organisation dedicated to ending discrimination in football, reported that they were evicted from their location in St Petersburg the day before the World Cup began.
In a BBC interview, the organisers stated that the building’s owners evicted them from the residence, locking them out and terminating their contract at the last minute.
“They asked us to leave the place very rudely, switched off the electricity and they explained nothing to us,” said a local organiser to the BBC.
Fare suspects that the Russian government is involved in the removal of the organisation from the premises. The organisation tweeted that the authorities in St Petersburg were behind the closure of the Diversity House.
It’s believed to be 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.
The organisation did relocate and secure another location in St. Petersburg to act as a replacement Diversity House. The location of a similar space in Moscow opened last week and has been running events smoothly.
Fifa, football’s international governing body, works with Fare to guarantee the inclusivity of all football fans. It said that they have contacted St Petersburg authorities to resolve the regrettable situation.
Powar stated that this occurrence is not unfamiliar to LGBT+ rights groups in St Petersburg.
“They recognise it as the method through which the city authorities shut down activities which do not conform to their political outlook,” said Powar in a statement.
In 2012, the Zenit St Petersburg club wrote a manifesto that called in the football team to not sign black or gay players.
Hours after the World Cup began, a gay couple in St Petersburg were attacked, leaving one individual disabled.
Reports state that there were homophobic undertones in the attack. The French couple sustained a horrific beating that left one man with a brain contusion and open craniocerebral injury.
These violent instances come after conflicting reports that LGBT+ football fans are both welcome and should use caution at the World Cup.
LGBT+ fans are urged to avoid public displays of affection and outward displays of sexuality while attending the World Cup. Fare has created a Whatsapp hotline for fans in need of help.
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