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Shocking footage of anti-gay groups

Shocking footage of the violent groups that target gay men and lesbian women in Russia will reveal the dangerous levels of homophobia in the country in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics.

A British Channel 4 documentary, Hunted, to be broadcast in the Dispatches strand on Wednesday, February 5, at 10pm, will include the first television reporting of the concerted intimidation and humiliation carried out by the anti-gay groups Parents of Russia and Occupy Paedophilia.

"We filmed these groups with their knowledge, and what I found shocking afterwards was that only a few asked to have their faces disguised. They all believe they are doing the right thing," said Liz MacKean, the investigative journalist who travelled to Russia to make the film for Channel 4.

"Occupy Paedophilia has groups in more than 30 cities. They operate with impunity and under the cover of the remarks [Vladimir] Putin has made suggestions that children are at risk from homosexuals," MacKean added.

The film shows the gangs using the internet to lure potential victims to meetings, before threatening violence to force confessions or humiliating acts.

"Occupy Paedophilia deliberately blurs the lines between paedophilia and homosexuality," said Tom Porter, commissioning editor of the documentary.

"During one of the filmed incidents of humiliation, the group asked our cameraman and director, Ben Steele, to stop filming, but he continued partly because he was concerned that if he stopped there would be violence."

In another sequence, Timur Isav, a self-styled crusading member of Parents of Russia, is shown attending a lesbian and gay event and handing out bags containing a length of rope, with the intention of suggesting they commit suicide.

International human rights groups plan to step up their protests against Russia's anti-gay laws during the event in a bid to reverse legislation that they say is responsible for a dramatic rise in homophobic attacks.

Athlete Ally, an organisation focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, is among the organisations that have called for worldwide peaceful action on Wednesday as part of a "Global Speak Out" event in support of Russian LGBT people. Wesley Adams, chief operating officer at US-based campaign group All Out, who is co-ordinating the Speak Out protests, called for everyone to wear red clothing at the events – a colourful move echoing the German national team's decision to wear rainbow-coloured kit for the Games.

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Referring to the Principle Six campaign – named after the clause in the Olympic charter that supposedly guarantees non-discrimination – he said: "The Principle Six campaign uses the language of the charter to give athletes and fans a way to speak out against discrimination before and during the Sochi Olympics, without breaking Russian anti-gay laws, or violating the Olympic ban on political speech."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who will be attending the London protest at Downing Street on Wednesday evening, condemned "cowardly" Games' sponsors, such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Visa, for not speaking out. He said: "None of the corporate sponsors have explicitly condemned the Russian anti-gay law or homophobic violence in Russia. "This isn't good enough. They seem more interested in safeguarding their Russian sales than in standing up for human rights."

Tatchell compared the Sochi Games with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. "There are no Nuremberg laws or concentration camps, but the hateful anti-gay propaganda is similar to the anti-semitism stirred by the Nazis," he added.

© Observer

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