Editor’s note: Mayor Michael Nutter recently declined to sever Philadelphia’s ties with Sister City Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth-largest city, which last year adopted a law banning LGBT propaganda. A similar bill was recently adopted at the federal level. Nutter said ending the 21-year Sister City relationship would be detrimental to LGBTs in Russia. Below is an open letter from a gay former resident of Nizhny Novgorod.
Dear Mr. Nutter,
As a citizen of Nizhny Novgorod, a gay man and an LGBT activist who was forced to flee the city and Russia due to my fear of persecution by the police for my activities against stigmatization and discrimination against the LGBT community, I was deeply saddened to find out that you declined to break the Sister-City relationship between Philadelphia and Nizhny Novgorod.
I respectfully disagree with your position on this issue: By maintaining this relationship, you do a disservice to the people of Russia and Nizhny Novgorod.
Mayoral elections were canceled in my city. The power was usurped by thieves and scoundrels who can’t even maintain the storm-sewer system, which causes the flooding of the streets every time it rains. Recently, the funds for snowplow equipment were embezzled and the city streets were not cleaned the entire winter. Do you think the culprits were found and held responsible? No! Our parks are destroyed. Our landmarks are taken down without any permission, often under the cover of night, so the activists don’t even have a chance to protest against these atrocities. Our police have turned into a tool of repression, threatening and beating up those who try to exercise their civil rights. Many people have become victims of this persecution. People are beaten up right in the police precincts.
I myself was forced to flee because the chief of the anti-extremism department openly threatened on Twitter “to deal” with me. Why? Because I am an openly gay man, because I am HIV-positive, because I try to be a responsible citizen. And because I published an open petition, signed by several-hundred people, asking Putin to put an end to his activities.
I ask you to stop supporting these scoundrels and to not participate in legitimizing these criminals.
On behalf of the citizens of Nizhny Novgorod, I respectfully request that you reconsider your decision and hope you will come to the only possible and truly just conclusion: to break the Sister-City relationship with Nizhny Novgorod.
By doing this, you will show support to the people of Russia and will say a resolute “no” to the criminals who usurped the power in my city.