Poland’s LGBT community is “under attack”, activists warn | The Cube
“We don’t feel safe here”. Many people from across Poland, all from the LGBT community, all with the same message. Some were too afraid to make their identities public. All felt targeted by events this summer.
In July, a conservative newspaper printed “LGBT Free Zone” stickers for its readers to publicly display.
Later that month the first-ever Pride rally in the city of Bialystok was attacked by counter-demonstrators. Police were forced to detain several right-wing activists. On Facebook, the deputy mayor Warsaw said the country had failed its citizens.
Then, at the start of August, the Archbishop of Krakow compared LGBT people to a “rainbow plague”. He made the remarks in a sermon to commemorating the Warsaw Uprising, in which Polish citizens fought back against their Nazi occupiers, at a time when many LGBT Poles were sent to their deaths.
On Sunday, the President of the ruling conservative party in Poland, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), publicly thanked Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski for his comments. Speaking at a campaign rally, Jarosław Kaczyński said the Archbishop had spoken with "resolute, unambiguous words" and himself later referred to LGBT pride marches as a "travelling theatre".
Several other government ministers have also defended Archbishop Jędraszewski's remarks, against what has been labelled the “ideology” of LGBT. Political analysts argue that this is a key strategy for the Law and Justice Party as they seek to maintain their lead in the opinion polls, in a country where the Catholic Church continues to hold an important role.
But this is what one of the country’s few openly gay politicians describes as the “deteriorating climate” for LGBT rights.
Marek Szolc, one of the few openly gay councillors in Poland at Warsaw City Council, told Euronews that LGBT people had “lost the feeling that we are equal".
“Even though in theory we are in a European country in the EU, we have lost the support... we have lost this very basic infrastructure that every human being should have in a democratic society,” he said.
He lays the blame at the feet of the governing Law and Justice Party and the Catholic Church in the country.
"When we see that the most influential politician in Poland is endorsing hate speech against gay people, we can no longer feel safe. Many people are influenced by this. The impact of his words is extremely dangerous because it actually encourages people to be violent towards the LGBT community."
An LGBT supporters' association for football team Wisła Kraków was established in July. They told Euronews the archbishop's comments were feeding into a social situation which is becoming “more and more antagonistic”.
“People’s awareness about what LGBT stands for is very low in Poland,” they said. “Especially amongst football fans.”
Their aim is to foster greater understanding, “to educate people... that LGBT people also deserve respect like any other human being.”
However, the organisation wasn’t willing to offer a spokesperson for an interview, citing growing safety concerns.
Magda Dropek, an LGBT activist in Krakow, told Euronews she felt "sadness and anger" at Mr Kaczyński's speech.
"We are not a threat, we are citizens of this country, we pay taxes, we work for a better future. I'm more and more scared when it comes for the future."
The situation in Poland is now gaining international attention, with the organisation “All Out” launching a global campaign to “call out the attacks. Around 10,000 people had already signed their petition just hours after launch. Several EU Political groups including the Social & Democrats have also condemned the violence against LGBT community on social media.
With elections set for October 2019 and a campaigning season beginning, many are concerned the situation will deteriorate further, with some in the LGBT community telling Euronews they "fear for their lives" if the Law and Justice Party remain in power.
Euronews has repeatedly reached out to the ruling Law and Justice Party for comment, but have not yet received a reply.