The cultural manager and curator Hella Mewis has been active in German-Iraqi cultural exchange for many years. At the Berlin based network for cultural reconstruction in Iraq, she was involved in numerous initiatives and projects that were intended to enable the Iraqi cultural scene to join the international cultural exchange after decades of isolation through war and terror. Some of these could also be realized with the help of the ITI. Since 2012 she continued her work from Baghdad. She built up the cultural centre “Beit Tarkib” under the most difficult conditions and got support by the Goethe-Institut for festivals, concerts, readings, workshops and exhibitions. Hella was, as usual, travelling by bicycle when she was kidnapped by armed men from two cars near the cultural centre in the evening of July 20. It is speculated that the perpetrators are close to the Hezbollah militia. The German Foreign Office has set up a crisis management team. Media and networks are following the case. #hellamewis, #freehella
On Friday, June 26, the Moscow judge gave Kirill Serebrennikov a suspended sentence to three years probation and a three-year ban on leading any state-backed cultural institution in Russia. However, the judge said that the defendants would be required to repay nearly 129 million rubles in compensation for the money allegedly embezzled. Co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky were also found guilty of conspiring to mislead the culture ministry for “personal enrichment” and also sentenced to probation. The fourth defendant, Sofya Apfelbaum, was convicted of negligence.
Artists around the world expressed their solidarity, an online petition in Germany got 57.000 subscribers. The representative of the EU foreign service Peter Stano and Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler expressed their demand for a fair and transparent trial.
The case of the “Platform” Projekt at the Gogol Center’s “Seventh Studio” Kirill Serebrennikov has been going on for more than three years (see also our former posts at ACAR). On June 22 the judicial investigation has ended. The state prosecution considered proven guilty persons involved in the case of Serebrennikov, asks to plead Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexey Malobrodsky, Yury Itin and Sophia Apfelbaum and sentence them with following punishments: 6 years of imprisonment in a penal colony with a fine of 800 thousand rubles for Serebrennikov , 5 years for Malobrodsky and 4 years for Itin and Apfelbaum as well. At the same time the prosecution corrects the amount of damage from 133 million 237 thousand rubles to 128 million 974 thousand rubles. The court will pass a verdict in the coming days.
The Gogol Center has published Kirill Serebrennikov’s speech at the Meshchansky court on June 22nd: Platform Lessons
Dancer and choreographer Kirvan Fortuin died after being stabbed on June 13. The South African founder and artistic director of the Kirvan Fortuin Foundation and founder of House of Le Cap, South Africa’s first ballroom house Fortuin was also a dedicated LGBTQI+ activist.
For the past few years Fortuin resided between South Africa and the Netherlands, and danced for a Dutch dance company. He received many awards, among them a Ministerial recommendation at the Western Cape Cultural Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Preservation and Promotion of an Indigenous Art form.
The 20th Freedom of Expression Awards were held online on Thursday 16th April as a digital celebration. The Russian theater director, visual artist, and activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Yulia Tsvetkova (see our posts 1, 2), has been awarded the 2020 Freedom of Expression Award Arts Fellow. Index on Censorship works with the fellows during the awarding year to provide long-term, structured support.
The other 2020 fellows are: Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei (campaigning); Turkish lawyer Veysel Ok (campaigning); 7amleh (digital activism) and OKO press (journalism).
Yulia Tsvetkova, the 26-year-old Russian theater director, visual artist, and activist who has been under house arrest in (far Eastern) Komsomolsk-on-Amur since November 22, 2019 on charges related to her work with the children’s theater “Merak” and her visual artwork published on social media. Yulia is the target of homophobic harassment and persecution for her work as a defender of the rights of women and LGBT people( see our post from December 12, 2019).
She is charged with “producing and trafficking pornographic materials” for administering a group on the Russian social media site Vkontakte called “Vagina Monologues,” which published artistic and educational images of the female body. If convicted, Yulia could be sentenced to up to 6 years in prison.
Yulia was the director of the activist children’s theater “Merak” in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The group produced 9 performances, including a play that examined gender stereotypes, called “Pink and Blue.” In March 2019 Yulia and her theater were targeted by self-described “Anti-LGBT Activist” Timur Bulatov (Los Angeles Times), who has continued to harass her and make false claims against her to the Russian police. Because of this persecution and harassment, Yulia was forced to close the Merak theater.
In December 2019 Yulia was found guilty of “LGBT Propaganda,” an administrative offense for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations among minors” and fined 50,000 rubles (780 US dollars) for administering two LGBTI social media groups. Both groups were labeled “18+” in accordance with the requirements of Russian law. In January 2020 a new case was brought against her for a drawing she published on social media with the words “Family is where there is love. Support LGBT + families .”
Yulia is extremely geographically isolated in the Russian Far East. She is supported by her mother and a handful of people in her town, but otherwise she fears violence and harassment. She is allowed to venture 500 meters from home for one hour each day. She has been denied vital medical treatment.