6 Activists Cleverly Smuggled A Banned Pride Flag To The World Cup In Russia

Photographed by Javier Tles
We know how hard life is for LGBT+ people who live in Russia, but there are also many legitimate concerns for tourists, never more so with so many visitors travelling to the country for the 2018 World Cup.
The spreading of LGBT+ "propaganda", including the Pride flag, among people under 18 is banned in the country under a controversial 2013 law, which the European Court of Human Rights last year ruled was discriminatory and encouraged homophobia. Homophobic prejudice also remains rife in the country, despite homosexuality having been decriminalised in 1993.
But one group of activists managed to subvert the law in a particularly canny way. Six campaigners – from Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia – took advantage of the current furore around the World Cup to hide the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBT+ identity and solidarity, in plain sight in the Russian capital.
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Their nations' football tops collectively made up the Pride symbol – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet – and the project is going by the name 'Hidden Flag'. The aim, the activists told Refinery29, is to "give visibility to all the people who live in Russia and face discrimination and fear on a daily basis".
Photographed by Javier Tles
One group member, who preferred not to be named, said they wanted to raise awareness of and incite conversation about broader discrimination against the LGBT+ community around the world, where people are "persecuted, humiliated or marginalised" because of their sexuality and/or gender identity.
"We realised that this year while Gay Pride Week was happening [in Spain], the World Cup was happening at the same time in a country as restrictive as Russia, making it the perfect time to create this initiative. Together with FELGTB (Spain’s largest LBGTQ organisation) we hoped to call attention to the discriminatory laws in Russia and press for change," the spokesperson said.
"The World Cup felt like the right place because the whole world is watching which helps to reach more people, spread the message and keep the protesters safe."
Photographed by Javier Tles
The reaction to the initiative has been "overwhelmingly positive" – even Chelsea Clinton has tweeted about it. Photos of the group have been widely circulated online and have been shared by LGBT+ groups, activists and members of the public, with 'Hidden Flag' receiving praise for their creativity and resourcefulness.
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