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Dr. Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

Regarding: The LGBT+ Community in Poland

A Letter of Solidarity and Protest

17 August 2020

Dear Dr. von der Leyen:

We, the undersigned, express our outrage at repressions directed against the LGBT+ community in Poland. We speak out in solidarity with activists and their allies, who are being detained, brutalized, and intimidated. We voice our grave concern about the future of democracy in Poland, a country with an admirable history of resistance to totalitarianism and struggle for freedom.  

On Friday, 7 August 2020, 48 persons were arrested in Warsaw – in some cases quite brutally – and detained on the grounds that they had participated in a violent illegal gathering. In fact, they were engaged in a peaceful protest in solidarity with an LGBT+ activist named Margot, who had been arrested for damaging a homophobic campaigner's van. Her group had also placed rainbow flags over statues, including a statue of Christ. These actions were neither “hooliganism” nor “provocations,” as Poland’s government-run media insist, but rather desperate acts of resistance against degrading homophobic hate speech. The van is one of many similar vehicles parading outrageous claims around the cities of Poland: equating homosexuality with pedophilia, and asserting that gays are the source of diseases and a threat to children. Efforts to stop this well-funded hate campaign by legal means had led to nothing.

The broader context is the persistent use of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric by Polish politicians and media, attacks against “LGBT ideology” in the recent presidential campaign, preceded by the emergence in many municipalities and districts of “zones free of LGBT ideology,” allegedly defending the safety of families and children, and last year’s violent attacks against Equality March in Białystok. Homophobic aggression in Poland is growing because it is condoned by the ruling party, which has chosen sexual minorities as a scapegoat with no regard for the safety and well-being of citizens. Margot is, in fact, a political prisoner, held captive for her refusal to accept indignity.

We call on the Polish government to stop targeting sexual minorities, to stop supporting organizations that spread homophobia and to hold accountable those who are responsible for unlawful and violent arrests of August 7, 2020.

We call on the European Commission to take immediate steps to defend core European values – equality, non-discrimination, respect for minorities – which are being blatantly violated in Poland. LGBT+ rights are human rights and must be defended as such.

Naja Marie Aidt, writer, Danish language

Pedro Almodóvar, film director, Spain

Jakuta Alikavazovic, writer, France

Margaret Atwood, writer, Canada

Paul Auster, writer, USA

John Banville, writer, Ireland

Sebastian Barry, writer, Ireland

Judith Butler, philosopher, USA

Sophie Calle, writer and artist, France

John Maxwell Coetzee, writer, South Africa

Isabel Coixet, director, Spain

Stephen Daldry, director, UK

Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, writer, France

Lucas Dhont, director, Belgium

Marion Döring, director of European Film Academy

Cynthia Enloe, political scientist, USA

Anne Enright, writer, Ireland

Ildiko Enyedi, director, Hungary

Richard Flanagan, writer, Australia

Barbara Frey, theatre and opera director, Switzerland/Austria

Timothy Garton Ash, historian, UK

Agnieszka Graff, americanist, Poland

Luca Guadagnino, director, Italy

Miron Hackenbeck, dramaturg, Germany

Ed Harris, actor, director USA

Aleksander Hemon, writer, Bosnia/USA

Agnieszka Holland, director, Poland

Siri Hustvedt, writer, USA

Isabelle Huppert, actress, France

Aki Kaurismäki, director, Finland

Padraic Kenney, historian, USA

Jan Komasa, director, Poland

Ivan Krastev, political scientist, Bulgaria

Jan Kubik, political scientist, UK

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer, Belgium

Yorgos Lanthimos, director, Greece

Andrzej Leder, philosopher, Poland

Jacek Leociak, historian, Poland

Jonathan Littell, writer, France

Mike Leigh, director, UK

Deborah Levi, writer, UK

Edouard Louis, writer, France

Sergei Loznitsa, director, Germany/Ukraine

Valeria Luiselli, writer, USA

Dorota Masłowska, writer, Poland

Hisham Matar, writer, USA

Ulrich Matthes, actor, Germany

Ian McEwan, writer, UK

Lina Meruane, writer, Chile

Teona Mitevska, director, North Macedonia

Chantal Mouffe, philosopher, Belgium

James Norton, actor, UK

Claus Offe, sociologist, Germany

Paweł Pawlikowski, director, Poland

Richard Powers, writer, USA

Axel Ranisch, filmmaker and opera director, Germany

Keith Ridgway, writer, Ireland 

Philippe Sands, lawyer and writer, UK

Volker Schlöndorff, director, Germany

Marci Shore, historian, USA

Stellan Skarsgaard, actor, Sweden

Leila Slimani, writer, France

Timothy Snyder, historian, USA

Johanna ter Steege, actress, the Netherlands

Dariusz Stola, historian, Poland

Małgorzata Szczęśniak, stage designer, Poland 

Małgorzata Szumowska, director, Poland

Colm Toibin, writer, Ireland

Olga Tokarczuk, writer, Poland

Alia Trabucco Zerán, writer, Chile

Fien Troch, director, Belgium

Jan Vandenhouwe, artistic director and opera dramaturg, Belgium

Krzysztof Warlikowski, theater director, Poland/France

Beau Willimon, playwright, screenwriter, USA

Adam Zagajewski, poet, Poland

Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Slovenia

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