Template:Infobox person Peter Gary Tatchell (born 25 January 1952) is an Australian born British human rights activist, who gained international celebrity for his attempted citizen's arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999 and 2001, on charges of torture and other human rights abuses.
Tatchell was selected as Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey in 1981, and was denounced by party leader Michael Foot for supporting extra-parliamentary action against the Thatcher government; though the Labour Party subsequently allowed his selection, when he ran in the Bermondsey by-election in February 1983. In the 1990s, he became a prominent gay equality and LGBT campaigner through the direct action group OutRage!, which he co-founded. He has tackled a wide variety of human rights issues, and is a frequent contributor on such subjects in print and through broadcast media authoring thousands of articles and six books. In 2006, New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of "Heroes of our time".
Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. His father, Gordon, was a lathe operator in an engineering factory; while his mother, Mardi, was a housewife and later worked in a biscuit factory. His parents divorced when he was four and his mother remarried soon afterwards. Her second husband, Edwin Nitscke, worked variously as a gardener, factory cleaner and taxi driver. Tatchell's mother was chronic asthmatic and the family finances were strained by medical bills. As a result he was unable to continue his formal education beyond a basic level, and in 1968, at age 16, Tatchell started work as a designer, sign-writer and window-dresser in Melbourne's principal department stores, first Waltons and then Myer. At the latter, he worked throughout the year to develop international prize-winning animated window displays for the Christmas period. Tatchell has said that he has incorporated the theatricality of these displays into his political activism.
While in Australia he began a lifelong interest in outdoor adventurous activities such as surfing and mountain climbing, which he says helped him develop the courage to be a political risk-taker in adult life. He stated this while speaking on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, in the context of insurance and legal risks preventing British teachers from being willing to take their pupils on outdoor adventures.
His political activity had begun at Mount Waverley High School in Melbourne where, in 1967, he launched campaigns in support of the indigenous Aboriginal population. Tatchell, who was elected by fellow pupils as secretary of the Students' Representative Council and, in his final year, as School Captain, took the lead in setting up a scholarship scheme for Aboriginal pupils and led a campaign for land rights from 1968. These activities had not been popular with school authorities and led the headmaster to denounce him as having been manipulated by communists. It is an issue he has returned to from 2004 in proposing the renaming of Australian capital cities with their original Aboriginal place names.
He also joined the Australian campaign against the death penalty. Prompted by the impending hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967, Tatchell went round his local area daubing slogans against the hanging, an action which was not identified as his until he revealed it in an interview nearly 30 years later.
Ryan was accused of shooting dead a prison warder during an escape from Pentridge Prison. Aged 15, Tatchell worked out that trajectory of the bullet through the warder’s body made it more or less physically impossible that Ryan could have fired the fatal shot. More likely, the warder was shot accidentally by another warder on a watch-tower. Ryan was hanged anyway. Later, in subsequent re-examinations of the case, many prominent Australians came to a similar conclusion as Tatchell, that the “magic bullet” theory that sent Ryan to the gallows was almost certainly flawed.
The following year, 1968, Tatchell began campaigning against the United States's and Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, which he believed was a war of aggression in support of a "brutal and corrupt dictatorship in Saigon which was notorious for the torture and execution of political opponents". From 1970 he was a member of the committee of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign; he also founded the inter-denominational anti-war group Christians for Peace and was elected its secretary, aged 18.Template:Facts The Victorian state government and right-wing city council attempted to suppress the anti-Vietnam War campaign by banning street leafleting and taking police action against anti-war demonstrations.
Gay Liberation FrontEdit
Impending conscription led him to move to London in 1971. He had discovered his homosexuality in 1969, and four days after arriving he spotted a sticker on a lamp-post in Oxford Street advertising a meeting of the London Gay Liberation Front (GLF). He quickly became a leading member of the group until it disintegrated in 1974. During his time in GLF Tatchell was prominent in organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve “poofs”, and protests against police harassment and the medical classification of homosexuality as an illness.
In 1973, under the aegis of the GLF, he attended the 10th World Youth Festival in East Berlin. His interventions brought out considerable opposition to gay rights within and between different groups of national delegates, including the British Communist Party and National Union of Students, which manifested itself in Tatchell being banned from conferences, having his gay rights leaflets confiscated and burned, interrogation by the secret police, the Stasi, and him being threatened and violently attacked by fellow delegates - mostly communists. Tatchell later claimed that this was the first time gay liberation politics were publicly disseminated and discussed in a communist country, although he noted that legally, in terms of decriminalisation and the age of consent, gay men had greater rights in East Germany at the time than in Britain and much of the West. At the GLF disruption of the "Christian fundamentalist" Festival of Light rally at Methodist Central Hall, he was part of GLF's Youth Group which staged a kiss-in in the upper balcony in response to a statement from keynote speaker, Malcolm Muggeridge, that he did not like homosexuals.
After doing his A levels at evening classes at West London College, 1972-74, Tatchell continued his education at the Polytechnic of North London. On his graduation with a 2:1 B.Sc. (Hons) in Sociology, he became, and remains, the first and only member of his Tatchell family to have ever secured a degree. At UNL / PNL he was a member of the National Union of Students Gay Rights Campaign. On graduating he became a freelance journalist specialising in foreign stories, during which he exposed scandals including the child labour on British-owned tea farms in Malawi.
He popularised the phrase "sexual apartheid" to described the separate, different laws that long existed for gays and heterosexuals.Template:Facts
He has opposed the Miss World contest on the grounds that it demeans women, and sees female emancipation as one of the most important struggles for true human liberation.Template:Facts In January 2005 he was first included in Who's Who.
The appointment of Ruth Kelly as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2006 led to controversy, as the Department had responsibility for equalities while Kelly, a practising Roman Catholic, had not supported equal treatment of lesbians and gay men in any Parliamentary votes. Tatchell complained that "her appointment suggests the government does not take lesbian and gay rights seriously", adding "Tony Blair would never appoint someone to a race-equality post who had a lukewarm record of opposing racism".
Timeline of political eventsEdit
Labour candidate for BermondseyEdit
A 1973 attempt to join the Labour Party got no response. His later application to join the Labour Party was accepted in Hornsey in 1978, shortly before he moved to a hard-to-let council flat on the Rockingham Estate in Bermondsey, south-east London.
From October 1979, Tatchell became a leading member in a group of left-wingers who began planning to depose the right-wing caucus of Southwark borough councillors who were in control of Bermondsey Constituency Labour Party. Similar moves were occurring in many other Constituency Labour Parties as part of a shift to the left following the party's defeat in the 1979 general election. At the Annual General Meeting of the CLP in February 1980, the left group won control and Tatchell was elected as the CLP Secretary.
When the sitting Labour MP, Bob Mellish, announced his retirement, Tatchell was selected as his successor in November 1981. The selection was something of a surprise, as Arthur Latham (defeated in 1979 at Paddington by 106 votes, and former Chairman of the Tribune Group) was expected to be selected (Tatchell defeated him by 37 to 30). Later the Militant tendency were cited as the reason for Tatchell's selection, but as Tatchell pointed out in his book The Battle for Bermondsey, they had at that time only a handful of members in the constituency, Tatchell had never been a member and Militant did not support his selection. The Militant group were in any case hostile to gay rights issues until the battle over Section 28 several years later. Tatchell ascribed his selection as Labour candidate as due to the support of the "older, 'born and bred' working class; the younger professional and intellectual members swung behind Latham".
- Main article: Bermondsey by-election, 1983
Tatchell had written an article for the left-wing magazine London Labour Briefing in which he urged the Labour Party to support innovative direct action political campaigning to challenge the excesses of the Thatcher regime. The article came to the attention of James Wellbeloved, a former Labour MP who had joined the Social Democratic Party. Wellbeloved, arguing it was anti-Parliamentary, used it at Prime Minister's Question Time in December 1981 to embarrass Labour leader Michael Foot. Unexpectedly, Foot denounced Tatchell, stating that he would not be endorsed as a candidate. Foot narrowly won a vote at the Labour Party National Executive Committee to refuse endorsement to Tatchell.
However, the Bermondsey Labour Party continued strongly to support him, and Tatchell worked on convincing Foot that his article was in the tradition of the Chartists and the Suffragettes, and had been misinterpreted by Labour's political opponents. It was eventually agreed that when the selection was rerun, Tatchell would be eligible, and he duly won. When Mellish resigned from Parliament and triggered a by-election, Tatchell was endorsed as the Labour Party candidate.
The divisions in the Labour Party which Tatchell's far-Left views had caused, and his presumed homosexuality, Tatchell was still closeted at this point, were used against him by many opponents, in an election campaign which was widely regarded as one of the dirtiest and most violent in modern British history. Four far-right candidates stood against Tatchell. Racist, homophobic and red-baiting anti-Tatchell graffiti was daubed throughout the constituency. Some electors who displayed "Vote Tatchell" posters had their windows smashed by neo-Nazis. Tatchell was assaulted in the street, had his flat attacked, and at one stage had a death threat and a live bullet put through his front door letterbox in the middle of the night. Although the Bermondsey seat had long been a Labour stronghold, the Liberal candidate, Simon Hughes, won the election. During the campaign, allegations were made that some Liberal canvassers stirred up xenophobia and homophobia on the doorsteps, playing up the fact that Tatchell was a foreigner born in Australia, and making an issue of his homosexuality. Members of the Liberal Gay Action Group campaigned wearing lapel badges emblazoned with the words, "I've been kissed by Peter Tatchell" as a protest against the perception that he was attempting to hide his sexuality (see Bermondsey by-election, 1983). One of the Hughes' campaign leaflets has been condemned by some for claiming the election was "a straight choice" between Liberal and Labour, however this phrase is regularly used by many parties within the UK—Hughes has since apologised for what may be perceived as an inadvertent slur. When Hughes revealed his own bisexuality in 2006, Tatchell said that he didn't "hold a grudge" and forgave him for benefiting from the "dirty tricks" of others, to the extent of stating that, had he a vote, he would have supported Hughes in his bid for the party leadership (now the Liberal Democrats) in 2006.
In the mid- and late-1980s, Tatchell worked as an author, writing books including The Battle for Bermondsey (the story of the by-election), Democratic Defence and a ground-breaking guide to surviving with HIV and AIDS, AIDS: A Guide to Survival. His book Europe in the Pink gave an introduction to the different laws on homosexuality through the European Union. In 1990 Tatchell sought (unsuccessfully) the Labour nomination for Hampstead and Highgate, being defeated by actress Glenda Jackson.
In February 2000 he resigned his membership of the Labour Party, citing its treatment of Ken Livingstone, and in support of Livingstone he fought unsuccessfully for a seat on the London Assembly as an Independent Green Left candidate. On 7 April 2004, Tatchell announced that he had joined the Green Party but that he did not envisage standing as a candidate in any future election. However, in 2007, he was selected as the party's candidate for Oxford East.
Tatchell opposes expanding nuclear power in Britain and worldwide; instead he supports concentrated solar power. In his column in Tribune, he pointed out the adverse effects of climate change both at home in England and worldwide: "By 2050, if climate change proceeds unchecked, England will no longer be a green and pleasant land. In between periods of prolonged scorching drought, we are likely to suffer widespread flooding." "Unless swift remedial action is taken, climate chaos will devastate large parts of the world. The poorest countries, with the least wealth and resources to cope, will be hit the hardest."
For many years, he supported a green-red alliance. In particular, he helped launch the Green Left grouping within the Green Party. He also urged for the formation of co-operation and links between trade unions and the Greens.
The Iraq WarEdit
Tatchell opposed the Iraq war and the occupation of Iraq by the United States. For nearly three decades he supported the Iraqi Left Opposition. He supported helping them remove the government of Saddam Hussein by force because of the gross violations of human rights Saddam had committed against democrats, left-wingers, trade unionists, Shia Muslims and the Kurdish people, and because under Saddam's dictatorship there were no opportunities for peaceful, democratic change. He advocated military and financial aid to opponents of the Saddam government in order to assist them to overthrow it; specifically suggesting that anti-Saddam organisations be given "tanks, helicopter gun-ships, fighter planes, heavy artillery and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles". He suggested that "A democratic Iraq would be a beacon for human rights throughout the Middle East; giving the Arab people their first taste of freedom in a region that is dominated by semi-feudal Islamic fundamentalist dictatorships, notorious for their brutality, nepotism and corruption." While opposing western intervention, he further advocated "regime change from within, by and for the people, in neighbouring tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria." Writing in the New Statesman, Tatchell reported that on March 12, 2003 he ambushed Tony Blair's motorcade in an anti-Iraq war protest. He forced the PM's limousine to stop, and then unfolded a banner which read "Arm the Kurds! Topple Saddam". Footage of his ambush was shown on ITN News the same evening. Later in his New Statesman article he wrote that in terms of the political struggle within Britain (as opposed to struggles against absolute tyrants like Hitler and Saddam where violent resistance can be the lesser of two evils): "I remain committed to the Gandhian principle of non-violence". Since the war he has signed the 'Unite Against Terror' declaration, arguing that "the pseudo-left reveals its shameless hypocrisy and its wholesale abandonment of humanitarian values" by supporting resistance and insurgent groups in Iraq that resort to indiscriminate terrorism, killing innocent civilians. In 2002 he reiterated his support for Iraqis bidding to overthrow Saddam, noting that "Saddam’s repression is, if anything, getting worse. In November 2001, the death penalty was extended to include the offences of prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape." Despite the introduction of the death penalty, many gay Iraqis say they rarely faced overt persecution during Saddam's time. This led Tatchell to write in 2006 that "Under Saddam Hussein discreet homosexuality was usually tolerated."
In 2003 Tatchell wrote in The Guardian that he supported giving "massive material aid" to Iraqi opposition groups, including the "Shi'ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq" so as to bring the downfall of Saddam. But in 2006 Tatchell noted that SCIRI had become markedly more fundamentalist and was endorsing violent attacks an anyone who did not conform to its increasingly harsh interpretation of Islam. He claimed that the "the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition [wants] to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship.. [has a] goal of clerical fascism" and has engaged in "terrorisation of gay Iraqis", as well as terrorising Sunni Muslims, left-wingers, unveiled women, and people who listen to western pop music or who wear jeans or shorts. In 2006, he raised his concern for the Baloch people, who are facing military operations in their homeland Balochistan in Pakistan.
Gay rights in MoscowEdit
In May 2007, Peter Tatchell went to Moscow, Russia, to support Moscow Pride and to voice his opposition to a city-wide ban on the planned gay pride march. He went there at the invitation of Russian LGBT activists. On May 27, 2007 Tatchell and other gay rights activists were attacked by religious conservatives, neo-nazis and fascists. Tatchell was punched in the face and nearly knocked unconscious, while other demonstrators were beaten, kicked, and assaulted.. A German MP, Volker Beck, and a European Parliament deputy from Italy, Marco Capatto, were similarly subjected to punches before being arrested and questioned by police. Tatchell later said "I'm not deterred one iota from coming back to protest in Moscow."
- See also: OutRage!
Increasingly Tatchell took part in gay rights campaigning over issues such as Section 28. Following the murder of actor Michael Boothe on 10 May 1990, Tatchell was one of thirty founding members of the radical queer rights non-violent direct action group OutRage! and has remained a leading member. The group fuses theatrical performance styles with queer political protest. As the most prominent OutRage! member, Tatchell is frequently taken to be the leader of the group, but he has never claimed this title and rejects it, saying he is one among equals. Indeed, the few histories of the group published demonstrate that he is not described by himself or by other group members as the leader.
In 1991, a small group of OutRage! members covertly formed a separate group to engage in a campaign of 'outing' public figures who were homophobic in public but homosexual in private. The group took the name 'FROCS' (Faggots Rooting Out Closeted Sexuality) and Tatchell agreed to act as the group's go-between with the press, forwarding their news statements to his extensive media contacts. Considerable publicity and public debate followed FROCS's threat to out 200 leading public personalities from the world of politics, religion, business and sport. With Tatchell's assistance, members of FROCS eventually called a press conference to tell the world that their campaign was a hoax intended to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those newspapers which had condemned their campaign despite having themselves outed celebrities and politicians.
Some of the activities of OutRage! have been highly controversial. In 1994 it unveiled placards inviting ten Church of England bishops to "tell the truth" about their homosexuality; accusing them of condemning gay sexuality in public while themselves leading secret gay lives. It was their hypocrisy and homophobia that prompted them being targeted. Shortly afterwards the group wrote to twenty closeted homophobic UK MPs, condemning their support for anti-gay laws and threatening to out them if they did not stop attacking the gay community and voting for discriminatory legislation. The MP Sir James Kilfedder, one such opponent of gay equality, who had received one of the letters, died two months later of a sudden heart attack on the day one of the Belfast newspapers planned to out him.Template:Fact In a comment in The Independent in October 2003, Tatchell identified the OutRage! action against the bishops as his greatest mistake because he under-estimated how it would be misrepresented by the media and the church (as an invasion of privacy, rather than as an exposure of homophobic and hypocritical bishops). He admits it allowed an important campaign against the Anglican Church's opposition to gay human rights to be derailed by putting the focus on OutRage!'s actions.On April 12, 1998, Tatchell led an OutRage! protest which disrupted the Easter sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, with Tatchell mounting the pulpit to denounce Carey's opposition to legal equality for lesbian and gay people. The protest had a high media profile, and led to Tatchell's prosecution under the little-used Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 (formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551) which prohibits any form of disruption or protest in a church. Tatchell was thwarted in his attempt to summon Carey as a witness and was convicted, but the judge fined him only the token amount of £18.60, which most commentators assumed was a wry allusion to the year of the statute used to convict him.
Some in the LGBT press have dubbed him "Saint Peter Tatchell" following further OutRage! campaigns involving religion, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence inducted him as one of their "Saints" in the mid-1990s. OutRage! protested against the ban on same-sex marriage on the occasion of the wedding between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Tatchell was detained by the police under the Terrorism Act after displaying a banner reading "Charles can marry twice! Gays can't marry once."
In 1996 Tatchell led an OutRage! campaign to reduce the age of consent to 14 to adjust for studies which showed nearly half of all young people - gay and straight - had their first sexual experiences prior to 16 years old and to counter them from being "treated as criminals by the law". The campaign positioned there should be no prosecution at all if the difference between the ages of the sexual partners was no more than three years - and providing it is backed up by earlier, more effective sex education in schools. He was quoted in the OutRage! press release as saying "Young people have a right to accept or reject sex, according to what they feel is appropriate for them". Leo McKinstry, in The Sun called it "a perverts' charter". Tatchell in the Irish Independent on 10 March 2008 repeated his call for a lower age of consent to end the criminalisation of young people engaged in consenting sex and to remove the legal obstacles to upfront sex education, condom provision and safer sex advice. In the early 1990s, he supported a relaxation in the then strict laws against pornography, arguing that porn can have some social benefits, and he has criticised the body-shame phobia against nudism, suggesting that nudity is natural and may even be healthy for society. This was in keeping with explicit safer-sex materials including two books Tatchell later wrote on the subject.
Part of Tatchell's political activism and journalism in the 1970s had involved the Second Chimurenga in Rhodesia, in which he had supported the black liberation struggle, including the Zimbabwe African National Union and its military wing. However, Robert Mugabe's denunciation of male homosexuality in 1995 led him to help organise a protest by Gays and Lesbians outside the Zimbabwe High Commission in London. Two years later, he managed to sneak through police security disguised as a TV camerman to quiz Mugabe during the "Africa at 40" conference at Central Hall, Westminster. Mugabe thanked him for his support for the liberation struggle and told him that allegations of human rights abuses were grossly exaggerated. But he became agitated when Tatchell told him that he was gay. Mugabe's minders summoned Special Branch guards who ejected Tatchell from the building. On October 26, 1997 a letter from Tatchell to The Guardian argued that the United Kingdom should suspend aid to Zimbabwe because of its persecution of homosexuals.
At this point, Tatchell researched Mugabe's Gukurahundi attacks in Matabeleland in the 1980s when Mugabe had sent the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe army against supporters of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union. He became convinced that Mugabe had broken international human rights law during the attack, which is estimated to have involved the massacre of around 20,000 civilians. Then in 1999, two opposition journalists (Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto) were tortured by the Zimbabwe Army. The arrest in London of Augusto Pinochet seemed to him a precedent that human rights violations could be pursued against a head of state. On October 30, 1999 Tatchell and three other OutRage! activists ambushed Mugabe's car in a London street and attempted to perform a citizen's arrest. Tatchell opened the car door and seized Mugabe. He then called the police. Instead of Mugabe being arrested, all four OutRage! activists were arrested, on charges including criminal damage, assault and breach of the peace; these charges were dropped on the opening day of their trial. Mugabe responded by describing Tatchell and his OutRage! colleagues as "gay gangsters", a slogan frequently repeated by his supporters, and claimed they had been sent by the United Kingdom government.
In 2001 Tatchell received a tip-off about a visit by Mugabe to Belgium. He travelled to Brussels, and in the lobby of the Brussels Hilton attempted a second citizen's arrest on March 5. This time, Mugabe's large corps of bodyguards pushed him away roughly and were seen punching him to the floor. In the third attack on him by Mugabe's bodyguards that day, which took place on the forecourt of the Hilton hotel, Tatchell was briefly knocked unconscious and was left with permanent damage to his right eye. The protest drew world-wide headlines, as Mugabe was, by then, highly unpopular in the Western world for his government's land grab policy which involved the violent seizure of farms owned by white people and by black independent farmers (especially those who were not supporters of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party). Although billed as a land reform programme, landless people got very little of the land. Most of the seized farms were handed to Mugabe's party, government and military cronies. Tatchell's actions were praised by many of the newspapers that had previously denounced him, and by many black Zimbabwean democracy, trade union, student and church activists.
Tatchell subsequently bought a legal case against Mugabe in Bow Street Magistrates' Court, in which he attempted to secure an international arrest warrant against the Zimbabwean dictator on charges of torture. The magistrate rejected the application, arguing that Mugabe had immunity from prosecution as a serving head of state.
In late 2003 Tatchell acted as a press spokesman for the launch of the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement which claimed to be a clandestine group within Zimbabwe committed to overthrowing the government of Robert Mugabe by force. The civic action support group Sokwanele urged Tatchell to check his sources with the group, speculating that it may be an invention of supporters of the Zimbabwe government in order to justify violent action against its opponents. This speculation proved to be unfounded. The ZFM was not used as a pretext for violent suppression. Indeed, the Mugabe regime dismissed the ZFM as a "hoax." However, two Central Intelligence Organization members were spotted and turned away from the ZFM launch, as shown in the film "Peter Tatchell: Just who does he think he is?" by Max Barber.
- See also: Murder music
Tatchell has called for the enforcement of the laws against incitement to violence and murder, and has organised protests outside the concerts of singers whose lyrics urge the killing of queers. A long-running target of his criticism has been reggae artists whose lyrics encourage and glorify violence, including murder, of lesbians and gay men. Tatchell's campaign began in the early 1990s when Buju Banton's song "Boom bye-bye" was released and has continued to date. Banton's song urges listeners to shoot gay men in the head. He has picketed the MOBO Awards ceremony to protest at their inviting performers of what he terms "murder music". Tatchell received death threats and was labelled a racist. Tatchell defended himself by noting that the campaign was at the behest of the Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag, and the UK-based Black Gay Mens Advisory Group, with which he works closely. He also pointed to a life's work campaigning against racism and apartheid, and stated that his campaigns against "murder music" and state-sanctioned homophobic violence in Jamaica were endorsed by black Jamaican gay rights activists, and by many straight human rights activists in Jamaica (people (Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica due to the country's highly conservative government, see LGBT rights in Jamaica).
Tatchell has also campaigned against the homophobia and racism of Guns n Roses and Marky Mark; as well as the rapper Eminem, commenting that "it's not hard to imagine Eminem as a woman-hating, self-loathing, repressed gay man" on the basis of his appearance and "obsession" with gay sex. In December 2005, UK singer Robbie Williams won £200,000 damages from The People newspaper and the magazines Star and Hot Stars after they published false claims that he was secretly homosexual. Tatchell commented publicly that "[Williams'] legal action has created the impression he thinks it is shameful to be gay".
Tatchell condemned what he saw as double standards regarding racist and homophobic language employed by the the BBC Radio 1 censoring of the Pogues' 1987 Christmas hit "Fairytale". Template:Cquote Template:Cquote Radio 1 subsequently backed down on the "Pogues row", and said they would allow the Pogues' Fairytale of New York to be played on the station uncut, after widespread criticism of the decision to censor it.
While still at school, Tatchell campaigned in favour of better treatment of, and full human rights for, the Aboriginal people of Australia. He believes that Australian cities should be renamed with their original Aboriginal place names, to sever ties with the colonial era, which resulted in the decimation of the Aboriginal population. For example, he wants the Tasmanian capital Hobart to be renamed Nibberluna, arguing that this would be a fitting tribute to Australia's Aboriginal heritage which has been discarded and disrespected for too long.
His anti-imperialist activism began in 1968 and involved campaigns against the war in Vietnam. He participated in the mass Vietnam Moratorium protests in his home city of Melbourne in 1970. The same year he founded and was elected secretary of the inter-denominational anti-war movement, Christians for Peace. Later, on moving to London in 1971, he was active in solidarity work with the freedom struggles in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Eritrea, Oman, New Hebrides, Western Sahara, Palestine, East Timor and West Papua. From the early 1970s he was also involved in campaigns against the dictatorships in the Soviet Union, East Germany, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Philippines, Iraq, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chile. He is currently active in solidarity campaigns for democracy and human rights in Darfur, Western Sahara, Palestine, Iran, Somaliland, Iraq, West Papua, Zimbabwe, Baluchistan, Pakistan, Uganda and against the persecution of Iran’s Arab minority (see The Times 10 October 2006).
A long-time anti-apartheid activist (from 1969), his lobbying of the ANC in 1987 contributed to it renouncing homophobia and making its first public commitment to lesbian and gay human rights. Later, in 1989 and 1990, he helped persuade the ANC to include a ban on anti-gay discrimination in the post-apartheid constitution (he assisted in drafting model clauses for the ANC). See: Sex and Politics in South Africa (Double Storey Books, Cape Town, 2005, pp 140 - 149).
Allegations of racismEdit
In the 1970s and 1980s Tatchell was involved in anti-fascist campaigns, first against the National Front and later, after its formation, against the British National Party. He campaigned with Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League, and was involved in the anti-apartheid movement from 1969 until the end of the white minority regime in 1990; being a regular protester and speaker at the 24/7 non-stop, four-year-long picket outside South Africa House.
OutRage!'s protest against Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, who supported the idea of eugenics to eliminate homosexuality, led to accusations that Tatchell was being anti-semitic. OutRage! leaflets citing the similarity of Jakobovits ideas for the eradication of homosexuality to those of Heinrich Himmler were distributed outside the Western and Marble Arch Synagogue on the Jewish New Year in September 1993. Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who had campaigned for gay rights, said "Drawing a comparison between Lord Jakobovits and Himmler is offensive, racist and ... makes OutRage appear anti-Semitic". She stated that the action and leaflet would "alienate Jews who are sympathetic to gay rights".
For nearly four decades, Tatchell has opposed Israel's presence in Gaza and the West Bank. He has campaigned for Palestinian human rights and in support of an independent Palestinian state. In May 2004, he and a dozen other OutRage! members, including gay Arabs and Muslims, joined a London demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their placards read "Israel: stop persecuting Palestine! Palestine: stop persecuting queers!" (the latter a reference to the arrest, jailing and torture of homosexuals by the Palestinian authorities). The OutRage! presence was greeted with hostility by some other demonstrators, and Tatchell claims they accused him of being a Mossad agent sent to disrupt the march, of being a racist or a Zionist, a supporter of Ariel Sharon, or an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency or MI5.
In the early 1970s, he was one of the first people to propose international boycotts and sanctions against Israel over its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. He was a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and a keynote speaker (with Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight) at the Palestinian campaign launch at the GLC headquarters, County Hall, in 1982.Template:Facts
Template:See In April 2008, Tatchell attempted to disrupt the procession of the Olympic torch though London. As a protest against China's human rights record he stood in front of the bus carrying the torch along Oxford Street while carrying a placard calling on Beijing to "Free Tibet, Free Hu Jia" (the name of a recently jailed human rights activist). Tatchell was taken away by police but was not charged. In an interview Tatchell called on the world to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics, or to take other visible action.
Anglican and CatholicEdit
Tatchell reserves some of his most serious invective for Pope Benedict XVI, whom he describes as, "the ideological inheritor of Nazi homophobia". He has also said that, "it's very sad to see a good man like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, going to such extraordinary lengths to appease homophobes within the Anglican Communion".
Regarding Islam and MuslimsEdit
Template:Unbalanced section Tatchell's criticism of Muslim fundamentalists has been interpreted by some on the far left as a "product of Islamophobia", although Tatchell has condemned Islamophobia in his writings, saying "Any form of prejudice, hatred, discrimination or violence against muslims is wrong. Full stop", and has described the Qur'an as "rather mild in its condemnation of homosexuality".
Tatchell also points out that much of his prison and asylum casework involves supporting Muslim prisoners and asylum seekers - heterosexual, as well as homosexual. In 2006, he helped stop the abuse of Muslim prisoners at Norwich jail, and he has helped secure parole for other Muslim detainees. Half his asylum cases are, he reports, male and female Muslim refugees. Two of his highest profile campaigns have involved Muslim victims of injustice - Mohamed S who was framed by men who tried to kill him and jailed for eight years, and Sid Saeed who bought a racist and homophobic harassment case against Deutsche Bank.
Tatchell has described Sharia law as "a clerical form of fascism" on the grounds that it opposes democracy and human rights, especially for women and gay people. He was the keynote speaker at a 2005 protest at the Canadian High Commission over Ontario's arbitration law, which already permitted religious arbitration in civil cases for Jews and Christians, being extended to Muslims. Tatchell argued there should be no separate systems of arbitration for any religion. In 1995 he wrote that "although not all Muslims are anti-gay, significant numbers are violently homophobic .. homophobic Muslim voters may be able to influence the outcome of elections in 20 or more marginal constituencies."
Tatchell describes the umbrella group Muslim Council of Britain as "anti-gay", asking how "they expect to win respect for their community, if at the same time as demanding action against Islamophobia, they themselves demand the legal enforcement of homophobia?". He noted that the MCB had joined forces with right-wing Christian fundamentalists to oppose every gay law reform from 1997 to 2006. The opposition of MCB Chairman Sir Iqbal Sacranie to homosexuality and registration of civil partnerships led Tatchell to observe "Both the Muslim and gay communities suffer prejudice and discrimination. We should stand together to fight Islamophobia and homophobia". Tatchell subsequently criticised Unite Against Fascism for inviting Sacranie to share its platforms, describing him as a bigot and a "homophobic hate-mongerer." This was in response to Sacranie's denunciation of gay people as immoral, harmful and diseased on BBC Radio 4. When the MCB boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, partly because it included a commemoration of the gay victims of Nazism, Tatchell wrote that "the only thing that is consistent about the MCB is its opposition to the human rights of lesbians and gay men".
A colleague of Tatchell's, the Islamic theologian, Dr Muhammad Yusuf (research fellow with Interfaith Alliance UK) withdrew from a planned lecture on "an Islamic reformation that reconciles Islam with democracy and human rights, including human rights for women and gay people" after he received threats from Islamist fundamentalists. Dr Yusuf said that "senior Islamic clerics" told him they could not guarantee his safety if he went ahead. The lecture was to raise funds for the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.
Tatchell chose Malcolm X as his specialised subject when appearing on Celebrity Mastermind, explaining that he considered him an inspiration and hero (his other inspirations are Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King). However, his endorsement of Bruce Perry's biography in an article calling for black gay role models has led to criticism due to Perry's claim that Malcolm X had male lovers in his youth.
Following the hanging of two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni by Iranian authorities, Tatchell reiterated his long-standing view that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an "Islamo-fascist state". Tatchell insists the two youths appear to have been hanged merely for being gay. He bases this opinion on information from gay activists inside Iran and from gay friends of the hanged youths who were with them at a secret gay party before they were arrested. The Iranian government and state-licensed media claim the youths were guilty of rape of a 13 year old boy at knifepoint. Tatchell observes that trumped up charges are routine in Iran. Left-wing political oppositionists are, for example, often had up on false charges such as spying, adultery, drug taking, sodomy and alcoholism. No claims by the Iranian government or judiciary should ever be taken at face value, he says. International human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch preferred campaigners to focus on the propriety of hanging two teenagers rather than the disputed connection to gay sex. Faisal Alam, founder of American Gay Muslim group Al-Fatiha, argued in the magazine Queer that Iran was condemned before the facts were certain, and in 2003 the United Nations Committee Against Torture noted that "from different and reliable sources that there currently is no active policy of prosecution of charges of homosexuality in Iran.". This is disputed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. They confirm that the death penalty exists for homosexuality in Iran and that gay and lesbian people suffer persecution, including arrest, torture, imprisonment and execution by slow strangulation. This is corroborated by the Iranian Queer Rights Organisation (formerly the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organisation), most of whose members are based inside Iran and regularly provide reports of homophobic beatings, torture and imprisonment by state agents.
Concerning the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, Tatchell spoke at an event whose organisers termed a "Rally for free expression" defending the publication of cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and in support for free speech in general. Tatchell had expected "thousands" to attend the event, which was held on March 25 2006, but police estimated only 250 people attended.
Tatchell defended his support for the rally: "Some critics are mischievously portraying Saturday's protest as an anti-Muslim rally. I condemn unreservedly any attempt to demonise or scapegoat my Muslim brothers and sisters. I also reject the suggestion of a clash of civilisations. Both fundamentalists and progressives can be found in all faiths, politics, ethnicities and cultures. No society has a monopoly of enlightenment and plurality. Muslim societies like Bangladesh have produced Enlightenment icons like the feminist writer Taslima Nasreen; while supposedly cultured nations like Britain and France have spawned the Dark Ages ignorance of the British National Party and the Front National."
Tatchell's speech at the rally included the following: "As well as challenging religious-inspired tyranny, let us also say loud and clear that we defend Muslim communities against prejudice and discrimination. Let us declare that we deplore the homophobia, race hate, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism of the British National Party."
Speaking to the Guardian following the release of the Borat film in the UK, Tatchell criticised Sacha Baron Cohen for his double standards and ‘self-censorship’, saying "he regards Christians and Jews as fair game, he never gives Muslims the same doing over".
Ken Livingstone's invitation of Yusuf al-Qaradawi to address a conference on the wearing of the hijab led to a rift between Livingstone and Tatchell, who described Qaradawi as "rightwing, misogynist, anti-semitic and homophobic" and as someone who claimed to have liberal positions in order to deceive Western politicians. Tatchell cites Qaradawi's books and online fatwas where he advocates the execution of apostates (Muslims who turn away from their faith), women who have sex outside of marriage and lesbian and gay people. He notes that Qaradawi also supports female genital mutilation and blames rape victims who dress immodestly. Tatchell highlighted the fact that 2,500 Muslims intellectuals signed an open letter in 2004 which condemned Qaradawi as an apologist for terrorism and human rights abuses. Livingstone issued a dossier in defence of Qaradawi as a moderate, and accused Tatchell of writing about the conference without attending it. The dispute became bitter with Tatchell leading a demonstration against Qaradawi and with Livingstone claiming that Tatchell has "a long history of Islamophobia", and had "constructed a fantasy world in which the main threat we face, worse than the far right, is Islamic fundamentalist hordes.. [taking] him into a de facto alliance with the American neo-cons and Israeli intelligence services who want to present themselves as defending western "civilisation" against more "backward" civilisations in the Middle East and elsewhere." These are accusations that Tatchell strenuously denies, pointing out that he has never said any of the things that Livingstone accuses him of saying. Imaan, a gay Muslim organisation, initially supported the campaign against Qaradawi, signing a joint letter to the Mayor Of London with OutRage! and over a dozen other community groups, including the National Union of Students and Hindu, Sikh and Jewish organisations. The letter condemned Livingstone for hosting the Islamic cleric. But later, Imaan stated that it disagreed with Qaradawi's views on homosexuality but that it did not help when OutRage! was "continuously misrepresenting Islam". (citation needed)
Muslims and gay rightsEdit
Tatchell wrote in the Guardian that certain Muslim leaders, whom Tatchell describes as appearing "to be representative of the majority of British Muslim opinion", of having "intolerance" to gay people. He said people such as Hizb ut-Tahrir were extreme fundamentalists who had an "agenda for clerical fascism," He notes that its constitution explicitly rejects democracy (non-Islamic parties would be banned) and human rights (non-Muslims would have fewer rights and freedoms). Tatchell further claims that "The suppression of critics within the Muslim community is already excessive", adding "the MCB went out its way to expose Irshad Manji as a lesbian in a seedy bid to discredit her ideas." Tatchell had himself previously outed religious figures he viewed as hypocritical and homophobic, but he felt that Manji was neither hypocritical nor homophobic, so the MCB's action in drawing attention to her sexuality was, he said, unjustified.(see above)
In February 2007 the Mayor of Moscow,Yuri Luzhkov, visited the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone for an annual meeting which also involved the Mayors of Berlin and Paris, with the mayor of Beijing present as well. PlanetOut Inc.'s Gay.com website reported "In February 2006, Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin was quoted as saying about Moscow gay pride marchers, "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike..." For these reasons Outrage are co-ordinating a protest at London's City Hall this Wednesday 28 February from 11am to 1.30pm."
The Mayor of London issued a statement saying "I have already, and continue, to condemn all these and assert the basic human and civil right of gays and lesbians to peacefully demonstrate", but added "'It is clear that there is a concerted attack on gay and lesbian rights in a series of East European countries fed by diverse currents. In Moscow the Russian Orthodox church, the chief rabbi and the grand Mufti all supported the ban on the Gay Pride march with the main role, due to its great weight in society, being played by the Orthodox church. The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe which overwhelmingly come from right wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamaphobic campaign." Tatchell responded saying Livingstone's remarks are "dishonest, despicable nonsense", adding "The Grand Mufti was not singled out", he further said the Mayor had brought his "office into disrepute" and "has revealed himself to be a person without principles, honesty or integrity."
Following the vote by the Knesset, the Israeli Legislature, in 2007 in favour of bills to ban lesbian and gay pride parades in Jerusalem, the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism criticised Tatchell saying "Peter Tatchell and others who have distinguished themselves by the speed of their quite proper defence of lesbian and gay rights when these have been attacked by Black, Arab, Muslim forces or regimes have still refused to condemn with equal force the official attacks on lesbian and gay rights by the highest institutions of the State of Israel." Tatchell was, of course, in and out of hospital at the time, as a result of the injuries he received at the hands of far-right assailants in Moscow. On his partial recovery, he issued a strong statement condemning the Judaist fundamentalists who had promoted the pride-ban bill.
In December 2005, the Muslim journalist and Respect party activist Adam Yosef came under criticism for an article in Desi Xpress opposing registered civil partnerships and retracted it. His next column identified Peter Tatchell, British National Party leader Nick Griffin and Omar Bakri Mohammed of Al-Muhajiroun as the top three "hate filled bigots", saying that Tatchell needed "a good slap in the face" and his "queer campaign army" should "pack their bent bags and head back to Australia". Tatchell denounced a "naked appeal to homophobia and xenophobia" echoing "the racist, xenophobic language of the BNP", and Yosef apologised, claiming the "slap in the face" remark was a "figure of speech". Yosef denied any racism and said the Australian mention referred to "the Islamophobic riots which recently gripped Sydney" (the Cronulla riots). Desi Xpress staff expressed regret to Tatchell and gave him a right of reply.
Tatchell has written about environmental issues which often have disproportionately negative impact on many minority groups; his main campaigns remain centered on human rights and "queer emancipation". In August 2008 Tatchell wrote about the emerging research of oxygen depletion compared to prehistoric levels, and called for investigation of long-term consequences.
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- Bermondsey by-election, 1983
- Capital Gay
- Gay Liberation Front
- Green Party of England and Wales
- Hall-Carpenter archives
- List of LGBT rights activists
- Peter Tatchell's official site
- Archived collection of his Talking With Tatchell online TV interviews on www.18doughtystreet.com.
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