Peter Tatchell talks about the personal cost of his activism


peter-tatchell-600x250Peter Tatchell is a gay rights and also a human rights activist, who has courageously taken a consistently brave stand. In his mind human rights are universal, so regardless of who is doing the oppressing, he will speak up for the oppressed … and rightly so. As an example, he openly criticises Hamas for targeting civilians, and gets labelled a Zionist, and also criticises Israel for doing the same, and gets labelled a Islamist supporter.

To understand what he goes though for taking a stand against all human rights abuses, here is an extract from a talk he gave at Leicester Secular Society last October.

Despite all that has happened to him, he considers himself lucky to have gotten off so lightly, and pays tribute to all those inspiring human rights activists who have suffered far more than he has.

There are brutal dictators in this world who do great harm to millions such Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Peter Tatchell is famous for his interactions with him.

One story is that he passed through police security disguised as a TV cameraman to quiz Mugabe during the “Africa at 40″ conference at Central Hall, Westminster. Mugabe told him that allegations of human rights abuses were grossly exaggerated; he became agitated when Tatchell told him that he was gay. Mugabe’s minders summoned Special Branch guards, who ejected Tatchell. On 26 October 1997 a letter from Tatchell to The Observer argued that the United Kingdom should suspend aid to Zimbabwe because of its violence against homosexuals.

There is a well-known story happened in October 1999 when Tatchell and three other OutRage! activists approached Mugabe’s car in a London street and attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest. Tatchell opened the car door and grabbed Mugabe. He then called the police. Sadly, the four OutRage! activists were arrested on charges including criminal damage, assault and breach of the peace; charges were dropped on the opening day of their trial.

Another rather famous interaction was in March 2001 when he heard Mugabe was about to visit Brussels, so he went there and attempted a second citizen’s arrest. Mugabe’s bodyguards were seen knocking him to the floor. Later that day, Tatchell was briefly knocked unconscious by Mugabe’s bodyguards and was left with permanent damage to his right eye. 

He ultimately failed in his attempt to secure an international arrest warrant against Mugabe on torture charges. The magistrate argued that Mugabe had immunity from prosecution as a serving head of state, but this one lone individual stood up against a brutal dictator when nobody else would.

He truly is a hero for our times.

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