The Fare network has expressed concern at the effective closing down of one of its flagship project spaces for the World Cup in Russia. The Diversity House in St. Petersburg was shut down following withdrawal of permission from the building ownership on the eve of the opening last Thursday (14 June).
The Diversity House project encompasses an exhibition, meetings and events, fan exchanges and a safe space for minorities.
Piara Powar, Executive Director of Fare said, “The way in which the Diversity House was closed down is familiar to organisations in St. Petersburg, they recognise it as the method through which the city authorities shut down activities which do not conform to their political outlook.
“It is difficult to obtain anything but anecdotal evidence to support the assertion but it seems to be clear that the project in St. Petersburg has been subject to a political attack of the kind that shows how debates about human rights are curtailed by powerful conservative political forces in Russia.
“The St. Petersburg Diversity House is run by an amazing group of civil society organisations in co-operation with the Fare network. Its objective was to be a space that celebrates diversity and be a space for debate and exchanges. It is not a provocation and the content breaks no laws.
“We shared information about the Diversity House projects in Moscow and St. Petersburg with all appropriate authorities. Security assurances were sought and given at state and local police level.
“The St. Petersburg House has now established new premises and will plan to open today. If the local authorities continue to apply pressure, we are quite prepared with our local partners to play cat-and-mouse with them until they see the value of what we are trying to do.
“We are grateful for the support of Fatma Samoura, the Secretary General of FIFA, who has made high level representations on our behalf but to no avail.”