Writing by Patrick Keddie
The message delivered to Irina Putilova’s friend, a fellow political activist in Russia, was blunt: “You should stop your activities, otherwise you might lose both your legs.”
It was not an idle threat.
A short time later, Putilova’s friend was attacked in the park and, as promised, both his legs were broken. Soon afterwards, she began receiving similar emails: “Do you want to get the same? Aren’t you afraid to go out of your house?”
Putilova believes that the police were behind the attacks and the threats, but she has also faced violence from Neo-Nazi groups in Russia. As a bisexual woman, her fears of the far-right are further compounded.
“They attack you because you’re a political activist,” she says. “If they also know that you’re LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender], they can really kill you.”
Putilova fled Russia and made it to the United Kingdom. Here, she decided to claim asylum, as she had visited before, has friends here and speaks English. Yet her hopes for safety have been far from straight-forward. Following her initial asylum interview in November 2013, she was held in custody. She was at risk of being deported to Russia within days.
[Read the rest of the article published by Al Jazeera here]