Kelly Sans Culotte

Gay Mundo

Poland: The Case of the Stolen Gay Files
Neo-Nazi hacker suspected.
By Tomek Kitlinski

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WARSAW. APRIL 19, 2004. On the night of February 15, a hacker broke into an e-mail account of Poland's leading gay organization, Campaign Against Homophobia. The hacker made off with the treasurer's entire membership list, which was instantly posted in two of the country's most popular commercial websites. Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of members were spiked with comments such as "pedophile" and "drug addict".

Within hours, the group's activists and supporters were emailed a barrage of hate messages. "You are deviants, alcoholics, drug addicts, carriers of sexually-transmitted diseases, and you spread AIDS," they said.

The Gdansk-based Baltic Daily, which broke the story on February 19, identified the hacker as "probably a sympathizer of a radical right-wing party, the National Revival of Poland." When he posted the Campaign's membership list, the hacker attached the NRP's "Ban the Fags" logo. According to the Roth Institute, Tel Aviv University, which tracks anti-Semitic groups, the NRP is a "predominantly neo-Nazi skinhead organization" mostly known "for its promotion of Holocaust denial."

In an official statement published on its website, the NRP denied having "committed the computer burglary." However, elsewhere on the same site, the NRP promised that "the actions in the "Ban the Fags" series will continue." It did not specify what those actions might be.

The Campaign Against Homophobia reported the hacking to the police the following morning, and eventually managed to get the lists removed from the two websites. An investigation by the Warsaw prosecutor's office has since yielded no results.

Homophobia backlash
The Campaign's Gdansk coordinator, Artur Czerwinski, was the first to notice the hate posting. "I was afraid. I was very apprehensive. What's going to happen? What should we do? Should we provide security for the people listed? It was a big challenge," he told The Gully. Czerwinski, who is one of the Campaign most visible spokespeople, sees the incident as part of a rising wave of homophobia in Poland. "In this country, the people on the list can easily be slandered," he said.

Robert Biedron, 28, the Campaign's charismatic founder and president concurs. "I regularly receive threats. In one anonymous letter I was called the President of All Deviants, who should have a stone hung around his neck and drowned. But the theft of the membership list made things even more serious," he said.

Biedron added that a week after the hacker posted the Campaign treasurer's list, the treasurer's "neighbors found copies of a 2003 TV interview transcript in their mailboxes, where he said he was gay." The Campaign's treasurer, who lives in Warsaw refused to be interviewed for this article and asked to remain unnamed.

The theft happened as Poland was in the grips of an anti-pedophilia frenzy, largely fueled by the country's main newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. Queers and people living with HIV/AIDS were systematically lumped together with pedophiles in the public mind, and pedophilia strictly equated with "boy molesting" (girls need not apply). The mass hysteria was triggered by sensationalist coverage of the indictment of Wojciech Krolopp, the long-time conductor of the prestigious Poznan Boys Choir, who had been charged with "sexually abusing" three of his young singers.

Founded in 2001, the Campaign Against Homophobia organized last year's controversial billboard project "Let Us Be Seen," which showed photos of queer couples holding hands, and the "I'm Gay. I'm Lesbian. Meet Us" forums at Polish universities. It is currently working for the same-sex civil union bill introduced in the Polish Senate by Senator Maria Szyszkowska.

In 2002, the group helped compile a "Report on Public Figures and Institutions Discriminating Against Sexual Minorities in Poland" which aimed "to show that in our country human and civil rights are not respected." It will soon publish "Homophobia in Polish," a collection of essays by queer activists, scholars, and feminists, including the writer of this piece. The Campaign's activities have generated intense controversy in a country were queers had been largely invisible. The case of the stolen files is both proof of the Campaign's effectiveness, and of the perils that lie ahead of it.

From the Web

Campaign Against Homophobia
BBC Country profile: Poland
Polish queer portal — Innastrona
Roth Institute, Tel Aviv University: an overview of Poland's extreme right, 2003
Europe Without Homophobia, the 5th international queer and gender studies conference, Wroclaw, Poland, May 2004

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