Protect Ukrainian activist Vitalina Koval
Vitalina Koval, a 28-year-old LGBTI and women’s rights activist—and a central figure in the LGBTI community in Ukraine—has been attacked, harassed, and is in need of protection.
Vitalina helped set up a community centre which provides a safe space for LGBTI people amidst increasing homophobia in Ukraine. She is an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and LGBTI individuals.
But she is paying a heavy price for her peaceful activism.
In March 2017, Vitalina took part in the International Women’s Day March in Ukraine. She was attacked by a dozen young men, who charged at her and other protesters, tearing up their posters and shouting threats. Shaken up, Vitalina went to the police and filed a complaint. The police never got back to her.
Determined not to let this stop her activism, Vitalina wanted to attend a peaceful protest marking International Women’s Day in March 2018. Worried she would be attacked again, she went to the police in advance, and was assured the protesters would be well protected.
But just as the march was coming to an end, two men and four women from far-right group ‘Karpatska Sich’ threw red paint all over Vitalina. Her eyes began to burn immediately.
“I felt pain, shock and fear: ‘I could go blind!’ People tried to provide the first aid immediately. They gave me tissues, and water to wipe the paint. It didn't help. These long minutes it hurt and I couldn't get the thought that I could lose my sight out of my head.”
Doctors confirmed she had chemical burns on her eyes from the paint, but luckily has eyesight was intact. Still covered in paint, Vitalina went straight to the police station, where she was made to loudly state her home address—within earshot of her attackers, who had been detained by police. She felt scared and unsafe.
“I felt upset and sad that our system works like this. The police have no sense of justice.”
Since then, Vitalina’s friends have received threatening messages and been followed home. Vitalina decided to organize an ‘anti-violence’ protest, but most activists decided not to go, fearing for their safety.
Vitalina is a determined activist. She is also very much at risk and needs our support. Call on the Head of the National Police of Ukraine to hold Vitalina’s attackers responsible.
Please send a letter or email without delay!
Please send your appeals to:Mr. Serhiy Knyazev Head of the National Police of Ukraine Vul. Akademika Bohomoltsa, 10 Kyiv, 01601 Ukraine Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Salutation: Dear Mr. Knyazev
Please send a copy to:His Excellency Andriy Shevchenko Embassy of Ukraine in Canada
331 Metcalfe Street Ottawa, ON K2P 1S3 Tel. 613-230-2961 Fax 613-230-2400 Email email@example.com
Authorities in Ukraine have consistently failed to prevent and punish violence by “far-right” groups, which has grown steadily since at least 2015. The victims of this violence and threats of violence—including women and LGBTI rights activists, “left-wing” political activists, Roma families, and other individuals and groups targeted by member of “far-right” groups—remain vulnerable to further attacks, intimidation and harassment. The Ukrainian authorities must respond to this issue with clear policy of “zero-tolerance” of such violence and immediate actions that seek to bring the perpetrators to account and protect the victims. Learn more here.