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Travel company offers half-price flights to Winter Olympics for gay rights protesters

A Dutch travel firm has promised a 50 per cent discount on flights to the Winter Olympics for people protesting against Russia’s laws on homosexuality.

Atilay Uslu said the offer was open to everyone who wanted to protest against Russia's anti-gay laws.“If people are against the policy they should go,” Atilay Uslu, head of Corendon, told BNR Radio. “They can go to Sochi with Corendon to protest. I’ll give them a special discount.

“My sister is wearing a pink scarf to protest. Sochi used to be the place in Russia for gays to go out. Now there is only one place left and it’s because of the current political situation.”

 

Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda” has been a sensitive issue in the Netherlands, which was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and has been pre-eminent in its support for gay rights.

The government has been widely criticised for sending a high-ranking delegation to Sochi, including King William-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Corendon is the only company to lay on direct flights to Sochi, where it is sponsoring the Dutch speed skating team.

Uslu said his discount would apply to any protesters who went to the Winter Olympics, regardless of their sexuality.

“We are not calling for people to go and demonstrate against homosexual discrimination,” he said. “Dutch people are bright enough to decide that for themselves.

“And it’s not a gay discount – we want to lower the threshold for those Dutch people who are still unsure whether or not to travel to Sochi.

“The negative reporting has meant that Dutch people are not heading out to Sochi, and that is a shame.”

It is not known if any protest groups are planning to travel from the Netherlands to protest against Russia’s stance.

The gay rights organisation COC Nederland is staging an “inflammatory” protest by the Homomonument in Amsterdam on February 7, the day the Games begin.

Last year municipal buildings in Amsterdam hung out the rainbow flag when Russian president Vladimir Putin arrived on a state visit.

And in May a Dutch film crew were arrested, thrown in prison overnight and fined while making a documentary on the lives of gay rights activists in Murmansk.

They became the first foreigners to be detained under the Russian law that makes it illegal to inform under-18s about “non-traditional” relationships.

Their spokesman, Kris van der Veen, said they were unaware that one of the activists they interviewed was 17 years old.