Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic
News about the abuse of LGBT people in Chechnya continues to shock, with reports of camps being opened in the Russian republic to detain gay men.
According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, facilities or “secret prisons” have been identified where more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured, with at least three killed.
To bolster allegations that the brutality against the men is officially sanctioned, it claims that it has evidence that the speaker of the Parliament of Chechnya, Magomed Daudov, visited one of these camps.
Novaya Gazeta and activists from the Russian LGBT Network have reported that victims were detained, beaten, tortured with electricity and, in some case held for ransom. Some victims were forced to pay their captors on an ongoing basis to stay alive.
“We are aware of the situation when the family had to urgently sell their apartments and property to save their loved ones,” said the newspaper.
It also claims that in a bid to arrest as many gay men as possible, the phones of those already in detention were left on so that they could receive calls from the outside. Any men who called, whether they were gay or not, became targets in the campaign to establish “Chechnya’s sexual purity”.
Said one victim about being tortured with electricity: “It hurts. I endured as I could, and then lost consciousness and fell. When a current is generated and the body starts to shake, you stop to think and begin to cry. All the while you sit and hear the cries of other people.”
Tanya Lokshina, Human Rights Watch Russia Program Director, stated last week that, “the number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred”.
Chechnya is a predominately Muslim semi-antonymous part of Russia and is extremely conservative and repressed. Activism and the media are strictly limited and there is no visible LGBT community.
Amnesty International has blasted Russia for not taking action against the homophobic repression and killings and instead banning photoshopped images of President Vladimir Putin wearing makeup.
A victim’s bruises
“In its twisted definition of justice, the Russian authorities have chosen to use anti-extremism legislation to silence peaceful freedom of expression at a time when state-supported homophobia inspires violence across the country,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.
“Rather than clamping down on political satire, the state should be using the machinery of justice to investigate the recent horrific reports of mass abduction, torture and killings of gay men in Chechnya.”
Chechnya is headed by Razman Kadyrov, a key ally of Putin who has been accused of numerous human rights violations. His government has denied the allegations by stating that there are no gay people in Chechnya to arrest. Officials also appeared to support a policy of families murdering gay relatives as a form of “honour killings”.
It remains unclear how many victims remain in detention and how many have been killed in the brutal crackdown. The Russian LGBT network is assisting gay men in Chechnya to flee, which it described as an “evacuation”.