Chechnya: What's Going On And How You Can Help
A few weeks ago a report came out of Chechnya that shocked LGBT communities and human rights activists worldwide. Russian reporter Novaya Gazeta released an article detailing the horrific detainment of 100 men detained in modern-day concentration camps under the suspicions of being gay. Reports state that of those 100 men, 3 have been killed thus far. At least two separate concentration camps have been confirmed in Argun and Zozin-Jurt; former military bases.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied all claims made by Gazeta and his spokesperson Alvi Karimov has taken it a step farther in denying that gay people even exist within Chechnya: "If there were such people in Chechnya, law enforcement agencies wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning". Many have taken this to be a reference to the "honor killings" that are common throughout Chechnya.
Several noteworthy news outlets--including the NY Times, CNN, and the Guardian--have conducted interviews and published stories of survivors who make it out of Chechnya. The tales these men tell of their captivity are horrific. In several accounts, men have confirmed that they are often stripped, restrained, raped, and beaten with metal and wooden bars. A sickening majority have clamps connected to their fingers and toes and are electrocuted in efforts to gain the whereabouts of other gay men and for the amusement of their captors. Those that survive are turned over to their families, who are told that they should kill the relative to spare the family further shame.
Chechnya has a primarily Muslim majority as far as citizens go, and leader Kadyrov has supported ever more conservative Islamic-based laws. To give you an idea of how he feels about the gay community consider his 2009 statement in regard to gay clubs being built in Chechnya: "Prostitution, drugs and gays are the poison of our time. How can Russia support gay clubs?" Speculative reports have recently emerged that Kadyrov wants "the area's gay community gone by Ramadan". Ramadan is considered one of Muslim's holiest holidays. In light of the sheer number of reports now coming out of Chechnya and Russia (Chechnya is a territory of Russia) the United Nations has officially expressed concern, with British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan, leading the charge.
In addition to pointing out Kadyrov as the instigator of this attack on the LGBT community Duncan also brought to the UN's attention that the Chechen leader was the one pressing for the purge to take place before Ramadan. Duncan addressed the UN recently stating that: "Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov...sources have said that he wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan" and that "such comments, attitudes and actions are absolutely beyond contemptible".
The United States U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley asks that reports of concentration camps be investigated. Last we she stated, "We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association. If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored. Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses."
Calls for Vladmir Putin, the Russian President, to conduct an investigation and take action have been all but dismissed. Putin claims that until a Chechen citizen comes forward with these complaints he will not act on baseless accusations. Unfortunately, Russia continues to be intensely homophobic and most Chechen victims refuse to come forward without some form of protection extended. Given that in 2013 Putin signed a law barring public discussion or expression of gay rights or relationships in any place children might hear or see them, it doesn't seem likely that the Russian President will be cooperative in extending any form of official protections. Putin and Kadyrov continue to remain close political allies after Kadyrov took power and squashed all Chechen resistance to the Kremlin.
In light of such grim circumstances common citizens and activists alike are searching for methods by which to support victims and combat this pure and gross violation of human rights in Chechnya.