These Russians helped 40 gay and bi men escape Chechnya

A protest was held in Tel Aviv outside the Russian embassy asking for an end to the violence in Chechnya. Shutterstock

The Russian LGBT Network, an organization for LGBT people in the Russian Federation, says it has helped 40 gay and bisexual men flee from Chechnya.

In an interview with NPR, a volunteer with the organization said that the Russian LGBT Network started a hotline specifically for people in Chechnya who feel threatened. The woman’s name was not published because of the sensitive work the organization is doing.

Last month, the Novaya Gazeta reported that the Chechen government was running detention centers where gay and bisexual men were being held and tortured, and at least three of these people had been tortured to death. One of the tactics used by the government to find gay and bisexual men is for officers to pose as gay men looking for sex online, so understandably many gay and bisexual men in Chechnya are wary of telling anyone about their sexuality.

The spokesperson said, “And in the very beginning, the first people who contacted us, they were terribly scared. And they wanted to ensure, like, if we can be trusted, if we are going to kill them or help them.”

She said that around 40 people have been rescued from Chechnya with their help and relocated to other parts of Russia. They are trying to get some of the people out of Russia entirely, since they are being hunted by relatives from Chechnya.

The Russian government is not providing any support to the organization, and the spokesperson said that the organization is advocating for an investigation of the detention sites. “And at some point, [Russian officials] weren’t able to be silent anymore and they started to do something. It’s actually a horrible thing for them, too, for their reputation – like, how do they look like, like monsters?”

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