Since April, when the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first broke the story, we have known of a purge of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. We have read reports of men being tricked through dating apps and social media, abducted, detained, humiliated, beaten, and in some cases murdered.
We have even seen some of them bravely tell of their horrifying experience, but the scale of the story, and the continued developments, has barely been touched by the mainstream press, a new report by Media Matters has found.
Since the story first broke, we have learned that numerous men appear to have been murdered for being gay or bi, that a top Chechen official was seen at the secret prison sites where the men were held, and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly denied the existence of queer men in the region. He went even further in a recent interview with HBO Sports, where he said that if such people exist in Chechnya they should be purged from the country “to purify our blood.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson backed Kadyrov on those statements.
The Kremlin has also denied the existence of the prison sites. Meanwhile, the United States is reportedly refusing to grant visas to the men fleeing the abuses and killings.
“A Media Matters analysis of CNN’s, MSNBC’s, and Fox News’ weekday evening programming from 5-11 p.m. and ABC’s, CBS’, and NBC’s flagship evening news programs — both weekend and weekday — found virtual silence across the networks regarding the abuse of LGBTQ people in Chechnya,” the nonprofit reports. “There were only three significant mentions of the story across all six networks between April 1 and July 31 and one short exchange in a broader discussion about the United States’ position on human rights around the world.”
“It is simply unacceptable that the Chechen government’s brutal attacks on queer men have gone virtually unreported on the evening news,” said Media Matters Communications Director Laura Keiter. “Russian reporters have been threatened and forced to flee because of their coverage of the issue, which makes the role of U.S. media in shining a light on this tragedy is even more important.”
The Russia LGBT Network, which has been working to free men from the area, is also out with a new report, sharing the testimonies of over 30 survivors.
Just one of these stories is enough to understand how dire the situation is in Chechnya for queer men:
One day, all my relatives were informed about the fact that I was detained. “The Lord” came to us, the chairman of the parliament — Magomed Daudov. We were all set down before the Lord. The Lord approached us, took pictures on his phone, and asked if each of us was gay. We had to answer “yes”. This all happened in front of our relatives. He talked to our relatives, saying that we brought disgrace to the nation and to our families. He told them that if they honor the traditions, they must kill us. And that if they did everything, they would not be punished for it. After all this talk, a few people were released to their relatives.
These stories also provide yet another reason for media outlets to take notice and get the word out to the public.
The question is, will they take their duty to the common good seriously, or will we have more radio silence on one of the greatest atrocities against human rights taking place today?