It’s been a while since LGBTQ media has reported on Chechnya, the semi-autonomous Russian republic, and their ongoing years-long campaign of kidnapping, detaining, torturing and killing LGBTQ people — but that’s not because it has stopped.
In fact, Russian LGBTQ activists recently told the media that there has recently been an increase in LGBTQ people detained by Chechen authorities.
You may recall that reports of the Chechen anti-LGBTQ crackdown first came from the independent Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta in December 2016.
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Chechen authorities — most of whom are former military members who serve as the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s secret police force — often detain suspected queer men under the pretense of drug charges. Police then examine the men’s phones contacts for other suspects, using torture to get as much info as possible.
A 31-page report released in August 2017 by the Russian LGBT Network said torturers use “electrocution, beatings, starvation, dehydration, isolation, forced nudity, homophobic insults and misgendering” to punish detainees, confiscating their personal belongings and only allowing them to sleep three hours a day on cold concrete floors. The men are not allowed to bathe or use toilets and they receive no medical care.
Witnesses say these detainment and torture sessions have occurred in four military camps and police station basements. There’s no mechanism to hold police responsible for their actions. Filing a complaint makes one a future target for police harassment and violence.
Women have been caught in the crackdown too, though they’re often left to their families be abused, imprisoned or killed. Chechen authorities subscribe to the Stalinist idea of “shared responsibility,” blaming families for raising “public enemies” and punishing them if they don’t help persecute and murder relatives in so-called “honor killings.”
Families can also be imprisoned, harassed, jailed, blackmailed or killed if their suspected LGBTQ family members flee the region.
Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown has occurred in four waves: The first lasted from December 2016 to February 2017, the second from March 2017 until May 2017, the third began June 2017 and the fourth began in December 2018.
At least 27 people are believed to have died in the crackdown. The Russia LGBT Network has helped approximately 119 gay and bi men escape the purge and flee to Moscow, Canada Lithuania, France and Germany.
A December 2018 report from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) agreed that Chechnya’s crackdown has happened with “consistent and substantial financial support [and] … vast political autonomy and legal immunity” offered by the Russian federal government.
Kadyrov agents obstructed investigations into the purge. Russian feds followed suit by shrugging off all reports as insubstantial. The Trump Administration has refused visas to LGBTQ refugees fleeing violence there.
If you wish to help, please consider making a donation to the LGBT Russia Network to help LGBTQ Chechens flee the country.