Allegations that gay men are being beaten and tortured in concentration camp-like facilities in Chechnya have prompted international outrage. Over 100 men have reportedly been detained and three have been killed in the Russian region, according to opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
An article published on the paper’s website on April 1st states that: “Novaya Gazeta has already known [sic] the names of three victims,” but the paper’s sources indicate that there may have been many more deaths.
The Guardian published the testimony of a man named ‘Adam’, who relayed his treatment from the authorities, describing: “powerful electric shocks” and beatings with “wooden sticks and metal rods.”
“They called us animals, non-humans, said we were going to die there.”
He spent more than 10 days in a detention centre, sleeping on a concrete floor, and told the Guardian: “They woke us up at 5am and let us sleep at 1am. Different people would come in and take turns to beat us.”
He was released to his family, but his captors told his relatives: “Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him.” Soon after this he fled the country.
The spate of abductions is in response to a series of applications made by LGBT activists from GayRussia.ru to hold Pride parades in the region, which were immediately denied. The detention of men between the ages of 16 and 50 “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” has been blamed on local Chechnyan authorities and religious traditions by Russian law enforcement.
A spokesman for the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, known as “Chechnya’s Putin”, issued a categorical denial that such arrests were taking place, calling the allegations “absolute lies and disinformation.”
Spokesman Alvi Karimov denied that gay Chechnyans exist, telling news agency Interfax that: “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist,” adding that: “if such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
The authorities reportedly searched for gay men to target via social media and online dating services. Novaya Gazeta described any public demonstrations of homosexuality in the Caucasus as “equal to a death sentence.”
The New York Times has also reported that gay men are deleting social media accounts and fleeing the area. Russian human rights activists and organisations are attempting to help dozens of individuals escape the region, for fear they may be targeted. Elena Milashina, the Novaya Gazeta journalist who broke the story, has also left Russia in fear for her safety.
G.L.A.A.D. President, Sarah Kate Ellis, has called on the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, to speak out against the “reported #LGBTQ concentration camps in Chechnya.” Human Rights Campaign is calling on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to condemn the actions by the Chechnyan authorities on his upcoming trip to Russia.
The Russian embassy in the UK is in Edinburgh. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted: “Outrageous #Chechnya govt supports rather than stops ill-treatment of #LGBT people… [sic]”
LGBTQ activists have organised a protest which will take place outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday. The European Pride Organisers Association have described the lack of mainstream media coverage or government response to the atrocities in Chechnya as “poor,” adding that: “we must not be bystanders, and we must challenge this inhumanity.”