LGBTIQ activists are warning of a “new wave” of arrests of gay people in the Russian region of Chechnya, 18 months after the country’s “gay purge” triggered global outcry.
At least 40 gay men and women have been detained in the past month, and two have also died in detention after being tortured, the Russian LGBT Network said in a statement.
The LGBT+ Network program director Igor Kochetskov said it was impossible to know the exact number of those targeted in the Chechnya anti-gay purge, but he alleged the involvement of law enforcement officers and the use of the same detention facility as the April 2017 persecutions.
“The local police makes every effort to prevent victims from leaving the region or applying to the courts in the future,” Kochetskov said
“They take away documents, they threat[en] the victims with the criminal proceedings against them or their close ones, and they force them to sign empty forms.”
Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta — which first revealed Chechnya’s violent crackdown on its LGBTIQ people in April 2017 — earlier reported that gay women and men in the country were once again facing persecution.
Last Thursday, a warning appeared on Russian social media urging all vulnerable men and women to flee the southern Russian region.
“We ask anyone still free to take this message seriously and leave the republic as soon as is possible,” the statement read.
Novaya Gazeta first reported in 2017 that men suspected of being gay had been abducted and violently tortured as part of an alleged “purge” in Chechnya.
Chechen man Maxim Lapunov bravely spoke out in October 2017 after he was arrested in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and detained and tortured for two weeks.
“They started beating me with batons,” he said.
“I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it was a long time… They hit my legs, hips, buttocks, back.
“They would hit me until I fell down, let me catch my breath, make me stand up, and start over.”
The Russian LGBT Network said they have helped more than 150 people flee Chechnya since the anti-gay crackdown began in April 2017.
‘Indisputable’ anti-gay crimes in Chechnya
Last month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last month published a damning report into abuses in Chechnya and called on Russia to investigate.
The OSCE report confirmed “very serious human rights violations” in Chechnya including “clear” and “indisuputable” crimes against the LGBTIQ community.
The Kremlin and Chechen government have both repeatedly denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region, but Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov (pictured) has always been openly anti-LGBTIQ.
“We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays,” he said in 2017.
“If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home.
“To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”