Warning: distressing content
Over 100 gay and bisexual men and women have fled Chechnya to escape persecution in the past year, according to a Russian LGBTIQ rights group one year after the country’s brutal “gay purge” was first exposed.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported last year that men had been abducted and tortured as part of an alleged Chechen “anti-gay purge,” repeatedly denied by authorities but confirmed by human rights groups.
The St Petersburg-based Russian LGBT Network said in a report this week that in the last 12 months at least 200 LGBTIQ people had been detained in secret prisons throughout the region. Thirty-six of them had been beaten and electrocuted, the group said.
The LGBT Network said this week they had been told by victims the abuses were “directed by the highest officials of Chechnya” and the network’s activists had evacuated 119 people from the region to safety.
“The victims were subjected to tortures, humiliations, and other measures that harm their physical and psychological well-being,” the group said.
Testimonies from survivors published in the report, reported by UK’s The Independent, describe abuse by Chechen police and military personnel.
“They threw me to the floor and beat me,” one victim, known as IJ, said.
“They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor.
“One of them said, ‘Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that.’”
Another victim known as EF described their car being raided by police who on finding a leather bag and bracelets told them, “Are you a faggot? If you are, I’ll shoot you right here.”
The LGBT Network said it continues to document reports of detentions in Chechnya with authorities “visiting the houses of some previously detained survivors to learn if they stayed or left the region,” The Independent reported.
The group’s founder Igor Kochetkov said in a statement, “Over the past year, the Russian LGBT Network and Novaya Gazeta have undertaken the work the state was supposed to do. We have ensured the safety of victims and collected and publicized their testimonies.
“But one thing we could not do is launch an investigation and ensure criminal prosecution of the perpetrators. The Russian authorities, apparently, do not want to do this.”
In an interview with HBO last year, President Ramzan Kadyrov slammed the reports any sort of crackdown as “gibberish”.
“We don’t have such people. If there are any — take them to Canada. For the sake of Allah. Then, they would be far away from us,” he said.
Kadyrov’s press secretary Alvi Karimov last year also denied there were homosexuals in Chechnya but also delivered a chilling warning.
“It is impossible to detain and oppress those who simply don’t exist in the Republic,” he said.
“If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them, because their relatives would send them to a place of no return.”
Russian LGBT Network board member Svetlana Zakharova said the country’s gay crackdown “is not over” and the group is demanding “justice for the victims in Chechnya, for their relatives and their loved ones.”
“The Russian authorities must fulfill their duties, and start a serious investigation of this crime against humanity,” she said.
“The Russian authorities have not done anything to stop the atrocities or to punish those who are responsible. We still don’t know exactly how many people suffered during this state-sponsored campaign to ‘purify Chechen blood.'”
(Photo by Kremlin.ru)