As the world watches the Ukraine War in horror — or in Donald Trump’s case — glee, the persecution of LGBTIQ+ people in Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation continues. Last week, Chechen brothers Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev received prison sentences of eight and six years. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Russian Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit to close the Sphere Foundation, the legal entity of the Russian LGBT Network.
Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev
21-year-old Salekh Magamadov and 19-year-old Ismail Isaev first came to the attention of Chechen authorities three years ago. The brothers, one gay and one transitioning, moderated a Telegram channel critical of the thugs that run the semi-autonomous Russian republic. Unknown persons kidnapped the pair and held them in a government building. Their captors also tortured the brothers and forced them to apologise on camera for their activities.
The Russian LGBT Network subsequently assisted Salekh and Ismail to escape Chechnya. However, Chechen police, with Russian assistance, kidnapped the brothers again and returned them to Chechnya.
In 2021, the brothers began a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment and torture.
However, last week a Chechen court convicted the pair on blatantly false charges of ‘aiding illegal armed groups’.
Amnesty International called for the pair’s release.
“Belonging to the LGBTI community in Chechnya — or anywhere else for that matter — is not a crime. Nobody should be detained for their sexual orientation or gender identity or for criticizing the authorities. Their ordeal must end now.”
Russian LGBT Network
Russia’s LGBT Network has long provided a lifeline for people fleeing persecution from Chechnya. The organisation led efforts to evacuate survivors of Chechnya’s infamous 2017 anti-gay purge. The network also focussed world attention on the persecution of LGBT Chechens.
Founded by LGBT rights activist Igor Kochetkov in 2011, the network fights for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Russia.
Previously, Russian authorities designated Sphere, the LGBT Network and Igor Kochetkov as ‘foreign agents’. Designated ‘foreign agents’ endure official harassment and their publications must carry a mandatory 24-word declaration of the status.
Having failed to harass the LGBT Network out of existence, Russian authorities have since decided to just close the organisation claiming in court that LGBT Network contravenes ‘traditional values’.
Igor Kochetkov also spoke out in recent days against the Ukraine War. Yesterday, he co-signed an appeal from Russian NGOs to Putin pleading for an end to the bloodshed.
“All our work is to fight for human dignity, to save lives. War is incompatible with neither life, nor with dignity, nor with the basic principles of humanity. War is a humanitarian disaster that multiplies pain and suffering.”