Chechen anti-gay purge survivors share their stories while in Iran 30 men have been arrested and accused of being gay.
In an April 19 meeting with Vladimir Putin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied reports of an anti-gay purge in the Muslim-majority Russian republic.
Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported on April 1 that Chechen police and security services started rounding up at least 100 presumed gay and bisexual men in February, starving, torturing and humiliating them, shaming their relatives, and encouraging family honor killings. Human Rights Watch corroborated the information based on their own sources.
UK Minister Of State For Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan, told parliament last week that “Sources have said that he (Kadyrov), wants the (LGBT) community eliminated by the start of Ramadan,” the Muslim holy month that begins on Friday May 26.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UK and US governments have called on the Kremlin to investigate these crimes, while Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has raised her concerns directly with the Russian government.
Putin’s press secretary denies that reports of the purge are true, however Human Rights Watch says that the official record of Putin and Kadyrov's meeting shows "that Putin did raise the allegations with Kadyrov. This was likely a result of consolidated and persistent international pressure.”
Moscow-based LGBT rights group, Russian LGBT Network, has been working around the clock to help at-risk men leave Chechnya. So far, at least 25 men have been evacuated and provided with lifesaving resources and medical treatment. More than 30 men are awaiting urgent evacuation.
Last week, Human Rights Watch interviewed several victims of the purge who fled to central Russia. “They treated us like animals,” said a man who was detained for over a week. “Beatings, electric shocks I could deal with… I was strong. But the humiliation was unbearable,” he said. “The [police] spit in our faces, they called us disgusting, offensive names, they forced us into humiliating poses…When they finally released me, I was close to hanging myself. I cannot live with this, I just can’t.” The New York Times and The Guardian are reporting similar stories from other victims.
Human Rights Watch says that at least one man died from the torture and two more were murdered by their families after being returned home. Victims have told of being lured to an apartment by officials posing as gay men in online chat rooms and on social networking websites. Once at the apartment, the men were transported to a makeshift prison where they were tortured and forced to give the names of other gay men they know.
“Gays in Chechnya and the North Caucasus are in lethal danger,” Igor Kochetkov, director of the Russian LGBT Network, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “People whose partners are detained have every reason to believe they will be arrested. It is very hard not to name the names under torture.”
Canadian charity, Iranian Railroad For Queer Refugees (IRQR), has reported that on Thursday 13th April in the city of Esfahan in central Iran, police raided a private party and arrested more than 30 men aged between 16 and 30 accused of being gay. Several men escaped and heterosexuals are said to be among those arrested. The men have been charged with sodomy, drinking alcohol and using psychedelic drugs.
IRQR has confirmed that police fired guns and physically assaulted party guests. The victims’ families have been told that the men have been charged with sodomy and the men will reportedly undergo an anal examination to provide the court with evidence of homosexual acts. Under the Islamic Punishment Code in Iran, a judge can sentence them to death for sodomy and a medical report is considered valid evidence. The prisoners have reportedly been forced to write down the names of all of their LGBT friends and acquaintances.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
It’s important to keep the international pressure on Russia. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel meets with Vladimir Putin next week. All Out wants people to sign a petition demanding that she tells Putin to immediately investigate these crimes in Chechnya and to bring to justice all those responsible.
Help The Russian LGBT Network continue evacuating gay men from Chechnya.
Support the work of the Iranian Railroad For Queer Refugees.