Gay men are being rounded up and held in “concentration camps” in the Chechnya. Reports claim that these men are beaten, electrocuted, and forced to sit on bottles. Fearing the same fate, gay men are reportedly fleeing the Republic.
The news first broke last week when an independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta made the shocking allegations of over 100 gay men being apprehended and sent to camps for gay men. It claimed that commands were given for a “Prophylactic sweep.”
Chechnya is a Muslim-majority region run by an authoritarian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. He is considered fiercely loyal to Vladimir Putin and is helped by his own private militia. It is worth noting that homophobia is widespread in the region.
Earlier Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson said in a statement that there were no homosexuals in Chechnya and so the claims of arrests and torture were false. He further added the following.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
According to the reports, the men are being held in former military barracks near the town of Argun. Men between the ages of 16 to 50 were arrested and brought to these camps due to their non-traditional sexual orientation or suspicion of the same.
The men who had escaped from these camps revealed that 15 to 30 men were kept in a room without food and were sometimes even tortured to death. These men were forced to give up the identity of other gay men to the police officials.
A young man came forward and shared that his friend was forced to confess to being homosexual. He further added that security officials told him that orders had arrived from the top leaders of the republic.
Natalia Poplevskaia with the Russian LGBT Network stated that an emergency hotline had been set up and residents of Chechnya were being evacuated through their channels. She also added people were afraid to talk.
Natalia confirmed the reports of Novaya Gazeta while at the same time declined to name her sources. She also added that a few clerics close to Kadyrov, and two well-known local TV presenters were also among those detained in the “concentration camps,” as reported by BBC.
The efforts of gay rights activists and the LGBT network have garnered support worldwide. In London, hundreds of supporters thronged the Russian Embassy to protest against the atrocities on gay men.
Protestors screamed “close the camps” and laid pink flowers outside the embassy. The protestors added that they wanted to show support and solidarity so that the gay men in Chechnya know they are not alone. Michael Salter-Church, the co-chair of Pride in London, said the following.
“It sends a shudder down the spine to hear about concentration camps in 2017. Russia’s abuses cannot be ignored.”
Even for people outside of Russia, there are ways to help the gay men of Chechnya and protest against the alleged round-up and imprisonment of gay men.
A Russian activist Igor Yasin has created a change.org petition requesting the Prosecutor General of Russia to investigate the attacks. At the time of writing, it had received close to a hundred thousand signatures. You can sign it here.
A campaign created by Amnesty International encourages people to write to the chairman of investigation committee and acting head of the investigation committee for the Chechnya Republic. It can be written in either Russian or local language.
President of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis had urged the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to speak up against the atrocities and demand action to stop them. You can also contact Nikki Haley directly via this form.
[Featured Image by Jens Dresling/AP Images]