Over 100 gay men have been reportedly kidnapped, detained, tortured, and some murdered in concentration-like facilities in Chechnya.
Russian news agencies are reporting that gay men are being kidnapped and transported to a concentration-like secret prison complex in Argun, a town in the Chechen Republic, located in Russia. According to Pink News, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta alleges that high profile Chechen officials, including the Speaker of the Parliament, have even visited the site. Ramzan Kadyrov (photo, with President Vladimir Putin), is the Head of the Chechen Republic.
The news of the round-ups comes on the heels of other reports of extreme violence and the detention of gay men. According to the Novaya Gazeta, over 100 gay men so far have been detained because of “their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” The newspaper also reported three connected murders.
The Russian LGBT Network issued a strongly-worded (yet fear-filled) statement in response to the reports of kidnapping and detentions. Based on their own intelligence, they recommend gay men leave the region immediately.
The Russian LGBT Networks is highly disturbed and concerned about the information on the kidnapping and killing of people in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. We are also outraged by the reaction of the officials of the Chechen Republic, who in fact justify the killings. No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to “traditions” to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal.
The Russian LGBT Network makes every effort to contact the victims and to provide the emergency support. Taking into account the recent statements of the Chechnya officials, we believe that the only thing that can work out is the evacuation. We cooperate closely we the human rights defenders both in Russia and abroad, and ready to evacuate.
The advocacy agency Human Rights Watch said in a prepared statement that while they are confident in their intelligence, they cannot share too many details of the atrocities being committed for fear of putting more gay men in danger. “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant. LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to 'honour killings' by their own relatives for tarnishing family honor.”
Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, described the horrific conditions of the camps to the MailOnline, based on first-hand accounts: “Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”
Chechen officials, through spokesman Alvi Karimov, have largely brushed off the horrifying events, claiming they couldn’t possibly have happened because there simply aren’t any gay people in Chechnya. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
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Image via The Kremlin