Dying to Get Out of Chechnya

Dozens of gay men who fled persecution in Chechnya are hoping to find safety in a handful of countries that have volunteered to help,” writes Kevin Ponniah of BBC.com.

“Activists are in talks with five countries, two of them non-EU, the Russian LGBT Network told the BBC. Nine men have already been granted visas. Two of them went to Lithuania, which has announced its involvement. ‘It’s very important to act, because they are suffering,’ Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the BBC.”

As I discussed in the last issue of Gay City News, at least 100 gay men have been sent to a concentration camp in the wretched Russian republic, where they have been systematically tortured and, in at least three cases, killed. These murders are being committed in an absurd and obviously-going-to-fail attempt to rid Chechnya of all gay men by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26. The situation for those men who have been imprisoned has not improved over the last two weeks, although, as the BBC reports, nine other gay men have been granted visas by moral nations with moral leaders. Needless to say, the United States is not one of them.


“The government of the mainly Muslim region has denied the crackdown and said homosexual people ‘simply don’t exist’ there,” Ponniah continues.

This denial on the part of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is, of course, asinine. On the one hand, we don’t exist; on the other, they’re torturing and killing somebody for some reason.

Also according to the BBC, the Russian daily newspaper Novaya Gazeta is claiming that its reporters, who originally broke the story, are being threatened with “retribution” after the paper first reported this horrific story in April. These threats are “reprisals against journalists,” a spokesperson for the paper said, continuing, “We urge the Russian authorities to do everything possible to prevent actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists, who are doing their professional duty.”

Dan Avery, writing for NewNowNext.com, has this to say: “By now, reports about atrocities committed against gay men in Chechnya are widespread, with stories of detainees being electrocuted, beaten, sodomized, and even murdered. Rescue networks have been working tirelessly to get victims out of the region, but even though UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the reports of this abuse ‘cannot be ignored,’ a representative for the Russian LGBT Network told BuzzFeed, ‘We were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.’ The UK has similarly signaled it wouldn’t issue visas, either.”

Subsequent to BuzzFeed’s initial posting on the State Department’s stance on US visas for would-be refugees, the news site reported that “the Russia LGBT Network spokesperson clarified that the US had not yet formally denied any visa applications. But the group was not facilitating applications to the United States because it was so discouraged by their conversations with the US embassy.

Avery found a Tweet from Linus Linkevicius, the Lithuanian foreign minister, saying, “Today is zero-tolerance day against hatred, fear, discrimination of all forms of sexuality. Denying reality is not an option.”

If only our tweeter-in-chief had the balls to tweet about anything that mattered, let alone the torture and murder of gay men.

Avery goes on: “In all, the Russian LGBT Network has helped evacuate approximately 43 men from Chechnya, with dozens more in hiding throughout Russia. One victim, who fled to Moscow after being held for nearly two weeks, told Vice News he was picked up after messages from him were found on another gay man’s phone. ‘The same night, they started torturing me just the same as the others,’ recalls ‘David’ (not his real name). ‘They wanted to know who we knew, the ones that were part of the LGBT community.’ David says the jailers used electricity to get them to divulge the names of other gay men. ‘For many, the tips of their fingers were bursting because the electricity was coming out of the bodies that way,’ he recalls. Prisoners were also forced to beat each other up, their wounds left untreated. ‘When the wounds started to rot, they put bags on us,’ he says. ‘They put bags on our heads.’

“After weeks of complaints, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin finally authorized an investigation into abuses in the region. Days later, the Russian ambassador to Israel declared an inquiry had concluded that ‘there are no victims of persecution, threats, or violence.’”

Oh. That’s reassuring.

Even Teen Vogue has demonstrated more interest in tortured and murdered gay men than the US Department of State. Secretary Rex Tillerson has, to my knowledge, said nothing at all about it. But Teen Vogue found and printed this ominous quote as part of its coverage of the story: “‘You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,’ Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for the president of Chechnya [Kadyrov], told the Russian news agency Interfax. ‘If there were such people in Chechnya, law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.’”

Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.