Chechnya Concentration Camp Tortures Gay Men
April 18, 2017
Accusations that Chechnya authorities have been detaining gay men and taking them to places where they are tortured and sometimes kill has surfaced. The allegations were made by human rights activists and a Russian newspaper. According to these claims, 100 gay men were taken and imprisoned, and 20 people are allegedly already dead.
“In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported.
Those who managed to escape came forward with their stories to the Novaya Gazeta. One man talked about how he was tortured until he revealed the names of other people in the lgbtq+ community. Another prisoner who escaped the camps told the newspaper how he had to pay bribes every month to the police just to survive.
Others who escaped described being put into rooms where 15 to 30 prisoners were placed without food and tortured with electric shocks and beaten, sometimes to death. Some of the captives included well known figures in Chechnya, including a local news presenter.
In a statement to dailymail.com Alexander Artemyev, from Amnesty International in Russia, said ‘’We can only call on the Russian authorities to investigate the allegations. Homosexuals in Chechnya are treated very harshly and prosecuted daily and they are afraid to talk about it.”
Artemyev went on to say, “They either have to hide or leave the republic. We are keeping in touch with the LGBT network that helps people in Russia to find shelter. The problem is people there cannot talk about it as it puts their lives and those they speak to, in danger. This is the main issue we are facing in Russia and the main challenge.”
Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, told dailymail.com that the story is going to continue to develop as more people escape.
A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the report in a statement to Interfax April 8.
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman, Alvi Karimov, said to the news agency. “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,” said Karimov.
Natalia Poplevskaia, the International Advocacy Officer and Monitoring Program Coordinator with the Russian LGBT Network, talked about receiving around 30 messages since April 2 from either current or former Chechnya residents who have already been evacuated. Since learning about the incidents Poplevskaia said that the organization has set up an emergency hotline. There were no specific details on how people were evacuated out due to safety reasons.
Maxim Eristavi, a Ukrainian journalist and openly gay man, told NBC News “What is happening right now with gay men is part of a longtime practice of state violence towards dissenting voices in Chechnya.” Eristavi added how reporters from the Novaya Gazeta reporting in that area have been killed in the past.
Though Eristavi has taken an issue with media calling the center a “gay concentration camp” since the center is not only used for lgbtq+ people, but others as well.
“Calling it a concentration camp is actually inaccurate. Creating more misinformation can damage and endanger people on the ground and discredit those who are trying to bring more attention to the issue,” said Eristavi.
Despite this, the situation has been described as being the worst abuse lgbtq+ people have faced in years. Maria Sjodin, Deputy Executive Director at Outright International, has told NBC news that they’ve never had this many attacks reported at one time ever and most incidents, while common, are irregular. Sjodin says that it is Russia’s responsibility to respond to this and, “The international community has to put pressure on Russia to intervene.”