In a heartbreaking video, gay Russians living in the U.S. share testimonials of queer men who say they have been detained and tortured in Chechnya.
Produced by Human Rights First, the clip features personal accounts of Chechen men who claim to have been abused at the hands of local officials in the Russian republic. Gay Russian asylees who are currently living stateside read the disturbing accounts, which officials said were compiled from reports from Novaya Gazeta, as well as The Guardian, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Pink News.
“They stripped me naked. One filmed me on his cell phone,” one man says in the video, which was posted to Human Rights First’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon and can be viewed above. “Three of them beat me up. They kicked me, broke my jaw.” Adds another, “They attached the wires of the stun gun to me. It’s very painful.”
Human Rights First Advocacy Counsel Shawn Gaylord said his organization aimed to “drive action” and “help achieve justice” with the video, which was produced in partnership with the Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association, or RUSA LGBT.
“The stories coming from those lucky enough to survive and make it out are harrowing. We felt that by sharing them we could put this nightmare in perspective for the many people that have only read about it in a newspaper,” he said in an email. “The world needs to act.”
The abuse allegations have been dominating international headlines all month, after Novaya Gazeta reported April 1 that at least 100 Chechen men had been detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation.” Three of those men, the report continued, were believed to have been killed. An April 4 Novaya Gazeta article doubled down on those claims, with a source telling the publication that the Muslim-majority region’s anti-LGBTQ efforts include concentration camps.
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called for an investigation into the reports, while Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Eichner, Andy Cohen and other celebrities have spoken out against the alleged violence. Still, the Kremlin itself has denied the claims, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reportedly dismissing the controversy as “a distortion of reality, merely a defamation.”
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