It’s well known that for years, the Islamist barbarians of ISIS have been tossing gay men off the roofs of buildings, then pelting them with heavy rocks on the ground if they were unfortunate enough to survive the plunge. They proudly post videos and photos of their despicable deeds on social media.
But there are no recordings of the torture and murder of gay men now taking place in the Russian republic of Chechnya, because Chechen officials insist there are no homosexuals in that region whatsoever. And if there were, a government spokesman told the state news agency, “… law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
Despite the preposterous denial, word has reached human rights activists in recent weeks that authorities in Chechnya, a Muslim stronghold, are arresting, torturing, and killing gay men. Witnesses have been contacting an LGBT group with horror stories of gays being beaten with hoses and tortured by electricity.
Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s only independent newspaper, reported it had confirmed that more than 100 men presumed to be gay had been rounded up. The paper named three men - two television reporters and a waiter - who it said had been killed, but suspected that many others had also been murdered.
This latest wave of brutal repression in Chechnya was sparked by the filing of applications to hold four gay pride parades in predominantly Muslim areas by Nikolai Alexeyev, a one-time gay rights leader now seen as a thoroughly discredited, deeply anti-Semitic crackpot. Alexeyev is aware, as are all Russians, that one cannot be openly gay in that region. But in his egotistical desire for publicity, he made the move, knowing full well what the consequences might be. And it happened: outraged Chechen authorities used the request for permits as an excuse to begin a new campaign of intimidation and persecution.
Chechen police are snaring gay men by posing as gays looking for dates on social media sites, then arresting the victims and using the contact lists on their phones to discover more closeted gays. Once in jail, forced into dark cells so small they can’t even lie down, the men are mercilessly beaten in various ways, including having to run through a gauntlet of twenty men wielding bats aimed at the victims from the waist down.
Some who survive are released to their families, a move that is usually a death sentence. Chechnya is a hotbed of Islamic honor killings, usually of young women, but of gay men as well. When gay Chechens who’ve somehow remained alive get out of jail, they are often taken by their male relatives to remote places to be killed and buried. No one even searches for them.
What makes the situation in Chechnya even more egregious is that there is not the slightest accountability on the part of those perpetrating the horrors. When the government of Egypt arrested at least 150 gay men in 2014, many were put on public trial, and due to international outrage and pressure, 26 were actually acquitted the following year. There is nothing even remotely similar in Chechnya, where gays are thrown in special jails, no charges are brought, no trials are conducted, and extrajudicial killings are the norm.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is a puppet of the Kremlin, and Russian President Vladimir Putin allows leaders such as Kadyrov to mistreat their citizens in any way they deem fit. Last year, Kadyrov decided to hold his own version of mixed martial arts, or “fights without rules”, the exceptionally violent “sport” which is popular throughout Russia. His competition featured children, including his own - kids aged eight to ten beating each other to a pulp for the amusement of adults.
Shortly after Russian MMA champion Fyodor Yemelyanenko, speaking in Moscow, criticized the Chechen tournament and called it “unacceptable”, his 16-year-old daughter was beaten up while walking down a Moscow street. The Chechens have long tentacles.
Gay Chechens have tried to escape to more tolerant cities in Russia, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the adoption of a federal anti-gay law in 2013 means there really is no safe haven. If caught by police, and they don’t have enough money to pay their captors off, they’re sent back to Chechnya to certain death.
Is there any hope to end these atrocities? No, but it’s possible to save some of those who are in immediate danger. Many gay Chechens contacted the Russian LGBT Network after the publication of the Novaya Gazeta article. The organization promotes human rights throughout Russia, and is trying to document the current crimes in Chechnya on its website, www.lgbtnet.org. The website is in both Russian and English, and there is a link to make donations.
The money donated helps get LGBT people out of Chechnya and into safe houses, until they are given asylum by Western countries. The LGBT Network also provides them with much-needed psychological and physical care.
We cannot make a sadistic society such as Chechnya more humane and tolerant. But we can respond to the abominations taking place there by donating our money, and helping to save as many lives as possible.