Activists are helping gay men flee from Russia’s Chechen region

Gay men in the Russian region of The Chechen Republic are fleeing as authorities reportedly round up people who are gay, or perceived to be gay.

Men are allegedly being held in an detention facility in the town of Argun, 20kn from Grozy, the capital of the Chechen Republic.  The facilities has been described in some media reports as a concentration camp.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an article claiming that over 100 men had disappeared off the streets of Chechnya, including several television journalists. The article claimed that at least three of the detained men have subsequently been murdered.

The report has been backed up by human rights activists working in the area who confirmed multiple reports that align with the newspapers claims.

Speaking to the BBC Natalia Poplevskaya of the Russian LGBT Network said “we are working to evacuate people”.

“Torture is going on with electric shocks, beatings with cables. All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay,” Poplevskaya said.

The Russian LGBT Network has set up an email hotline to help people in the region who believe they may be in danger go into hiding or being relocated to other parts of Russia.

The group says their information from detainees who have been released is that Argun is the location where people are being held and tortured.

“The office of the military commandant is now the unofficial detention centre for torture, near Argun. All the victims confirmed that,” she said.

The activist disagreed with the characterisation of a “concentration camp” that has been used in some media reports.

Natalia Poplevskaya said the Russian LGBT Network had lodged complaints with the Russian prosecutor-general’s office, the Federal Investigative Committee (SK) and federal commissioner for human rights, but got little response.

The Russian Ombudsman has agreed to investigate the claims, but only after concern was raised by other human rights groups including Amnesty International.

The Chechen Republic is an autonomous region of Russia that is largely controlled by the local government. The region previously separated from Russia but rejoined after a long conflict.

The Head of the Chechen Republic has denied the arrests have occurred.

President Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson released a statement describing the initial newspaper report as “absolute lies and disinformation.”

The spokesperson said there were no gay people living in Chechnya, and suggested if they did exist their own families would have disposed of them.

“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” the spokesman, Alvi Karimov, said.

“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.”

US, UK and EU Officials raise concern

Concern over the move has been raised by officials in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

A statement from the US State Department described the reports as “troubling”.

“We are aware of troubling reports that local authorities in the Republic of Chechnya have arrested or detained more than 100 men, as well as reports that three of those detained were killed.

“We condemn violence against any individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis. We urge the Russian government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into the alleged killings and mass arrests, and hold the perpetrators responsible. We were likewise deeply disturbed by local authorities statements that apparently condone and even incite violence against LGBTI persons.

“We are very concerned by the widespread discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons in Russia or any society. We call on the Russian government to protect all people from discrimination and violence, and allow the free exercise of the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief.” the statement read.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office also raised concern.

“We are very concerned by reports of mass arrests of individuals in Chechnya due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation. We condemn any and all persecution.

“The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we have voiced our serious concern over these developments with Russian authorities at all levels.”

Antonio Tajan, the President of the European Parliament, said the reports were appalling and those responsible should be prosecuted.

Protests planned in London

A protest against the detention of gay men in The Chechen Republic will be held in London later today.

Pride In London will lead the protest outside the Russian Embassy. There will be a strong police to ensure the protesters safety.

Steve Taylor, Communications Director for European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) has called for European government’s to take action.

“More government action across the EU needs to be taken immediately to stop these atrocities.” Taylor told Gay Star News.

“We are seeing very little response to this in the mainstream media and government action so far is poor.

“We must not be bystanders and we must challenge this inhumanity.”

OIP Staff


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