Open Hunt for Russian Journalists Behind Gay Murders Expose in Chechnya
15 April, 2017

The journalists of leading independent Russian newspaper, 'Novaya Gazeta', could be under threat after publishing the story about executions of LGBTI people in Russia's Chechnya. The religious leaders of Russia's Chechnya proclaimed "retribution without statute of limitations" for those, who according to them, "insult to the centuries-old foundation of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men". 'Novaya Gazeta' published a call in which they explained that they were not trying to humiliate anyone and said they are always open for dialogue.

The leading independent Russian newspaper 'Novaya Gazeta' published an investigation in which they revealed the mass detention and torture of Chechens suspected of homosexuality. According to the newspaper, they know the names of three people that have died because of this, and that there are many more who have also been killed.

Read More: LGBTI Executions In Russia's Chechnya, Explained

“Novaya Gazeta” reported that three days after the publication was brought out, an emergency meeting of Islamic theologians and leaders of public opinion in Chechnya was held in the central masjid of Groznyi (the capital of Russia’s Chechnya). Around 15,000 people attended. The newspaper stated that, at this gathering, Adam Shakhidov, an advisor to the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov publically accused the ‘Novaya Gazeta’ staff of slander, and definitively named them as ‘enemies of our faith and homeland’. Moreover, it was broadcast by local TV and was spread widely over the Internet, provoking a wave of intolerant statements on social media.

The meeting resulted in the adoption of a resolution.

“In light of this insult to the centuries-old foundation of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, as well as our faith, we promise that retribution without statute of limitations will be brought upon the true instigators, wherever they may be and whoever they are”. This was the second point of the resolution, informs 'Novaya Gazeta'.

The journalists openly reacted, publishing a statement in return, in which they said the following:

To us it is clear - this resolution calls on religious fanatics to use violence against the journalists. For ‘Novaya Gazeta’, is it glaringly obvious that the current wave of repression is not a unique occurrence in today’s Chechnya. The level of violence in the republic has risen dramatically over the last 3 years, and this is directly related to the lack of investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov, which in fact, meant that the people who carried out the murder avoided punishment. The absence of punishment, mainly in relation to this crime, has given rise to their complete faith in their own impudence.

Read More: We Talked To Reporter Who Exposed LGBT Executions in Russia's Chechnya

In these situations, silence and passivity make everyone who was in the position to act but didn’t, accomplices to these crimes. This is the reason why ‘Novaya Gazeta’ continues working in Chechnya. However, we do understand the high price we may have to pay. The unexpected murders of our colleagues, Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, are clear testament to this.

We maintain that the reaction to the journalistic work heard at the meeting at the central mosque, is unacceptable in civilized society and should be evaluated from the point of view of the Russian government.

We implore the Russian government to do everything in its power to stop the actions designed to incite hatred and opposition towards the journalist who are fulfilling their professional obligations."

In addition to this, the editor-in-chief of 'Novaya Gazeta', Dmitriy Muratov, published an appeal to the mufti of Russia’s Chechnya, Sallah-hadji, who is the highest person of authority in the Islamic clergy, in which he called for a dialogue with religious representatives. In his reply, the mufti said the journalists will experience “the vengeance of Allah”, but it will be according to the law.

Chechnya is a the North Caucasian federal republic of the Russian Federation. Islam is the predominant religion in Chechnya, practiced by 95% of people, according to a poll carried out in Grozny in 2010. The traditional schools of Islamic law based on Quranic verses consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin.

/Sofia Fedezko, Liuda Kornievych