This is a condensed version of the report originally published by Caucasian Knot.
In early April 2017, 'Novaya Gazeta', Russia's leading independent newspaper, reported on the mass persecution of LGBTI people in Russian region of Chechnya, which included cases of murder. Information emerged after LGBTI activists filed a series of applications for LGBTI pride events in several regions of the North Caucasus in Russia.
Permission for the events was denied by local authorities. At the same time, a homophobic rally was held in the Southern Russian city of Nalchik, and videos and messages calling for the killing of gay people appeared on social media. 'Caucasian Knot' gathered all important details on the wave of persecution of gay Chechens, and similiar hate campaigns in Russia's North Caucasus Federal District .
Timeline of the Events
On April 1st 2017, a journalist from 'Novaya Gazeta', Yelena Milashina, published the article "Murder of Honor," which described how over a hundred suspected homosexual men had been detained across Chechnya as part of a "preventive cleanup." Three men, according to publication, were killed: “Among the detainees were representatives of the Chechen Muftiyat (local self-governing religious body), including well-known, influential and religious leaders close to the head of the Republic, as well as two well-known Chechen TV personalities. Of course, all these people did not manifest their sexual identity in any way - in the Caucasus this would be equal to a death sentence. However, in traditional Chechen society, communities are extremely close-knit, and rumors travel very fast, no matter how well they hide it. "
As 'Novaya Gazeta' points out, Chechens, who were the victims of anti-LGBTI harassment, have little chance of survival. All it takes is telling the family the reasons for the person's detention, and embarrased relatives will not complain to official bodies, and the facts of the person's arrest, even the murder of their loved ones, will be carefully concealed. "
On April 4th, the Russian LGBTI Network published several witness accounts received through a hotline organized for residents of Chechnya. According to a young man from Grozny living outside of Chechnya, he knew about the persecution of gay people in Chechnya from his friend, who was detained by local officers on suspicion of homosexuality, "they tried to get a confession. He was beaten with a hose, tortured with an electric shock". There were about 30 other detainees in the room with him. The officers themselves said that the command to detain gay people had come from the leadership of the Republic, and that they were forced to give away contacts of other gay people they knew.
The publication from 'Novaya Gazeta' has caused a stern reaction from the Chechen authorities, who have said that, “if there were any gay people in the region, they would have been dealt with by their own relatives”.
On April 1st 2017, Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for the head of Chechnya, said that it is impossible to "oppress someone who simply does not exist in the republic", and called 'Novaya Gazeta's' publication about the persecution of gay people in the region "absolute lies and disinformation", that it was also an attempt to besmirch republic: "If there were such people in Chechnya, the law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have any trouble with them, because their own relatives would send them to the place of no return."
As 'Novaya gazeta' noted, the Chechen social media users in a panic, began to leave closed groups on messenger apps, closing down social media accounts, but some of them took the risk and tried to warn others about the threat.
Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights of of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Fedotov, said that the signs of the persecution of LGBTI individuals must be carefully checked. He said he had gotten in contact with his Chechen colleagues regarding the recent information on the persecution of the LGBTI community, but he was told that they have no such data.
On April 3rd, the press-secretary to the President of Russia, Dmitry Peskov, while answering the question on whether or not the Kremlin knows about the publications on gay people persecution in Chechnya, and whether or not it will be discussed with the leadership of the republic, said that, "This is not the Kremlin's agenda", but a matter for law enforcement. According to him, the Kremlin does not know "to what extent this information reflects reality"... but "there is a publication, and the internal affairs bodies, of course, will be checking it".
The reaction of LGBTI organizations
On April 2nd 2017, representatives from the organization 'Russian LGBTI network' made the following statement: "The Russian LGBT network is outraged and concerned about the abductions and murders of people in Chechnya due to their sexual identity. We are also outraged by the reaction of the officials of the Chechen Republic, who are actually justifying the killing. There are no national and/or religious traditions and norms that can justify the kidnapping and killing of a person.
Any references to "tradition" in justification of abduction and murder are immoral and criminal. The Russian LGBTI network will do everything it can to contact the victims and provide them with emergency assistance. Taking into account yesterday's statements by Chechen officials, we believe the only thing that would help now is evacuation. We are actively cooperating with human rights activists in Russia and abroad and ready to evacuate people".