In the Russian autonomous republic of Chechnya homosexuals are widely persecuted because of their sexual orientation, independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports. The information has been confirmed by Human Rights Watch. In Chechnya, at least one hundred people were arrested without grounds, and three people were reportedly killed since the beginning of the year.
People are being held in illegal detention centres, where they are tortured with electric shock, beaten, and forced to hand over names and details of other gay and bisexual men.
The Russian LGBT Network confirms these messages based on testimonies of victims, relatives and friends of the victims, as well as journalists. The Network has set up a 24-hour confidential hotline which witnesses and victims can use to provide more information and/or be taken to a safe place as soon as possible.
‘There are no such people in our Republic’
The horrible facts mentioned in the Novaya Gazeta are shamefully denied by the Chechen authorities. According to Alvi Karimov, the spokesperson of President Ramzan Kadyrov, the Novaja Gazeta article only contains ‘disinformation to put Chechnya in a bad light’. Karimov told news agency Tass that there is no persecution of gay and bisexuals, as ‘there are no such people in our Republic’.
According to Heda Saratov, the head of the Chechen Human Rights Council, it would be OK to incarcerate and kill them if ‘these people’ were to exist. She received no complaints about the detention or killing of gays or bisexuals. That is hardly surprising, as she also said these complaints would not be taken under consideration. According to Saratov, homosexuality is “Worse than war. It is an evil every citizen will try to root out”.
On behalf of the Russian central government Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov also responded to the Novaya Gazeta article. Peskov stated that he was aware of the article, but that he did not know whether these incidents are facts. Peskov: “It is a matter for the local authorities - it is not the Kremlin agenda.” Despite of Karimov's and Saratov's response, Peskov recommends people to ‘use their rights’ and file a complaint with local authorities. On the question whether homosexuals are living in Chechnya, Peskov says he cannot answer that question, as he is not ‘an expert in the field of homosexual orientation'...
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a press statement confirming that the Novaya Gazeta article corresponds with information from reliable sources. Based on that information, HRW assumes that at least three men were indeed killed. According to HRW, a 'climate of fear’ prevails among LGBT citizens of the country. Therefore, an HRW spokesman criticized the reaction of Kremlin spokesperson Peskov and calls on the leaders in Russian politics to condemn the persecution and offer the victims safety and justice.
COC Netherlands maintains close contact with the Russian LGBT Network about the persecution in Chechnya. This Russian LGBT organization is trying to get information from the region itself and bring people to safety. The organization also urges Russian and international authorities to investigate the criminal offences reported in the Novaya Gazeta and put a stop to these abuses.
The COC is in close contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the subject. COC calls on each and every one with direct and reliable contacts in the region to volunteer information via telephone number +31 (0)20-6234596 or via email@example.com.
Chechnya is an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation located in the North Caucasus. Key to Chechen society is its clan structure. The people are to this day divided into separate clans, tribes and families with traditional views on sexuality, marriage, and family.
Most Chechens are Muslims, but there are Russian Orthodox and non-believers as well. Chechen Muslims traditionally have mostly been followers of the mystical Sufism, but in recent years among youth, the number of supporters of the more fundamentalist Wahhabism is also on the increase.