More than 30 gay men who were detained and tortured in Chechnya earlier this year have revealed their stories in a powerful new report published by the Russian LGBT Network.
The men detail the brutal methods used by the authorities to extract confessions including severe beatings and electrocutions, to force them to list others. The LGBT Network, which works across Russia and is headquartered in St. Petersburg, has helped victims of the gay purge flee Chechnya and many to leave Russia altogether.
The report, written in cooperation with Novaya Gazeta journalist, Elena Milashina, also discusses the persecution faced by the LGBT community in Chechnya long before this most recent crackdown, which saw at least three men killed and many others tortured. “Similar cases of unlawful arrests and detentions had begun in the late 2000s,” the report states.
“The police force and military personnel organised set-up dates for gay men to blackmail them and extorted money from gay men in exchange for silence.”
Many of the men LGBT Network have helped had experienced previous beatings and persecutions, with authorities often admitting the only reason for an arrest or detention is due to the person’s sexuality.
One victim recounts: “The openly told us: ‘You were brought here because you are faggots. You bring shame on our people. You shouldn’t exist. We will catch all of you. We will fight homosexuality in the Chechen Republic.'”
In the report, LGBT Network also raises concerns about the treatment of lesbian women in Chechnya and other republics of Russia’s North Caucasus, citing they are the “most vulnerable” to further persecution as a result of strong traditionalism across the region. Although the number of instances was fewer, LGBT Network claims women were also detained and tortured in the purge.
“There is alarming news about harassment … of Chechen, Ingush and Dagestanian women … yet these cases are very rarely reported. Female voices have always been silenced by the oppressing customs of the masculinity-focused culture.”
The report was featured in Politico, The Moscow Times, Dazed, and many other media outlets in Russian and English. Within its first day of launching, the animation video which accompanies the report, was viewed more than 20,000 times.