Disturbing reports say that gay men are being systematically rounded up and murdered in Chechnya.
The report – which originated in a Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta – claims that authorities arrested more than 100 gay men and have killed at least three.
The story gained global attention on April 2 when The New York Times reported on the Russian newspaper’s allegations. Slate Magazine reports that “the latest sweep appears to have been motivated by an organized effort by a gay rights group to request permits to stage gay pride parades.”
Novaya Gazeta reported that security services are participating in a “preventive cleansing” after anti-LGBT protests, and LGBT organizations in Russia are trying to evacuate gay men from Chechnya.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Men Who Disappeared Include Television Reporters & a Waiter
According to The New York Times, the men rounded up have ranged in age from 16 to 50.
“They have disappeared from the streets of Chechnya,” reported The Times, adding that two television reporters and a waiter are among those who vanished.
Novaya Gazeta reported that among the detainees are “prominent, influential and religious leaders close to the head of the republic, as well as two well-known Chechen TV personalities.”
The Russian newspaper also published a first-hand account with the news story, which said in part, “The youngest is 16 years old. He’s from our village. Just a few days ago he was brought back all the beaten, just a bag of bones. They threw him into the yard.”
According to Slate Magazine, “The newspaper claims authorities have been specifically seeking out closeted gay men by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites. There is so much anti-gay hatred in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucus region that family members of those killed or detained are unlikely to ask questions or demand an investigation.”
Indeed, gay men in Chechnya also face danger from their families.
“It is known that some detainees are released for ‘lack of evidence.’ However, in this case, they are in danger, which comes from relatives,” reported Novaya Gazeta. “In Chechnya, the ancient custom of ‘honor killing’ is still widespread – it is a measure that allows to wash the shame of the family by killing the culprit of this shame.”
The newspaper reported that “the wave of detentions” was called a “preventive sweep.”
2. The Newspaper Has the Names of Three Murder Victims but Says There Are Many More
Novaya Gazeta is published in the Russian language. A translation of the underlying news story shows that the newspaper reported it “became aware of mass detentions of residents of Chechnya in connection with their unconventional sexual orientation – or suspicion of such.”
The newspaper reported that 100 men were detained and added, “Novaya Gazeta knows the names of the three dead, but our sources say that there are many more victims.
“The residents of Chechnya, who were victims of persecution – even if only on suspicion of unconventional sexual orientation – have very little chance of surviving,” reported the Russian newspaper. “Relatives will not file complaints with official authorities, and the facts of detention and even the murder of their loved ones will be carefully concealed.”
3. Panicked Chechens Are Closing Their Social Media Accounts
The newspaper said that the men did not publicly demonstrate “their special sexual orientation” because “in the Caucasus it is tantamount to a death sentence” but said that their sexual orientation was difficult to hide.
Panicked Chechens were closing accounts in social networks, reported the newspaper, and some were taking great risks to “try to warn others about the threat.”
According to the Russian newspaper, the attempts to organize gay pride parades sparked anti-LBGT protests in Chechnya.
“In the entire Caucasus, this news caused massive protests, where speakers demonstrated a high level of aggression. In social networks there were made with varying degrees of creativity videos and calls for the murder of people with unconventional sexual orientation,” reported Novaya Gazeta. “It was at this time in Chechnya that a command was given to ‘preventive cleansing’ and it came to real murders.”
4. The Newspaper Is a Leading Opposition Paper
The newspaper that broke the story is known as a “leading opposition newspaper,” according to The New York Times. According to The Times, Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is a “vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Radio Free Europe called it a “leading Russian daily.”
Slate reported that the mass arrests had been rumored for weeks.
5. The Leader of Chechnya Denied the Report by Claiming There Are No Gay Men in Chechnya ‘At All’
According to The New York Times, a spokesman for Chechnya’s leader denied the report with an unusual statement.
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” the spokesman said, according to Radio Free Europe. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
Radio Free Europe reported that Chechen human rights activist Kheda Saratova, “a member of the presidential human rights council, told Russian state radio that the police and ‘entire judicial system’ in Chechnya treat the murders of homosexuals by their relatives ‘with understanding.'”