On April 10th, 2017, reports from The Advocate and other news outlets stated that Chechnya, the Russian region made famous by separatist struggles against the Kremlin, has opened concentration camps for gay men. The allegations of abuses against Chechen gay men include electro-shock, violent beatings, and murder. It is being reported that at least 100 gay men have been detained and forced into the camps, but the Chechen government denies the allegations and the existence of homosexuality in the region all together, though there are allegations by relatives of detainees that the government has asked for ransom and has targeted Chechen people related to the arrested.
The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement on the allegations reads: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic…If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.” It is clear that neither the Chechen government, nor the Kremlin, will be claiming responsibility for the activities in the region since the existence of the victims is dismissed entirely.
Although these allegations are surprising and disconcerting, they are escalations of existing violence against LGBTQ+ people in a country that has a known record of being anti-LGBTQ+. The Russian government has a history of brutal queer and trans repression, i.e. the Human Rights Watch’s reports that LGBTQ+ people are beaten, abducted, humiliated, and called “pedophiles” or “perverts,”, with hardly any response or action from the government. In fact, the Russian government seems to have been responsible for an escalation of anti-queer violence with anti-LGBT legislation, such as the anti-LGBT propoganda law in June 2013.
The violence in Russia and Chechnya against queer and trans people is a human rights crisis that is being largely ignored by the world and major media news outlets, though it has been recognized by the State Department as concerning. Reports of these human rights violations have been widely spread because of the internet and social media, but the violence is hardly covered for long periods of time, though it continues to occur.