Last month breaking news reports exposed the underground network of gay torture camps in Chechnya, Russia. Here’s what’s happened since:
Survivors Have Spoken Out
Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association and Human Rights First teamed up to provide victims with a platform of support. They posted this short, but powerful video on their Facebook, describing personal accounts of what it was like.
Government forces in the Russian republic of Chechnya are abducting and torturing gay men. At least three were murdered. Hear these members of the Russian gay community read personal accounts from survivors and sign our petition urging the U.S. government to act http://bit.ly/2nEXmzJ #EyesOnChechnya RUSA LGBT – Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association
Posted by Human Rights First on Thursday, April 20, 2017
“I have not the slightest doubt that my own relatives wanted to kill me. It was an invitation to an execution” sheds light on how little support these men have had, being shunned by those closest to them.
The echoing theme among survivors is how tricky it has been to live a double life, pretending to be straight among even the most intimate of family. Government officials in Chechnya have not only denied accusations about the torture but continue to argue that gay men do not even exist in their country.
Victims Have Been Rescued
So far, Russian LGBT Network has been able to rescue 40 of the suspected 100 men detained. In a Skype interview with NPR, the organization’s director discussed the victims’ fear when calling the helpline, anxiously questioning if the organization is trustworthy. She continued by describing how the Russian government, despite being composed of immoral “monsters,” has begun to help after being pressured by international communities and officials.
Some survivors have fled to the USA and some to European countries. However, as U.S. Senator Ben Cardin tweeted, “fleeing to Europe is also risky, as Chechen criminal organizations have been known to carry out violence in European countries and the threat of honor killings [still] exists in diaspora communities.” Victims lack a long-term solution in the search for asylum.
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) May 11, 2017
Russian Activists Have Been Detained
On May 10, five gay rights activists were detained in the streets while walking to deliver their petition. More than two million people had signed the petition urging the government to investigate the torture. Police questioned them if they were leading a protest, and despite answering that they weren’t, the activists were later detained and forced onto a government bus.
Moscow police detained five activists who tried to deliver a petition demanding an official investigation into reports of kidnapping and torture against gay men in Chechnya.
Posted by RFE/RL on Thursday, May 11, 2017
Trump Has Remained Silent
On May 9, an official for Trump’s Administration was unsure of whether Donald had been debriefed on the issue or not. Watching the official blunder over the simple question of whether our President is aware of what is happening in the world was disheartening. Trump has yet to acknowledge the issue at all and his silence is ridiculous.
It is shocking that the White House can’t even confirm if President Trump is ‘aware’ of the anti-LGBTQ violence in Chechnya. (h/t to The Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson) http://www.glaad.org/blog/video-white-house-not-aware-if-president-trump-knows-about-lgbtq-attacks-chechnya
Posted by GLAAD on Wednesday, May 10, 2017
A Brazilian Internet Campaign Has Started
To combat the hatred, hundreds of gay couples have uploaded pictures of themselves kissing on Instagram, all using the geo-tag of the Kremlin in Moscow. The movement was started by a Brazilian social justice project with the simple hashtag #kiss4lgbtqrights.
Tem gente morrendo e sendo torturada na Rússia apenas por ser quem é. Homossexuais são reprimidos, enviados a campos de concentração e outros absurdos que nem temos conhecimento. Hoje é #DiaDoSilêncio, mas vamos dar voz a um movimento chamado #Kiss4LGBTQrights. Poste uma foto de beijo, use a tag, marque Kremlim na localização e #NãoSilencieOAmor, vamos juntos fazer parte desse protesto virtual em apoio a todos que lutam pela liberdade. A imagem que postei é cena de #Milk, filme onde Sean Pean interpreta Harvey Milk, político e ativista gay, primeiro homem abertamente gay a vencer uma eleição na Califórnia.
Amar é lindo. Amar é livre! Mas em alguns lugares do mundo essa é uma condição limitada. Na Rússia, existem leis que proíbem a homossexualidade e qualquer manifestação em defesa da liberdade sexual. Em locais como a Chechênia há relatos de campos de concentração, para onde gays são levados e torturados. Hoje, no dia do silêncio, vamos mandar muito amor para essas pessoas que não podem ser quem são. Poste uma foto de um beijo, marque Kremlin na localização e use as tags #Kiss4LGBTQrights e #NãoSilencieOAmor, grite para e com o mundo que amar é tudo de bom. Essas maravilhosas na foto são a @lelagomes e @giordannaforte.
The horror stories of Chechnya have opened the eyes of the world that despite the immense progress for LGBTQ+ rights, there is always more that can and must be done. While we continue on with our daily lives, these gay men will continue to be tortured and to be denied their basic human rights. We can only hope their justice comes soon.