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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.