Chechnya detains people for being gay, renewing purge fears

Head of the Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov attends the plenary session at the United Russia Party's 18th convention in Moscow on December 8, 2018

Several people have reportedly been detained in the Russian region of Chechnya on suspicion of being gay.

The Russian LGBT Network board member Igor Kochetkov, quoted in the Associated Press on January 11, would not say how many people have been detained or where they are now.

He said, however, the number of men and women taken in by authorities has increased sharply since late December. Kochetkov added that a short report on the detentions would be published on Monday (January 14).

The news has sparked fears among the LGBT+ community of a repeat of the anti-gay purge which began in 2017 and reportedly saw more than 100 queer men arrested, imprisoned and tortured by authorities in concentration camps.

“Run away from the republic as soon as possible”

— A message from an LGBT+ activist on VKontakte

Novaya Gazeta reported that LGBT+ groups in Chechnya are using Russian social network VKontakte to call on queer citizens to leave the region.

One of the messages quoted in the publication urged people to “run away from the republic as soon as possible. I ask you to turn to human rights defenders, the media, friends who can help you.”

What happened in the Chechnya gay purge?

Human rights monitors and Novaya Gazeta first reported in April 2017 that authorities in Chechnya were carrying out a homophobic purge.

The Russian government failed to intervene, and later said there was no evidence of a purge.

Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his administration denied reports of anti-gay detentions, repeatedly insisting that there were no gay people in the region.

In an interview with HBO, Kadyrov said he and Chechnya “don’t have any gays,” adding that “if there are any, take them to Canada.”

He continued: “Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them. They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people.”

Novaya Gazeta journalists who exposed the purge were forced into hiding as they received numerous threats from the largest mosque in the region, which declared jihad against the newspaper.

A protest in Berlin calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to put an end to the persecution of gay men in Chechnya

Reports of the gay purge in Chechnya led to protests around the world (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty)

Following the initial reports, it was revealed that authorities were forcing gay men into camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT+ and human rights activists across the world.

In August, 15 countries in the Organisation for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), including the UK and the US, signed a letter calling fellow member Russia’s response to the reported purge “inadequate.”

The statement, invoked with the OSCE’s rarely-used Vienna Mechanism, triggered a procedure to question another member on serious human rights issues.

A number of heartbreaking stories from the region have been shared since the purge began, including stories of parents who were told to murder their gay children or authorities would kill them in torture camps.

PinkNews reported in September about the lesbian and transgender women who were also being targeted in the purge.

The Russian LGBT Network reported in April 2018 that more than 100 gay and bisexual Chechen men and women had fled the country to escape persecution based on their sexual orientation.