Chechnya officials blame gay people’s ‘sick imagination’ for purge reports

An activist stands naked, wrapped in a rainbow flag, in a mock cage in front of the Chancellery in Berlin on April 30, 2017, during a demonstration calling on Russian President to put an end to the persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

Russian LGBT+ campaigners say that authorities in Chechnya have pressured families to execute their gay relatives.

The autonomous region of Russia, which is ruled by anti-LGBT leader Ramzan Kadyrov, has twice in two years been accused of carrying out homophobic purges.

The Russian LGBT Network warned of a new wave of persecution on January 14, alleging in a statement that around 40 people have been detained and two have been killed since December 2018.

Authorities in Chechnya have persistently denied the claims, but the LGBT+ activists have received a flood of calls from the region, as gay people and their families seek help.

One Russian LGBT Network campaigner, who did not wish to be named, told the Daily Beast that in some cases, Chechen authorities “demanded that relatives punish their gay family members by executing them.”

They explained: “We have heard dozens of stories from Chechens who we helped about local government officials ordering relatives to execute their family members… these so-called ‘murders of dignity’ are popular in Chechnya.”

The allegation has been denied by the authorities in Chechnya, who have persistently denied all knowledge of the purge and the existence of gay people in the region.

Dzhambulat Umarov, the Chechen Minister of National Policy, told the outlet: “Considering the fact that they (gay people) have sick imagination to start from, I am not surprised that they can write nonsense like that.”

Chechnya leader: Gays are ‘not people’

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has publicly insisted that homosexuals are “not people” and should be removed to “purify” the blood of the region.

Meanwhile, the Russian government claimed in 2018 that it was unable to verify the existence of any gay people in Chechnya.

Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (Instagram)

According to the Russian LGBT+ Network, more than 100 people have fled Chechnya since the anti-gay purge began in 2017. Several have opened up about the torture they were subject to under detention.

One man, Movsar Eskarkhanov, obtained refugee status in Germany after he was forced to apologise on national television after speaking to Time magazine about the abuse suffered.

Fresh calls for Russia to investigate Chechnya anti-gay purge

The US State Department and UK Foreign Office have both called on Russia to urgently investigate reports of a renewed purge of LGBT+ people.

The State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said: “We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community.

“Civil society groups report that at least 40 individuals have been illegally detained since December, including two who reportedly died in custody after being tortured.

“We call on Russia to live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, and launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses.”

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said: “The persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya is utterly appalling.

“Recent reports indicate that two people have died in custody following torture, and a further 40 remain in detention – all simply for their sexual orientation. Persecution for being LGBT, in any country in the world, is abhorrent.

“The Russian authorities must protect their people from these human rights abuses, and conduct a credible investigation into these reports immediately. There should be no climate of impunity for those who commit these abuses.”