Gay men who escaped deadly, homophobic Chechnya arrested and sent back by Russian police

Chechnya's tyrannical leader Ramzan Kadyrov

Two gay men who escaped homophobic Chechnya have been detained by Russian police and handed over to local authorities from the region.

Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev escaped homophobic Chechnya, the site of deadly so-called gay purges, in June 2020. The Russian LGBT Network helped them relocate to Nizhny Novogorod, a city around 400 kilometres east of Moscow.

According to their lawyer Alexander Nemov, Magamadov and Novogorod had been arrested in April 2020 and tortured by the Chechen special police for running an opposition Telegram channel.

On Thursday (4 February), the Russian LGBT Network reported that the pair had gone missing.

The network’s assistance coordinator had received a call from one of the men that day around 3pm and heard screaming in the background.

Nemov arrived at their apartment 30 minutes later and described seeing evidence of a scuffle.

Upon submitting a missing persons report, the lawyer found out that the two men had been handed over to the Chechen police. They are now being forcefully returned to their hometown, Gudermes.

In 2017, reports began to emerge of a “gay purge” in Chechnya, involving mass detention, abductions, torture and abuse of human rights against the LGBT+ community.

Reports of such atrocities have continued in the years since. In 2019, Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that impunity for the 2017 purge had “sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya”.

The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadryov, has denied the reports as well the existence of any LGBT+ people in the region. He was hit with sanctions by the US government in July 2020 over the atrocities.

The UK government also ordered strict sanctions to be placed upon three top Chechen officials charged with torturing LGBT+ people in the region’s “gay purge in December 2020.

Magomed Daudov, spokesperson of the Chechen parliament, Aiub Kataev, head of the ministry of internal affairs, and Apti Alaudinov, deputy minister and major general of the police, will be subject to travel bans and asset freezes under the UK’s global human rights sanctions.

Magamadov and Novogorod went missing on the same day that US president Joe Biden called for the worldwide protection of LGBT+ rights.