Chechen police detain 20 in disturbing bid to track down gay torture victims’ parents

Gay men Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev held in Chechnya

Chechen authorities have detained 20 people related to two gay torture victims held on terror charges that police don’t have a shred of evidence to prove.

Brothers Ismail Isayev, 18, and Salekh Magamadov, 20, both gay, escaped from the homophobic republic to Russia in 2020 amid a terrifying crackdown on LGBT+ people.

But the activists were tracked down by Russian security agents earlier this year and forcibly returned to Chechnya, where they face up to 15 years in prison on terror-related offences that activists say are completely fabricated.

With the brothers on the brink of being behind bars, the police now have a new target – their parents.

Isayev and Magamadov’s parents also fled Chechnya after the police forced their father to waive his right to counsel, the Russia LGBT+ Network told Meduza.

According to the advocacy group and eyewitnesses, cops raided the village of Komsomolskoye, Urus-Martanovsky, and detained and interrogated at least 20 of the brothers’ relatives.

Officers demanded to know the whereabouts of the parents so they can be dragged back to Chechnya. They were all released overnight, news outlet Caucasus Knot reported.

It comes after the Isayev and Magamadov’s mother, Zara Magamadova, filmed an appeal last week with the Russian LGBT+ Network.

In a statement that was certain to rankle Chechnya’s deeply conservative leaders, she accused the authorities of “fabricating” the legal case against her children.

“I’m asking anyone who can help, please help me see my sons alive and in good health,” she said.

Chechnya has overseen a horrific ‘gay purge’

The treatment of Isayev and Magamadov and the harried hunt for their parents is a familiar story for Chechnya, where similar tactics are routinely deployed to track down LGBT+ people.

Chechen officials have been accused of killing LGBT+ people while throwing others into makeshift prisons and torturing them as part of a purge led by Kremlin-appointed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Isayev and Magamadov were tortured by Chechen police in 2020 for their sexual orientation, they said, after they were targeted for criticising the government on their Telegram channel.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chechnya’s head Ramzan Kadyrov. (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian LGBT+ Network helped the two flee Nizhny Novogorod, a city hundreds of miles east of Moscow. The two later vanished and it emerged that they had been taken back to Chechnya.

Back there, the men were pressured to refuse legal representation and are now being held on the terrorism charge of aiding an illegal armed group.

Since 2017, activists have shared accounts of the so-called “gay purge” in Chechnya.

Witnesses and those who have fled through underground tunnels have described how authorities bundle queer people into cars and throw them into police stations or facilities where they are electrocuted, abused and starved.

Police reportedly ensure their roundups do not end by interrogating LGBT+ folk into revealing the identities of their partners or those who are closeted.

Kadyrov’s anti-LGBT+ pogrom is the latest horrifying turn in the republic’s long history of human rights abuses, and there’s little that can be done.

In the aftermath of two wars, the Kremlin brokered an agreement that placed Kadyrov squarely in charge and with a wide leeway to rule as he wanted.

For Ramzan Kadyrov, his Chechnya to lead is one where LGBT+ folk do not exist. When pressed about the persecution reports, he dismissed them.

“We don’t have any gays,” he said in 2017. “If there are any, take them to Canada.”