The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on 1st April that authorities in the majority Muslim republic of Chechnya abducted more than 100 men, who are either gay or suspected of being so. They were brutally tortured and at least three are suspected to be killed.
Before explaining what evoked such a brutal act let’s take a look at Chechnya, what it stands for, and what prompts this Muslim majority republic to openly and repeatedly refute human rights.
How Chechnya Happened
The Chechen Republic or Chechnya established its independent existence after separatists fought bloody wars against Russian forces for over 10 years. The wars killed many but rebels couldn’t achieve total independence. Now Chechnya has an autonomous government, though it is still a part of Russia. The Republic has over a million Russian citizens though very few are ethnic Russians.
The Chechnya Government and anti-LGBT stance
The Republic is run by Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a Kremlin loyalist. After coming to power in 2007, he became known for his atrocities and human rights violation. He enforced strict codes of conduct most of which are inspired by Muslim religion and culture. And yes, he became more ruthless towards LGBT activists than Putin used to be. Recently news emerged that Kadyrov plans to eliminate the gay community in Chechnya before 26th May, i.e. the starting of Ramadan month.
What Prompted The Torture And Disappearance Of Gay Men
The anti-gay feeling started brewing in Chechnya since early March, as reported by Noveya Gazeta. To gather support, the gay rights group GayRussia put up a petition to organize LGBT rallies across Russia, which they termed pride parades. Needless to say the efforts failed. Later the project leader Nikolai Alexeyev told the newspaper that these denied permits were collected for submission before the European Court of Human Rights, as an effort to prove how extremely LGBT rights are being suppressed in and around Russia.
What the Human Rights Groups are saying
The human rights groups have expressed grave concern over the way the head of Chechen Republic is fuelling anti-gay campaigns. Since a month, more than 100 men suspected to be gay, have been arrested and sent to secret prisons. They were brutally tortured, the level of atrocity being compared to the Hitler regime. Even the newspaper Novaya Gazeta which published the news announced that it fears for its reporters’ lives.
What the Chechen Authorities are saying
The official response is that there are no gay men in Chechen and even if there are a few, their families would have already sent them to “somewhere from which there is no returning.” During a meeting with the Russian President Putin, Kadyrov has strongly denied reports of torture and abduction of gay people.
The Global Reaction
The US State Government and the Canadian Foreign Minister have already urged Russia to investigate such human right abuses. Even the UK Foreign Office has condemned the situation.
Now it is to be seen whether Kremlin gives in to the international pressure and forces Kadyrov to change his anti-gay stance.