Showing posts with label Chechen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chechen. Show all posts

February 16, 2019

New Wave of Gay Persecution is Coming to Russia and Chechnya

Image result for new wave of gay abuse in chechnya

Russian authorities should investigate allegations of a new wave of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persecution in Chechnya and take steps to protect rights defenders and journalists who expose abuses there, Human Rights Watch said today.

On January 14, 2019, a leading activist with the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, stated that the Network had received credible reports about a new wave of LGBT round-ups by authorities in Chechnya. On January 29, he filed a complaint with Russia’s chief investigative agency. On the day the complaint was filed, a YouTube video with explicit threats against Kochetkov began circulating on social media. On January 30, he filed a complaint about the threats, but there has been no action by the authorities either about the persecution in Chechnya or about the threats to Kochetkov.

“The threats against Igor Kochetkov are very serious and deserve a prompt reaction by the Russian authorities,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights program director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the danger LGBT people have been facing in Chechnya, the Interior’s Ministry’s lack of response is dangerous and unacceptable.”

The allegations of a new round of homophobic persecution and the threats against Kochetkov come after Chechen authorities had carried out a vicious large-scale anti-gay purge in spring 2017, during which local police rounded up and tortured around 100 men they suspected of being gay.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, the European External Action Service, and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, among others, also have called for investigative authorities in Russia to ensure Kochetkov’s safety.

Kochetkov’s January 29 complaint alleged new unofficial detentions and torture of dozens of people in Chechnya because of their presumed sexual orientation. The complaint specified that at least 14 people were held unlawfully and tortured by police in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital. He provided the name of a presumably gay man allegedly killed by the police in January.

On the YouTube video that circulated in response, Ali Baskhanov, a leader of a pro-government group in Chechnya, calls Kochetkov a “son of the devil” and a “beast,” tells him to stay away from Chechnya, and warns him that Chechnya could become his “final stop.” YouTube removed the video in response to protests.

Kochetkov told Human Rights Watch that he sent his online complaint about the threats against him to the Investigative Department of Russia’s Interior Ministry. A week later, a department official called him to confirm his place of residence and “the place where the alleged violation occurred.” “I told him I live in St. Petersburg and the video is on the internet, though that should be obvious from the complaint,” Kochetkov said. “And that was the end of the conversation.” He said that his initial allegations of a new wave of persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya has remained unanswered and that he and his colleagues were planning to sue the agency “for failure to react to a communication about a crime being perpetrated.”

Chechen authorities have denied reports of a new wave of persecution. Speaking to Interfax on January 14, Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Ramzan Kadyrov, the governor of Chechnya, said of these reports: "This is an absolute lie, there is not a single grain of truth and it is completely baseless. There were no detentions on grounds of sexual orientation in the indicated periods in the Chechen Republic.”

Despite a staggering international outcry and repeated promises by Russian authorities to investigate the crackdown on LGBT people in Chechnya in 2017, Chechen authorities have enjoyed absolute impunity for the purge. No criminal case has been opened into a complaint by a survivor of the purge and the Russian authorities did not provide him the state protection he repeatedly requested. To the contrary, in May 2018, Russia’s justice minister, Aleksander Konovalov told the UN Human Rights Council, “The investigations that we carried out ... did not confirm evidence of rights’ violations, nor were we even able to find representatives of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”

In November 2018, 16 participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) invoked the organization’s “Moscow Mechanism,” and appointed a rapporteur to look into allegations of abuses in Chechnya, including the anti-gay purge. In his report presented to the OSCE Permanent Council in December, the rapporteur concluded that Chechen authorities persecute LGBT people, attack human rights defenders, and carry out torture and other blatant abuses, while the Russian government “appears to support the perpetrators rather than the victims” in Chechnya.

Russia’s international partners should call on Russian authorities to take urgent action in response to Kochetkov’s complaints. Russia should effectively investigate the allegations of new abuses against LGBT people by Chechen authorities, deliver accountability for the 2017 anti-gay purge, and ensure the safety of Kochetkov, his colleagues at Russian LGBT Network, and other human rights defenders and journalists who work at great personal risk to stop abuses in Chechnya.

“Against the backdrop of this stark impunity for the horrific anti-gay purge of 2017, reports of a new wave of persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya are extremely disturbing, especially in the wake of the damning OSCE report, but not surprising at all,” Reid said.


Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he not be further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya, is seen in this photo from April 2017. LGBT activists said Monday at least two people have died and about 40 people detained in a crackdown on gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. | AP
Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he not be further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya, is seen in this photo from April 2017. LGBT activists said Monday at least two people have died and about 40 people detained in a crackdown on gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. | AP
The Russian republic of Chechnya has launched a new crackdown on gays in which at least two people have died and about 40 people have been detained, LGBT activists in Russia charged Monday.
The new allegations come after reports in 2017 of more than 100 gay men arrested and subjected to torture, and some of them killed, in the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia.
The Associated Press and other media outlets have interviewed some of the victims, who spoke about torture at the hands of Chechen law enforcement officers. Chechen authorities have denied those accusations, and federal authorities conducted a probe into the earlier reports but said they found nothing to support the charges.
Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, told the Interfax news agency on Monday that the latest reports are “complete lies and don’t have an ounce of truth in them.” Karimov insisted that no one has been detained in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay.
But the Russian LGBT Network, which has been monitoring the situation in Chechnya and helping victims, said in a statement Monday that about 40 men and women have been detained on suspicion of being gay since December and that at least two of them have died of torture in detention. The detainees are believed held at the same facility that was named in the 2017 reports.
The crackdown was first reported Friday but the activists didn’t release full details at the time.
“Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya,” said Igor Kochetkov, program director at the Russian LGBT Network. “Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped. It’s only that its scale has been changing.”
Kochetkov said the new wave of anti-gay persecution started at the end of the year when Chechen authorities detained the administrator of a social media group popular with LGBT people in the North Caucasus. Kochetkov said the mass detentions began after the authorities got hold of contacts on his phone.
LGBT activists in 2017 helped to evacuate around 150 gay men from Chechnya to help them restart their lives elsewhere in Russia. Many of them have sought asylum and resettled abroad.
Russian authorities have strenuously denied that killings and torture took place in the predominantly Muslim region where homosexuality is taboo, even after one man came forward to talk about the time he spent in detention in Chechnya.
Maxim Lapunov said he was detained by unidentified people on a street in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in 2017 and kept in custody for two weeks, where he was repeatedly beaten. He was let go after he signed a statement acknowledging that he was gay and was told he would be killed if he talked about his time in detention.
Lapunov, who is not an ethnic Chechen and is from Siberia, was the first to file a complaint with Russian authorities over the wave of arrests of gay people.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe last month called on Russia to investigate the reports and cited Lapunov’s case specifically.
Kadyrov and his government in Chechnya have been accused of widespread human rights abuses against many dissidents, not just gay men.

February 1, 2019

LGBT Chechen Crisis 2.0

 New reports of mass arrests, torture, and murder of LGBT people in Chechnya remind us that accountability is tragically lacking in this Russian republic.
Akhmad Kadyrov's move to support Russian forces paved the way for a new "hard" peace in Chechnya. (c) Bai Xueqi/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.

On 11 January 2019, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported a new wave of Chechen LGBT community arrests. Three days later, the Russian LGBT Network posted “New wave of persecution against the LGBT people in Chechnya: around 40 detained, at least two killed”.
As the story develops, it’s worth examining the reasons behind the new purge and analyze what trends this new tragedy could bring to the Eurasia region.

First thoughts

If you type “Chechnya” into Google, “Chechen war,” “Chechnya violence” and “Chechnya leader” are the first suggestions which pop up. Sadly, these words capture much about this mountainous region a thousand miles south of Moscow.
After a decade of two devastating wars between Chechen guerrilla forces and federal Russian troops in the 1990s, Chechnya disappeared from the headlines of global newspapers into the monstrous grip of its leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In the following decade, Kadyrov transformed from a shy boy in a sports suit into a ruthless provincial dictator who enjoys a bromance with president Vladimir Putin himself. Kadyrov wasted no time turning violence and arbitrariness into a tradition in Chechnya and beyond.
“We don’t have any gays!” exclaims Ramzan Kadyrov in an interview with HBO, adding that if any were found in Chechnya, Canada should take them, so as to “purify our blood.” Image still via YouTube / NSBC. In early 2017, the eyes of the world turned to Kadyrov, calling Chechnya a hotbed of severe atrocities against its LGBT community. At that time, horrifying stories of mass detentions, torture and murders erupted, followed by mass evacuation of LGBT community members and global outrage. Hundreds of newspaper articles, dozens of concern statements and two years later, the mass detentions, torture and murders of the LGBT people have restarted.

Is there a new crisis in Chechnya?

As more stories about attacks make it to the news, everyone is wondering whether Chechnya is in the midst of a second LGBT crisis. But Novaya Gazeta’s lead reporter Elena Milashina says the first crisis never ended. 
“Nothing has really indicated that the 2017 crisis stopped,” Milashina says. “There was the first wave, and there were lots of people who got detained and tortured. And throughout the past two years, the attacks were continuing, the numbers of those affected just got lower. Nobody canceled the order for the [gay] cleansing.”
A representative of the Russian LGBT network confirms that the arrests continued throughout 2017-2018: “We had cases of arrested LGBT persons in Chechnya as late as September 2018. Therefore we can’t say that this month the arrests started the second time. But we can confirm that Chechen authorities started mass arrests again.”

Why and what is happening?

Reportedly, the second wave of mass arrests started because the Chechen authorities detained a man who was in charge of a VKontakte social media page for LGBT Chechens, and therefore had many contacts in the community.
Milashina, who has been covering the LGBT crisis in Chechnya, says that she is most sad about the fact that after the first wave of mass arrests in 2017 many people “didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation” and “didn’t take safety precautions”.
Those involved in the evacuation say that this time around there appears to be more cases of murder, and there are more cases of women being affected.
Confirming the facts is difficult. As Milashina puts it, “Chechnya is a closed region, it’s like North Korea.” The Chechen authorities are known for harassing, torturing and murdering other groups of population, such as people falsely accused of terrorism offenses. In those cases, the families of victims help journalists and civil society workers verify facts and shed light on them. In the case of the LGBT community, Chechnya’s homophobic society stays silent.
Chechen law enforcement enjoys an absence of accountability and carte-blanche from higher authorities. This means that when an LGBT person is captured, the scenarios of what happens next can vary, depending on their ability to pay a bribe and family connections in the government. Some are tortured and released, others are released to their families, and then the authorities force the families to murder them; in other cases, people are able to escape Chechnya after the release. Female victims are more likely to end up murdered, says Milashina, because women’s lives cost less in Chechnya. And because families often become accomplices in these crimes, they remain silent.
A representative of the Russian LGBT Network say that not all the arrested victims have yet been released, and the arrests continue. The network is working on relocating people, but they are yet to receive many requests for relocation. Two years ago, in 2017, the mass arrests started in January, but the first relocation requests started in April, therefore the network expects more requests to roll in.

What can stop the attacks?

But while the evacuation is ongoing, one can’t stop wondering, why, despite the global outcry, the arrests didn’t stop and instead intensified. Many blame a lack of accountability within Chechnya, in relation to the federal authorities in Russia, but also before the global community.
One of the problems with accountability is that many people who have suffered traumatic experiences are unwilling to testify publicly against their torturers. Maxim Lapunov, an ethnic Russian man who went public about his 12-day ordeal in October 2017, continues to receive threats. Chechen victims are afraid, and being labeled a “pervert” in a deeply homophobic society is not so much of a concern as having their whole extended family eliminated by law enforcement.
Maxim Lapunov, centre, at a news conference in the office of Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow. Image: Human Rights Watch.Russian civil society groups and journalists have requested that the Russian Federal Investigative Committee investigate these crimes, and the LGBT Network is currently preparing another application with new names.
“We are applying to the Investigative Committee and are citing the name of one person who we were informed had been killed, we were able to verify that case completely,” says the LGBT network representative. “We have done these kind of applications on multiple occasions in the past. And we are asking that the Federal Investigative Committee looks into it, not Chechen law enforcement. But usually, as in the case of Maxim Lapunov, it is the Chechen police who investigate atrocities committed by the Chechen police.”
On 31 January, Chechen police officers attempted to detain lawyer Alexander Karavayev after he entered an unmarked police station in Grozny in search of a client. Karavayev represents Bekhkan Yusupov, a gay Chechen man who returned to Chechnya in December 2018 after receiving asylum in France, and who was detained by police on arrival.

Did the Moscow Mechanism help or trigger further attacks? 

On the international level, the biggest success in terms of advocacy and accountability regarding the Chechnya LGBT crisis has been attributed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Moscow Mechanism. This mechanism was established in 1991 to be used in cases of grave human rights violations, and “provides the option of sending missions of experts to assist participating States in the resolution of a particular question or problem”. Previously, the mechanism has been used rarely, and, up until Chechnya, never against the Russian Federation.
Police station in Chernorechye, Grozny. where police attempted to detain lawyer Alexander Karavayev. Source: Novaya GazetaOver the past year, the OSCE states have addressed a number of questions to Russia, which it hasn’t been able to respond to. Austrian professor Wolfgang Benedek was appointed rapporteur, and in December 2018 he published a comprehensive report on the Chechen LGBT crisis. When the second mass arrests wave started in January 2019, some voiced theories over whether the Moscow Mechanism report triggered them.
A representative of the LGBT Network points out that there are confirmations of mass arrests from early December 2018, before the OSCE report was published. Milashina says that the report is, first of all, a legal documentation of torture and extrajudicial murders in Chechnya.
“This report also gives recommendations to Chechnya (and thus confirms that Chechnya is not the same as the rest of Russia), to Russia, but also to the European states. Now it is time for those European states to follow these recommendations,” says Milashina.
The LGBT Network adds that they also plan to invoke the UN Committee Against Torture by submitting information on cases of grave rights violations and torture, but their work in that regards was stopped due to the new crisis.

What happens in Chechnya stays in Chechnya? 

Even with all the advocacy and reports, Chechnya remains a closed region, which makes independent analysis of the crisis difficult. Getting a full picture of what’s happening inside Chechen law enforcement, and not just in the LGBT crisis, is near impossible without whistleblowers.
Who can come forward in Chechnya? Milashina says that there have been cases when representatives of Chechen law enforcement who didn’t want to be part of grave crimes against humanity escaped and asked for asylum in Europe.
But EU current asylum procedures are standardized and do not a lot Chechen refugees a lot of attention. According to Milashina, most of these LGBT asylum seekers were turned down and had to return to Russia. These people could have helped shed light on the situation in Chechnya, Milashina says, but “who would say anything when they know they aren’t protected.”
And while facts about Chechnya’s rights violations often don’t make it outside of the region, the absence of accountability can lead to escalated violence against LGBT communities. In 2017, following Chechnya’s example, Azerbaijan started mass arrests of the LGBT community, and Tajikistan created a register of LGBT persons.
“A bad example is contagious,” says the Russian LGBT Network representative, adding that this is why the Chechen authorities must be held accountable — otherwise crises like the one in Chechnya can spread. 

January 22, 2019

Gay Community Helping to Evacuate Gay Men in The New Chechen Gay Purge

 Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he not be further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia, April 28, 2017. LGBT activists said, Jan. 14, 2019, that at least two people have died and about 40 people detained in what has been described as a new crackdown on gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
 Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he is not further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya
By Moscow 

LGBT activists say they have begun helping people flee from the Russian republic of Chechnya amid what they claim is a new wave of detentions and torture targeting the gay community there.
The LGBT Network, a St. Petersburg-based rights group, said last week that 40 people had been detained and at least two were tortured to death in what they believe is a renewal of a campaign of terror that took place in 2017 and saw dozens of gay men kidnapped and tortured by Chechen security services.

Chechnya is a majority-Muslim autonomous republic in southern Russia, ruled by dictatorial leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2017, reports emerged that over 100 men suspected by authorities as gay had been rounded up and brutally tortured, setting off international condemnation and leading to U.S. sanctions against Kadyrov and some of his senior lieutenants.
 Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's Chechen Republic, attends a ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Oct. 5, 2017. 
(Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, FILE)  Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's Chechen Republic, attends a ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Oct. 5, 2017.
The LGBT Network said in a statement it believes a new campaign of persecution that began in early December is now underway. Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper which helped expose the 2017 campaign, has said its sources also suggest a new wave of detentions. 

Chechen authorities have denied the reports of the detentions, as they did in 2017. Chechnya’s minister of information, Dzhambulat Umarov last week called the allegations “utter crap” but then added homosexuality “has no place” in Chechnya. Kadyrov has previously said homosexuals don’t exist in Chechnya and said that if they do, they should leave "to purify our blood."

The LGBT Network said it helped dozens of men escape Chechnya in 2017 and 2018. In a statement on Monday, the organization said those fleeing this current purge have allowed them to build a clearer picture of the detentions and provided details of brutal treatment.

According to the group, both men and women have been swept up this time. They have described being beaten and raped using electro-shocker clubs. Men recounted being shaved, forced to wear women's clothing and to call each other by women's names, according to the group.

The organization said one detainee told them prisoners were being denied food and given dirty water after it had been used to wash the floor. The only drinking water they received was when it was time to pray, the group said.

The LGBT Network said it had now identified several sites where people were being held illegally, including a police station in Chechnya's capital, Grozny. According to the group, some of those seized are also being held in the town of Argun, which was one of the centers of the 2017 detentions.
The use of police stations, the activists said, was further evidence that the kidnappings were being carried out by members of Chechnya’s state security services.

Igor Kochetkov, LGBT Network's program director, said the group believes the new roundup began after police detained the administrator of a social media group popular among LGBT people in the North Caucasus. Security services officers then used the person's phone contacts to find new targets, according to Kochetkov.

The details being described now are similar to those from multiple testimonies from men in 2017 to news media and rights groups, which described kidnapping and torture.
A man who fled Chechnya after being tortured and then released in 2017 told ABC News then that he had been beaten with plastic rods and electrocuted. The man, who ABC News for his safety referred to by the pseudonym Dmitry, described being held in jail with several other men and hearing them scream as they were tortured.

"They split my eye, my lip, broke my ribs, they electrocuted me," he told ABC News in April 2017.
 Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he is not further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia, April 28, 2017. LGBT activists said, Jan. 14, 2019, that at least two people have died and about 40 people detained in what has been described as a new crackdown on gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. 
 Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he is not further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia, April 28, 2017. LGBT activists said, Jan. 14, 2019, that at least two people have died and about 40 people detained in what has been described as a new crackdown on gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. ...+

He also described being denied food and provided with water only around prayer-times.
With the reports of new detentions, activists have blamed Russian federal authorities, saying they have failed to intervene and given Chechen authorities free rein to continue the persecution. In 2017, after heavy international condemnation, Russia launched a probe into the reports of abuses, but the investigation has since gone nowhere. Activists demanding that police act were detained in Moscow.

A report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released in December found that kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings were regularly used by Chechen security forces and that the LGBT community had been targeted in “successive purges.” It found that there had been three “waves” of detentions beginning from December 2016 and until summer 2017, and noting new cases had continued into the fall.
The report criticized Russia, saying “Russian authorities responsible for investigating alleged crimes against LGBTI citizens persecuted in Chechnya appear not to have lived up to their responsibilities.”
The U.S. State Department last week said it was "deeply disturbed" by the news reports, calling them "credible." In a statement, it called on Russia to "live up to its international obligations" and "its own constitution." 

Public attitudes toward homosexuality in Chechnya are very conservative and the gay community is obliged to meet largely in secret, fearing violence even from their families. The anti-gay campaigns in the republic have emerged against a backdrop of broader efforts in Russia to stoke homophobic sentiment, as the Kremlin has promoted what it calls traditional values and painted homosexuality as a primarily Western phenomenon, linked to democracy and human rights.

Chechnya's minister for information, Dzhambulat Umarov, suggested to Radio Free Europe last week that he believed homosexuality was being imposed from outside.

“Don’t sow the seeds of sodomy in the blessed land of the Caucasus,” Umarov told Radio Free Europe. “They will not grow,” unlike in “perverted Europe,” he said.

The LBGT Network said it has helped get 150 men to get out of Chechnya since March 2017, sheltering them in houses and assisting them with finding asylum. The Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian LGBTQI rights group, said it helped bring 57 people from Chechnya to Canada following the 2017 campaign.

In 2017, Dmitry who wanted to find asylum abroad told ABC News he was terrified that Chechen security forces might find him if he stayed in Russia.
"They have very long arms and they will hound us," Dmitry said in 2017. "I have to get out of here."

July 31, 2018

Amid Life or Death Persecution 125 Gays Left Chechnya

As reported by Russian LGBT Network movement, 125 people left Chechnya amid the persecution of LGBT people. Most of them left the country. The Russian authorities stated that the victims almost did not file applications over abuses, and the words of the only applicant were not confirmed. Human rights activists note that the victims will look for protection abroad until the law enforcement agencies begin to adequately investigate crimes against sex minorities in the North Caucasus.
Since the beginning of 2017, 125 people have left Chechnya; they were victims of the persecution of sexual minorities, the Russian LGBT Network reported. "49 people of them were detained in Chechnya by law enforcers and questioned. They were forced to confess to homosexuality and spill the data about acquaintances," said a representative of the Russian LGBT Network, who asked for anonymity. "Of those who were detained, 37 people were reported on torture and imprisonment for a term of three days to three weeks. Others are partners and family members of the victims, who also received threats." According to the interlocutor, a large part of the citizens have already been fled abroad, but some are still in Russia. So, in July 2018, 20-year-old Chechen native Zelimkhan Akhmadov was kidnapped from a rented apartment in St. Petersburg. "He was handcuffed and put in a car. The concierge remembered the number of the car. They detained everyone," the source said. The kidnapper was his father Eli Akhmadov, and Zelimkhan Akhmadov had to fly abroad urgently.
Recall that in 2017 some reports of the detentions and disappearances of LGBT people in Chechnya appeared. The first one who reported about the persecution was 30-year-old native of the Omsk region Maxim Lapunov, who worked in Chechnya as the host of the events. He told how the policemen detained him and demanded to give information about his LGBT acquaintances, and when he refused, they beat and threatened to torture him with electrocution. Mr. Lapunov spent 12 days in a 2x2m cell and was released when his relatives outside of Chechnya made a fuss due to his disappearance. The victim met with federal Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova, and she transferred his application to the Investigative Committee of Russia. However, the criminal case was never initiated. Earlier, press secretary of the Chechen Head Alvi Karimov stated that information about the persecution of LGBT people in the republic is "an insolent lie" and "one of the forms of information attacks on Chechnya and Russia as a whole." Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly argued that homosexuality is "classless for the Chechen people."
The Russian LGBT Network is concerned about the authorities' refusal to recognize the persecution of gays in Chechnya. This topic was raised at the meeting of the Committee against Torture of the United Nations last week, where the Russian delegation confirmed that there are no such persecutions. "All reports of the use of violence, including those on the part of officials, have been studied and verified. The basis for the audit was information in the media about the persecution of people suspected of homosexuality, the killing of at least three citizens. This information was not confirmed," stated Valery Maksimenko, head of the Main Directorate for Supervision over Investigation and Operational Investigative Activities at the Prosecutor General's Office. "Regarding the prosecution of Lapunov, there are no data showing that Mr. Lapunov was illegally detained and tortured, and therefore the investigator refused to initiate criminal proceedings. The investigator's conclusions fully correspond with the conclusion of the human rights commissioner in the Russian Federation," Mr. Maksimenko assured. Meanwhile, Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova twice appealed to law enforcement agencies with a request to initiate a criminal case. Ms. Moskalkova stated: "I got acquainted with the refusal materials. I have my own opinion on this issue; there are grounds for instituting criminal proceedings. I will appeal to the prosecutor with a request to reconsider this decision. "
Mr. Maksimenko pointed out that investigators do not have statements from the victims. "They get a statement from Maxim Lapunov, but despite his description of the place where he was held, the authorities do not want to open a criminal case. The state affirms that there is no point in demanding justice," the Russian LGBT Network believes.

July 17, 2018

Gay Man Escapes Chechnya Only To Be Track Down By Family and Security Thugs But LGBTQ Network Saved The Day

 Зелимхан Ахмадов

[This post first appeared on LOGO]
Police caught up with the kidnappers following a tip by the Russia LGBT Network. 

A gay man who escaped the anti-LGBTQ purge in Chechnya was kidnapped on July 13, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports, and it appears it was carried out by his father, with the help of Russia’s Federal Security Service. 
Zelimkhan Akhmadov, 20, was persecuted by family and law enforcement during his time in Chechnya, before escaping to Russia, where he was kidnapped. 
The Russian LGBT Network, which has been working to find asylum for victims of the detentions, beatings, and murder of gay, bisexual, and transgender Chechens, including Akhmadov, filed an application for abduction and police were able to stop the kidnapping. 
Officers brought the kidnappers, along with Akhmadov, to the police station, followed by a lawyer and employees of the Russian LGBT Network.
The man’s relatives had been trying to track him down since his escape, with the aid of Chechen authorities, as his father, Eli Akhmadov, said his son was missing, landing him on the federal wanted list. 
There are reports of Chechens being the victims of so-called “honor killings” by family members who have found out they were members of the LGBTQ community. Akhmadov was reportedly yelling for help as he was forced into a car. He also sent a two-word text message to an employee of the Russia LGBT Network, simply reading, “Help me.”
The Russia LGBT Network reports that relatives have tried to kidnap him several times in the past, including one occasion where his friend who was with him at the time was stabbed. 
The incident occurs shortly before President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, taking place today in Finland. The Human Rights Campaign has projected a message onto the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, demanding that Trump and Putin end the ongoing anti-LGBTQ crimes in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
Journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose work has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and more.

April 7, 2018

How Gay Chechens Run from Death Threats, Beatings and Even Exorcism

Family pressure has fuelled a sense of persecution felt by gay people in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia. 
Dozens have fled and some have been granted asylum abroad, amid reports of kidnap and torture by Chechen security forces targeting gay or allegedly gay people. Chechen officials deny the reported abuses.
Olga Prosvirova of BBC Russian interviewed two of those who fled in fear. They requested anonymity, so their names have been changed.

Presentational grey line

Marko, a Chechen in her early 20s, will never forget the day her family found out she was gay.
"They said to me: 'Either we will kill you, or we will lock you up in a psychiatric ward and throw away the key. The only alternative is that you undergo an exorcism.'" 
Marco now lives temporarily in one of Russia's largest cities, waiting to complete her documents so that she can leave Russia for good.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov maintains that there are no homosexuals in the republic. But an investigation by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper last year found that members of Chechnya's LGBT community were regularly beaten and tortured. Some, it alleged, had even been killed.
Mr Kadyrov's spokesman Alvi Karimov dismissed the allegations, telling the Interfax news agency: "Even if such people existed in Chechnya, our law enforcement agencies would not need to bother with them, because their own relatives would simply send them to a place from which they would never return."
Marko says she knew she was different even at the age of four.
"As a teenager, I used to think about suicide," she told BBC Russian. "But then I decided: 'No, I won't give you the satisfaction. I'll run away and do the things I have always dreamed of, whatever it takes, whether you like it or not.'" 
Muslim exorcism
Before she left Chechnya, Marko agreed to her family's demand that she undergo an exorcism. Her brother took her to their local mosque, where the mullah told her she was possessed by the devil.
"He held my head and read verses from the Koran, and I knew I had to respond as a person possessed would," she says. "I had seen enough YouTube videos to know what to do, and so I twisted about and shouted and said there were seven different demons inside me."
After two hours, she says, everyone rejoiced and said I was cured. "'Hooray!' they all shouted. 'You are no longer a lesbian!'"
They found a young man for her and told her she would marry, but soon after that she managed to escape.  

Presentational grey line

Since giving this interview, and helped by an LGBT organisation, Marko has left Russia for a new life abroad. She says she now wants to put her past behind her and just live with her girlfriend, whom she met on social media.
"I just want to live, to have children and be happy," she says.

International dimension

Gay protest in London, 2 Jun 17Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGay rights activists protested outside the Russian embassy in London last summer

It is hard to find out how many Chechens like Marko have been granted refuge outside Russia, as many immigration services do not register the sexual orientation of asylum seekers. 
Last year the German foreign ministry said it had accepted one gay man from Chechnya and was reviewing four more applications. Lithuania has taken in two and France one. 
Belgium has given five gay Chechen men humanitarian visas so that they can fly to Belgium from Moscow, Belgian media reported on Friday.
And more than two dozen gay and bisexual men and women from Chechnya have been granted asylum in Canada.
This week Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, told Novaya Gazeta that over the past year his charity had assisted 114 people from Chechnya who said they had been persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin, 20 Dec 11Image copyrightAFP
Image captionChechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (R) is a firm ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ruslan is torn between his feelings for his boyfriend and love of his own family. He escaped Chechnya after being held captive for a month.
"I've liked boys since I was a kid," says Ruslan, now in his early 30s. "But when my relatives found out I was gay, they took away my passport, my documents and my mobile phone and they locked me in my room for over a month."
One day he managed to get out and borrowed a neighbour's phone. Later that night his boyfriend came to whisk him away to a different city.

'Living a lie'

Ruslan spoke of a "big purge of gays in Chechnya". 
He said the Kadyrov militia "found one and beat him until he gave them the names of others. 
"Some were caught and thrown into cellars and beaten violently. Some were never found: their relatives didn't even bother looking for them, because they said they'd brought shame on them."
Ruslan's new life is more difficult than he imagined it would be. He spends most of his time hiding indoors; if he goes out, he covers his head with a hood. 
To earn money recently, he handed out campaign leaflets before last month's presidential election, but once he came across a police patrol and ran straight back to his flat.
Unlike Marko, Ruslan has not decided whether he should flee Russia. "I don't know what's happening at home (in Chechnya)," he says. "My brother is probably looking for me: he has most likely gone to the police."
When he talks about his family and his home, he struggles to hold back the tears. He misses his mother and young niece, he says, who is getting married soon.
"All my life I have observed our customs, according to the Koran," he says. "But I simply couldn't carry on living a lie. The only thing I wish for is that my niece, whom I love dearly, doesn't think badly of me and that her husband does not say to her: 'Your uncle is gay: your family is unclean.' I pray to Allah to protect her from this."


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January 6, 2018

How LGBT Chechnya-Muslims Exiles Cope

Abdul Kadr's wife found out he was gay the night his relatives came to kill him.
She hid him inside the home in Grozny, Chechnya, where they lived with their four young children, and told him she'd stand by him.
"She saved my life," says Abdul Kadr, a silver-haired former businessman in his 40s.
Being married to a woman was how he hid his eight-year relationship with another man, also a married father. It was a way to survive in Chechnya, a largely Muslim southwestern republic of Russia where gay men are reportedly sent to torture camps and even killed.
Abdul Kadr is not his real name. He chose it for himself as protection from what he calls "the long arm of the Chechen secret police," which he fears will reach him even in the Netherlands, where he sought asylum early last year. A recent Human Rights Watch report suggests Chechen authorities are able to track down gay Chechens seeking asylum in Europe.

The Netherlands is one of a handful of countries in Europe offering protection to gay Chechens.
I meet Abdul Kadr outside the Amsterdam train station. He's with Artur, another Chechen who has also chosen a new name out of fear for his safety.
Artur says the Chechen secret police force gay men into outing their friends.
"The police electrocuted my friends, beat them, denied them food and water," says Artur, a mop-haired, 25-year-old former student with bright blue eyes.
The suspected gay detainees "slept on the ground, on concrete, while the drug dealers and terrorists slept in beds," he says.
'They are still afraid'
After spending their entire lives hiding their true selves, Abdul Kadr and Artur still find it nearly impossible to talk about their sexuality, even in a country that in 2001 became the first in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
Abdul Kadr found himself giving monosyllabic answers during a crucial immigration interview.
"I couldn't overcome my fear and give them details, even if it meant my life was hanging by a thread," he says. "I was terrified."
Listening with a grimace on his face is Sandro Kortekaas, who runs LGBT Asylum Support, a volunteer organization that assists refugees in the Netherlands.

Sandro Kortekaas runs LGBT Asylum Support, a volunteer organization that assists refugees in the Netherlands.
Joanna Kakissis/NPR
Refugees who come from countries that crack down on the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities have rarely spoken publicly about their lives.
"So when you have the Dutch immigration service [asking] you to tell your whole story, and if there is something that is not good, it means they can say, 'Sorry, we don't think you are gay,'" Kortekaas says. "That's horrible."
Abdul Kadr says he would be killed if he's sent back to Chechnya, where President Ramzan Kadyrov claims everyone in the country is heterosexual.
One Chechen who came out publicly as gay sought asylum in Germany but was denied and deported back to Chechnya last September. Movsar Eskarkhanov publicly retracted his claims that he was assaulted for being gay and now blames his epilepsy medicine for his coming out. After returning to Chechnya, he apologized publicly, like others who criticize Kadyrov.
The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service does not register the sexual orientation of those who apply for asylum, so it's hard to know how many LGBT asylum-seekers have been rejected.
"It can be, for example, that people have not given credible statements regarding their identities or nationalities," says Annick Oerlemans, a Dutch asylum officer. "It's really an individual assessment in every individual case. We have interviews with LGBT asylum-seekers basically every day, I think. And we're actually trained to make people feel as comfortable as we possibly can in order to get them to speak."
An Amsterdam nonprofit, Secret Garden, tries to help LGBT asylum-seekers open up even before those immigration interviews.
Elias Karam, a project manager at Secret Garden, says he works with traumatized refugees who are often self-hating because of the abuse they faced in their home countries.
"When it comes to their homosexuality," Karam says, "they just don't know how to talk. They are still afraid."

Elias Karam (left) and Carla Pieters work with Secret Garden, an Amsterdam nonprofit that tries to help LGBT asylum-seekers open up, even before the immigration interviews.
Joanna Kakissis/NPR
Every week, scores of asylum-seekers from the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa gather at Secret Garden's old-timey dining hall to meet newcomers and share stories over homemade spicy chicken and fattoush salad.
At one recent meeting, held largely in Arabic and English, a transgender woman from Lebanon admits that she had a panic attack walking outside in makeup and high heels for the first time.
Others talk about beatings, rejection and isolation.
Some have fled Dutch refugee camps after homophobic attacks.
"They sleep in the woods because they are afraid of men from their own countries, who attack them and pee in their beds," says Carla Pieters, a Secret Garden volunteer who hosts LGBT refugees in her Amsterdam home. "They are afraid to trust anyone."
'What we left behind'
Abdul Kadr and Artur, the two Chechens, are working out their own experiences with Kortekaas from LGBT Asylum Support, who communicates with them with the help of a translator from Kyrgyzstan.

Abdul Kadr and Artur are Muslim and say they pray daily. "I'm always fighting with myself over my sexuality," Artur says, "but I still believe God loves me."
Though he and Abdul Kadr no longer live in constant fear, they are lonely, isolated and wary of reaching out to other Russian speakers.
Abdul Kadr is still waiting for a decision on his asylum request. He wonders if the Dutch think it's strange that he wants so badly to reunite with his wife and children.
"She's my best friend, and I can't live without my children," he says. "Gay people can be parents here in Holland."
Artur has received asylum but says he often dreams about something that seems suicidal — returning to Chechnya.
"I was never looking for freedom to be openly gay," he admits, lowering his eyes. "I didn't want my family to have any problems because of me. And now they have huge problems. My mom is literally losing her mind because the police come to our house every day."
He's too afraid to contact his family directly. A friend told him about his mother's nervous breakdown.
"I want to apologize to her because I've ruined her life," Artur says, breaking into sobs.
"It's not your fault," Kortekaas says, patting his back. "Don't punish yourself."
Abdul Kadr looks away and wipes away his own tears.
"We fled Chechnya because we did not want to die," he says. "But we cannot stop thinking about what we left behind."
Rosanne Kropman contributed reporting.

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