Showing posts with label Chechnya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chechnya. Show all posts

February 9, 2020

Russian Region of Chechnya and Their Work To Beat, Killed and Bury Gays is Documented

We won't forget!

You can do anything with a face on screen these days, whether it’s shaving decades off with a digital scalpel or keep faking it into unrecognizable oblivion. Usually, this wizardry has the air of a stunt, a transformation pulled off merely because it’s possible. Never, however, have such effects proven as chillingly essential as they are in “Welcome to Chechnya,” a vital, pulse-quickening new documentary from journalist-turned-filmmaker David France that urgently lifts the lid on one of the most horrifying humanitarian crises of present times: the state-sanctioned purge of LGBTQ people in the eponymous southern Russian republic.

Documentary from journalist-turned-filmmaker David France.
Director: David France With David Isteev, Olga Baranova, Maxim Lapunov
 Closely charting multiple missions to extract and protect brutalized victims of the regime, France collects the candid first-person perspectives that have proven difficult to come by in this climate of terror — thanks in large part to face-altering technology that keeps their identities hidden, but not their searing truth.
Image result for chechnya gay deaths
Government of Chechnya and Russia, You should know both
Premiering in competition at Sundance — with a Berlin date to follow, and an HBO release scheduled for June — “Welcome to Chechnya” further establishes France as America’s foremost documentarian on LGBTQ issues, following 2012’s superb, Oscar-nominated “How to Survive a Plague” and 2017’s similarly stirring “The Death and Life and Marsha P. Johnson.” His third feature represents a departure, however, from those historical, archive-trawling studies, instead of taking the form of an anxiously in-the-moment docu-thriller, tracking and braiding the escape narratives of several human subjects in the present tense — often without tidy resolution or catharsis. This isn’t a story to reflect on, as Putin-directed Chechen authorities continue to flatly deny the human rights violations under scrutiny: This necessarily upsetting film aims for immediate awareness and action. 

Abduction, beatings, electrocution: Gay man describes torture in Chechnya

The pre-existing material in “Welcome to Chechnya” is by far its most distressing: grainy cellphone and surveillance camera footage of real-life homophobic attacks in the republic, including a gay couple confronted mid-kiss by a gang of jeering men, and a young woman dragged from a car and bludgeoned by a male relative in an apparent honor killing. These horrific flashes regularly punctuate the action, emphasizing the constant peril faced by its Chechen subjects. The first of these, 21-year-old Muslim lesbian “Anya,” is introduced via a desperate phone call to David Isteev, a journalist turned crisis response coordinator of the Russian LGBT Network: an activist group that arranges for endangered people like Anya to flee the region, sheltering them in safe houses around Europe.

Blackmailed for sex by an uncle in return for keeping her sexuality a secret from her father, Anya is just one cruel man’s whim away from being another casualty in Chechnya’s rapidly swelling list of LGBTQ people killed or forcibly disappeared in the last three years. Using a New Yorker exposé by Masha Gessen as his starting point, France claims the hate campaign escalated with a 2017 drug raid in which explicit gay images and messages were found on a suspect’s phone, thus initiating a chain system in which LGBTQ detainees are violently coerced by police into revealing the identities of others.

It all amounts to a social “cleansing” project by Chechnya’s head of state Ramzan Kadyrov, a gun-loving far-right thug who denies the existence of such a campaign as vehemently as he denies the existence of any gay people in his republic at all. “We have no such people here,” he cheerfully tells U.S. sportscaster Bryant Gumbel in an excerpted 2017 interview. “To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.” It’s clear Kadyrov gets his fake-news credentials from his Russian superior Vladimir Putin; the system that Isteev and his fellow activists, including grittily determined lesbian Olga Baranova, find themselves up against is in such profoundly corrupt denial, it’s all but impossible to fight. 

Lesbians more accepted than gay men around the world, study finds

France and co-writer/editor Tyler H. Walk trace these institutional battle lines with compelling rigor, but the heart of the film, in all senses, is with the survivors retrieved by Isteev, Baranova and their colleagues. In sequences more racked with nail-digging tension than any fictional prison-break film, France’s camera unobtrusively follows the activists on their runs into and out of Chechnya, complete with subterfuge, disguise, and breath-halting border crossings. At a shelter in Moscow, we observe both the sense of community and alienation felt by the fugitives, some of them mere teenagers, after leaving everything in their former lives behind. For some, the exhilaration of escape only lasts so long before desolate fear of the future sets in, and the film seeks no pat feelgood shortcuts. One traumatized young man attempts suicide; for Anya, isolated indoors for her own safety in an undisclosed location, the lack of outside-world contact only aggravates her fragile mental state.

The closest thing here to an uplifting arc is still raddled with uncertainty and compromise. Having been detained and tortured while working in Chechnya, gay events planner Maxim (initially introduced as “Grisha”) is released on the strength of his Russian citizenship, only to be pursued once more when authorities fear he’ll tell his story to the media. (His family, in turn, is threatened, forced to flee their home.) United with his boyfriend in the Moscow shelter, Maxim resolves to take his case to the courts — becoming the first survivor to testify about the Chechen purge. 

Suspect arrested in NYC subway attack on trans woman

In parallel with this disclosure, he becomes the only subject in the film to let slip his real name and his digital mask — one of several deftly applied by VFX supervisor Ryan Laney, with only fleeting blurs and seams to betray the illusion. The dissolution of his computerized face, in the midst of an impassioned press conference with Russian media, is the one gasp-inducing moment of showmanship in a film that otherwise deploys clean, no-fuss shooting and cutting to gripping effect. Otherwise, the only flashes of cinematic artifice come via the cold, quick pulse of Evgueni and Sacha Galperine’s score at the most white-knuckle moments in proceedings.

Maxim’s story gives “Welcome to Chechnya” its clearest moments of emotional release, but needless to say, his testimony hardly has a seismic effect on a crisis this crushingly entrenched — with only limited awareness and support from the rest of the world. France’s film closes on a grimly telling statistical postscript, noting that of 151 survivors rescued by the Russian LGBT Network and granted refugee status in other countries, the Trump administration has accepted a grand total of zero. The ironically inviting title only hints at part of the story in this wholly devastating documentary: The crisis, it turns out, is all around us.

By Variety

May 12, 2019

The Chechnya Persecution of Gay Men Has Not Ended Electrocution and Starvation Continues


 New Purge in Chechnya on Gay men. Besides their secret prisons they have electrocution.
Four men who fled conservative region say they were beaten and humiliated for up to 20 days with limited water

Gay men are being electrocuted and strung up by their legs in a new wave of torture in Chechnya, according to a human rights group.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed four gay men who claimed they fled the conservative, predominantly Muslim region after police allegedly beat and shocked them with electric currents while they were strung up by their legs.
The international group, headquartered in New York, said the accounts made by the men, who were allegedly detained for between three and 20 days between December 2018 and February 2019, were consistent with a complaint an LGBT+ activist filed in January.
Also, in January this year, a warning appeared on social media urging all vulnerable men and women to flee Chechnya as it was feared a new “anti-gay purge” was underway.
In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured in Chechnya during a “purge”, and that some were killed. 
There was no immediate comment on the report from Chechen officials, who rejected the allegations in 2017.  
Human Rights Watch said in a report on Wednesday that the men it interviewed reported being beaten, humiliated and held for up to 20 days with limited water.
The four said interrogators also demanded information about other gay men in Chechnya, according to the organisation.
One man said he had been living elsewhere but returned to Chechnya to attend a family wedding. 
In the evening, he met a man he’d connected with through a dating app, and police arrived and took him away. The man said he believed he was set up. 
Human Rights Watch said it thought the 2017 mistreatment of gay men was not adequately investigated.  
Tanya Lokshina, the organisation’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, said: “The absolute impunity for the anti-gay purge of 2017 emboldens the perpetrators.
“We have absolutely no evidence these round-ups were sanctioned by top-level Chechen leadership, but the police officials clearly felt at liberty to hold and torture those men.”
Homosexuality is decriminalised in Russia, but animosity towards sexual minorities still widely persists.

April 1, 2019

Two Years After The Deadly Gay Purge in Chechnya Survivors Still Seeking For Justice


Two years after the violent ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya, Russian authorities have failed to provide justice for the victims, Amnesty International said today.
In a crackdown revealed in 2017, dozens of men were abducted, tortured and killed for their real or perceived sexual orientation. To date, not one person has yet been held accountable for these crimes.
“The Russian authorities have shown themselves to be complicit in heinous crimes committed in Chechnya against people believed to be gay or lesbian”, said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“Two years after reports of a ‘gay purge’ sent shockwaves worldwide, it’s clear that the perpetrators have gone unpunished because of state-sponsored homophobia and impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya.”
Meanwhile, authorities have also failed to provide effective protection to LGBTI rights defender Igor Kochetkov, the leading figure in the public investigation of the violent crackdown, who has recently received death threats.
On 29 January this year, a video containing insults and a death threat directed at Igor Kochetkov was widely distributed across social networks. After Igor Kochetkov presented a formal complaint against the author of this video, the police merely suggested that “next time the human rights defender should call an emergency number”. An official investigation has not been opened by the police to date.
“The shocking disregard to human lives and dignity has reached a new low as the authorities have neglected to carry out a thorough investigation into death threats sent to Russian LGBTI Network’s Executive Director Igor Kochetkov.
“However, in a rare positive twist, last week a court in Saint Petersburg ruled the police inaction in this case to be unlawful. We urge the Russian authorities to promptly implement the court’s ruling and conduct a thorough and effective investigation into the death threats against Igor Kochetkov and crimes in the Chechen Republic exposed by the Russian LGBT Network.”
In April 2017, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta exposed a horrifying crackdown in Chechnya in which dozens of men were abducted, tortured and killed. The failure of the Russian state to provide justice for these victims unleashed another wave of homophobic crimes in Chechnya in 2018. By January 2019, at least two people were believed to have been tortured to death in this crackdown.

January 31, 2019

The LGBT Community Files Complaint Demanding Criminal Investigation on TheTorture, Disappearance of Gay People in Chechnya

By Moscow 
LGBT activists say they filed a complaint demanding Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation into the alleged detention and torture of people as part of a suspected anti-gay campaign by security forces in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
The LGBT Network, a St. Petersburg-based group, said in a statement it submitted the complaint to the Investigative Committee, Russia's rough equivalent of the FBI, on Tuesday, asking it to probe the alleged detention of at least 14 people, as well as torture and at least one murder.
The move is an attempt by the group to compel Russian authorities to act on reports of a new wave of detentions and torture targeting the gay community in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russian ruled by dictatorial leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Earlier this month, the LGBT Network claimed at least 40 people were detained and two killed in what they fear is a renewal of a campaign of persecution in Chechnya that in 2017 saw dozens of gay men rounded up and brutally tortured.
As in 2017, Chechen authorities denied the reports, largely by asserting that homosexuality does not exist in Chechnya.
Igor Kochetkov, the LGBT Network's director, told ABC News that the 14 cases in the complaint accounted for just those people reportedly held in one police station in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, and that they had information that others were being held elsewhere across the country.
 Russian policemen surround Russian gay-rights activists standing next to boxes allegedly containing signed petitions calling for a probe into a reported crackdown on Chechnya's LGBT community, during a rally in central Moscow on May 11, 2017.
"We believe several dozen people are detained, no lower than 40," Kochetkov said by phone.
The LGBT Network helped dozens of gay men flee Chechnya in 2017, with many eventually finding asylum abroad. The group is trying to do the same this time, but it is harder because police are now blocking victims by seizing their passports, Kochetkov claimed.
According to the activists, the new detentions began after police arrested the administrator of a social media page popular with LGBT people in the region and began going after contacts in his phone. Unlike in 2017, police are also arresting women, Kochetkov said.
The activists identified two police sites in Grozny where people were allegedly being detained: a police station on Popovich Street and the local Ministry of Interior building. Kochetkov claimed others were also held in the town of Argun, a key site in the 2017 round-up.
For the first time, the group named one of those allegedly detained: Bekhan Yusupov, who Kochetkov said remains imprisoned.
The accounts closely recall those that emerged in 2017. Then, a man, identified for his safety by ABC News under the pseudonym Dmitry, claimed he was held for several days with others in cells deprived of food and water, beaten and hooked up to a battery.
Kochetkov said those allegedly detained this time described being raped with electro-shockers and that men were shaved and forced to dress in women's clothes.
The activists blamed Russia's federal authorities for the new persecutions, saying their failure to intervene in 2017 created a sense of impunity in Chechnya.
 Dancers wearing traditional costumes perform during celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Chechen capital of Grozny, Russia, Oct. 5, 2018.
Following heavy international criticism then, Russian federal authorities opened a criminal probe, but it has since gone nowhere. A Russian man, Maxim Lapunov, who publicly described being tortured in October 2017, also filed a criminal complaint to the Investigative Committee.
But the committee declined to open a criminal case, and in November a court rejected Lapunov’s appeal against that decision, saying it was lawful, the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported. Activists demanding an investigation were arrested in 2017
report in December by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation criticized Russia over its response, saying it failed "to live up to its responsibilities."
The U.S. State Department said in a statement this month it is "deeply disturbed" by the reports, calling them "credible" and demanding Russia act to meet its international obligations.
The LGBT Network said it has helped around 150 people leave Chechnya since 2017 and that about 130 of those had managed to go abroad. Rainbow Road, a Canadian-based group, said it has brought around 57 people to Canada.

January 15, 2019

The Arrests (40) and Deaths Commencing Again in Chechnya Which is Putin’s Sandbox to Practice Invasion


Forty men and women have been detained and at least two have died in an anti-gay purge in Russia's Chechnya republic that is even more brutal than a 2017 crackdown, according to activists.
After the administrator of an LGBT social media group was detained in December, Chechen law enforcement began rounding up suspected homosexuals, LGBT Network said on Monday. It is holding people without charge in an infamous prison where gay men have previously said they were tortured, local residents told activists. 
One of the captives died after officials repeatedly cut him with a knife during an interrogation, Igor Kochetkov of LGBT Network told The Telegraph.  
“We can already say that the torture being suffered by those detained is savage, much worse than for those detained in 2017,” he said. “We know of two dead, but probably more have been killed.”
For the first time, women are also being systematically detained for presumed homosexuality, he added.
A gay man named Alexander who escaped Chechnya for France told the Russian news site Meduza that 10 people had actually been killed in the latest wave of the anti-LGBT “genocide,” and a friend who was imprisoned had seen bodies being carried away.
A post in a local LGBT social media group last week told gay people to “run from the republic as soon as possible”.
More than 100 were rounded up and at least six died in a crackdown on gay men in the predominantly Muslim republic in 2017. Some were handed over to relatives with the expectation they would be finished off in an “honor killing,” while others had to sign blank criminal charges for possible future use. 
LGBT Network has helped 150 people flee since 2017. 

Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's Chechen Republic GETTY
Ramzan Kadyrov became the leader of Chechnya, a war-torn republic of 1.4 million people in the Caucasus mountains, in 2007, taking over after his father was assassinated in a bomb blast. The two Kadyrovs had fought against Russian forces for Chechnya's independence in the 1990s but defected to Moscow's side during the second Chechen War.
Accused of kidnappings and extrajudicial executions, Ramzan has stamped out dissent and a simmering Islamist insurgency with often brutal methods. At the same time, he has turned Chechnya into an increasingly conservative Muslim society.
He is seen to have carte blanche from the Kremlin, receiving generous federal funding and a free hand within Chechnya in exchange for keeping the insurgency at bay. Kadyrov's ostentatious displays of loyalty to Vladimir Putin included having thousands of his security forces pledge themselves as “foot soldiers” of the president.
One of Kadyrov's security officers gunned down opposition politician Boris Nemtsov outside the Kremlin in 2015.
 The press secretary of Chechnya's strongman ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, who was appointed by Vladimir Putin in 2007, called the latest accusations “lies and disinformation”.
Kadyrov has previously claimed there are no gay men in Chechnya and told the BBC during the World Cup that the reports of the purge were “all made up”. 
“The reason this is being repeated is impunity,” Mr Kochetkov said. “The Russian authorities didn't open a criminal case, and Kadyrov felt this impunity.”
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in December called on Russia to open an inquiry “in view of the clear evidence of successive purges against LGBTI persons” in Chechnya. 
It also called for a criminal investigation into the case of Maxim Lapunov, a gay man who told The Telegraph and others that he was held for 12 days in Chechnya and tortured in 2017. 
Police beat him until he couldn't stand, demanding the names of other gay men, he said. Others were tortured with electric shocks.
Mr. Lapunov, an ethnic Russian, was released when relatives from another region came looking for him, but police threatened him to keep quiet.
Russian authorities have repeatedly refused to investigate his complaints. Mr. Putin's human rights ombudswoman said last month a criminal case had not been opened because Mr. Lapunov had left Russia for Estonia. He fled there fearing for his safety.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah poses with Kadyrov at a stadium during the World Cup, when the Egyptian team trained in Chechnya
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah poses with Kadyrov at a stadium during the World Cup, when the Egyptian team trained in Chechnya  CREDIT: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP
Police have now been hunting down contacts from the phones of the administrator of the LGBT social media group and subsequent people they detained, according to Mr Kochetkov.
Some have been released, but in a new development, their passports were ripped up to keep them from leaving Chechnya, he said.
“If we don't stop this now it could develop further, so it's very important to spread this information and put pressure on Moscow,” he said.
Human rights groups and the British government have also called on Moscow to take action against the repressions in Chechnya, where Mr. Kadyrov wields absolute power over a fearful populace.  
Last year, police began detaining teenagers en masse after five boys pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and were killed in attacks on police, The Telegraph reported. Other young people have been imprisoned on extremely flimsy terrorism accusations, and 27 were killed without trial in a mass execution in January 2017, according to an investigation by Novaya Gazeta newspaper. 

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