Showing posts with label Gay Killing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Killing. Show all posts

October 18, 2019

The Parents of Slain Gay Youth Mathew Shepard Blast Barr For Failing To Defend LGBT Civil rights


Matthew Shepard at 21 just before he was beaten and left to die crucified on a wire fence. It's been 10 years since a law punishing hate crimes and bearing his name was enacted. Now in danger at the Supreme Court. Did you vote? For whom?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 
The parents of slain gay Wyoming man Matthew Shepard blasted U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday for failing to stand up for LGBT civil rights in a statement read at a Justice Department ceremony marking the 10-year anniversary of a hate crime law bearing their son’s name. 
Judy and Dennis Shepard did not attend, but Cynthia Deitle, a former FBI agent and now an executive with the Matthew Shepard Foundation LGBT rights organization, read a scathing letter they wrote, drawing applause from many in attendance at the event commemorating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. 
“We find it interesting and hypocritical that he (Barr) would invite us to this event commemorating a hate crime law named after our son and Mr. Byrd, while, at the same time, asking the Supreme Court to allow the legalized firing of transgender employees,” Deitle said, reading from the letter. 
Barr’s Justice Department argued at the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8 on behalf of President Donald Trump’s administration that a landmark decades-old federal anti-discrimination law that bars sex discrimination in the workplace does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. 
Barr was not in attendance, but Deitle made the remarks as Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, sat nearby on the same stage. 
“Mr. Barr, you cannot have it both ways. If you believe that employers should have the right to terminate transgender employees, just because they are transgender, then you believe they are lesser than and not worthy of protection. If so, you need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice,” Deitle said.  
The remarks drew applause and a standing ovation from a significant portion of the audience. Deitle said she was standing in for the Shepards because they were traveling. 
The Shepards in their letter also said Barr has failed to stand up to discriminatory actions supported by the Trump administration and urged him to “take a stand as a member of this administration to disavow and condemn any person who fuels the fires of hate with their words and actions.” 
The Trump administration also has supported the right of certain businesses to refuse to serve gay people on the basis of religious objections to gay marriage, restricted transgender service members in the military and rescinded protections on bathroom access for transgender students in public schools. 
The event got off to a routine start, with Dreiband praising the law signed by Republican Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. 
“Prosecuting hate crimes remains a top priority here at the Department of Justice,” Dreiband said, noting that 100 defendants in about 50 cases have been prosecuted under the law since its passage. 
A Justice Department spokeswoman disputed the Shepards’ characterization of the administration’s position in the Supreme Court matter.  
Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming in 1998 when was tied to a fence, pistol-whipped and left unconscious for hours in an anti-gay crime. He died a few days later at age 21. That same year, James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old black man, was murdered by white supremacists in a high-profile racially motivated crime in Texas. 
The law named after them criminalized violence committed on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, national origin or disability, among other provisions. 
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham

October 17, 2019

A Brutal Killing of A Gay Activist in Uganda






Relatives of Brian Wasswa carry his coffin during his funeral on October 6, 2019.
Relatives of Brian Wasswa carry his coffin during his funeral on October 6, 2019. 
 
© HRAPF 2019
(Kampala) – Ugandan authorities should thoroughly investigate the fatal attack on October 4, 2019, on an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Human Rights Watch said today. The death of the activist, Brian Wasswa, comes as the Ugandan government calls for reintroducing an anti-homosexuality bill that would provide the death penalty for consensual same-sex acts.
Wasswa, 28, was attacked at his home in Jinja, a city in eastern Uganda. Wasswa had worked since 2017 as a paralegal trained by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a legal aid organization that supports vulnerable communities, including LGBT people. Wasswa also worked as a peer educator with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), a Ugandan nongovernmental organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, where he conducted HIV outreach to LGBT people. Justine Balya, a legal officer with HRAPF, said Wasswa was social, well-loved, and committed to counseling young people living with HIV about the importance of adhering to treatment.
Days after Wasswa’s murder, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told reporters that parliament planned to introduce a bill that would criminalize so-called “promotion and recruitment” by gay people, and would include the death penalty for “grave” consensual same-sex acts. The proposed measure echoes Uganda’s 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized the undefined “promotion” of homosexuality and early drafts included the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” The Constitutional Court nullified the 2014 law on procedural grounds. Nevertheless, its passage contributed to violence, discrimination, evictions, and arbitrary arrests of LGBT people, as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented.


Relatives of Brian Wasswa carry his coffin during his funeral on October 6, 2019. 
 
© HRAPF 2019
“In the wake of the horrific murder of Brian Wasswa, the Ugandan government should be making it crystal clear that violence is never acceptable, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, a government minister charged with ethics and integrity is threatening to have gay people killed at the hands of the state.”
Uganda has experienced a rise in homophobic rhetoric from the government at high levels in recent weeks. In addition to Minister Lokodo’s threat to revive the anti-homosexuality bill, Security Minister Elly Tumwine claimed in an October 3 television interview that LGBT people were linked to an alleged terrorist group.
Wasswa, who lived alone in a house in a fenced compound containing other houses, was attacked in his home on October 4. Edward Mwebaza, deputy executive director of HRAPF, said that neighborhood children found the door open at around 5 p.m., went into the house, and found Wasswa unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. Neighbors rushed Wasswa to Jinja Hospital, where doctors found that he was still alive but had been struck on the head multiple times by a sharp object. When Wasswa did not respond to treatment, on October 5, his colleagues at HRAPF requested an ambulance to transfer him to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one hour away. Wasswa died in the ambulance en route to Kampala.
Police from Jinja’s Central Police Station have opened investigations. They identified the murder instrument, a short-handled hoe found in Wasswa’s home, and interviewed one witness who saw another man in Wasswa’s home several hours before Wasswa was found unconscious, HRAPF reported.
Mwebaza told Human Rights Watch that Wasswa was openly gay and gender non-conforming, sometimes describing himself as transgender. HRAPF urged the police to investigate the possibility that the murder may have been a hate crime.
Mwebaza said that three other gay and transgender people had been killed in Uganda in recent months, amid the climate of increasingly hostile statements by politicians around LGBT rights. On August 1, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers beat a young transgender woman, Fahad Ssemugooma Kawere, to death in Wakiso District, near Kampala, HRAPF and other Ugandan activists reported.
HRAPF itself has also experienced previous violent attacks. In February 2018, two security guards were seriously injured during a violent break-in at the organization’s Kampala offices, and in 2016, a HRAPF security guard was beaten to death. No one was brought to justice for either attack. Other organizations working on sensitive issues, such as land rights and the rights of journalists and women, also have experienced break-ins and in some cases attacks on security guards.
“It is incumbent on the Ugandan authorities to deliver justice for the murder of Brian Wasswa,” Nyeko said. “Police should conduct thorough investigations, and political leaders should refrain from any rhetoric that might encourage violence against LGBT people.”

September 17, 2019

25 Yr Old Gay Man's Body Found in An Apartment Days After Coming Out in Uzbekistan



                  

 Shokir Shavkatov's body was found in an apartment in Tashkent just days after he "came out" on Instagram.
                     


 
The brutal killing of a 25-year-old gay man in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, last week has raised concerns within the local lesbian and gay community, which has been largely ostracized in the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country.
The body of Shokir Shavkatov was found in an apartment in Tashkent on September 12, just days after he "came out" as gay in an Instagram post. 
Police say he suffered "several" knife wounds on his "neck and arms," and an officer said his throat had been cut so deeply he was nearly decapitated.
A 28-year-old suspect is in custody and is being charged with premeditated murder.
While police say a probe is underway to determine a possible motive for the killing, local activists say the attack was an act of hatred toward sexual minorities. "This barbaric killing shows obvious signs of homophobia," one local activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. 
"We are extremely concerned…and demand the government protect sexual minorities," said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
Conflicting Accounts
There are conflicting accounts regarding the circumstances of Shavkatov's killing. One of his friends claimed that shortly before the attack, Shavkatov was seen in a Tashkent nightclub popular with members of the gay community. 
The friend, who gave only a first name, Aziz, told RFE/RL that two unknown men in their 40s carried Shavkatov away after accosting him.
It remains unclear whether Shavkatov was forcibly taken away or went on his own accord. Hours later, his body was found in an apartment in Tashkent's Yunusobod district. 
"The two men who took away Shokir Shavkatov from the nightclub introduced themselves as morals police," said the Tashkent-based activist, confirming Aziz's version of events.
The activist said the police had raided the same nightclub on September 10 -- a day before the attack -- and took away some 10 homosexuals.
The authorities denied the claim and urged the media not to spread baseless rumors that could mislead people and discredit the police. 
Police say Shavkatov was killed by a man whom he met on the main Russian social-media site, VKontakte. They identified the attacker as Odiljon, a "temporarily unemployed" resident of Tashkent's Olmazor district. 
Police said in a statement that the two men met in the victim's apartment and apparently had an argument. It led to Odiljon stabbing Shavkatov "several times" in his neck and arms, the statement added.
Police said the killing was reported by a neighbor, who noticed blood stains under the apartment door and called emergency services. 
The suspect was arrested with the help of the information obtained from a taxi driver, the statement said.
The statement didn't describe the severity of the wounds, but an officer told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that his head had been nearly cut off.
Crime To Be Gay
In Uzbekistan, homosexuality is a criminal offense with a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. 
In August, a leading member of the country's various LGBT communities urged President Shavkat Mirziyoev to decriminalize homosexuality.
In a video appeal, Shohrukh Salimov asked the president to abandon the notorious Article 120 of the Criminal Code, which is called Voluntary Sexual Intercourse Between Two Male Individuals.
There was no response from the president, who has never publicly spoken about homosexuality.
Salimov, who was based in Turkey at the time, said that LGBT communities "face severe persecution" and asked Mirziyoev to protect them.
The video appeal came after police reportedly arrested two gay men under the sodomy law in Tashkent's Chilonzor district in July.
Shortly after the appeal was posted on the Internet, Uzbek police reportedly went to Salimov's family home in Tashkent and told his parents that he was wanted by the authorities.
One neighbor told RFE/RL that Salimov's parents had already been suffering "serious pressure by neighbors" because of their son's sexual orientation. "Police visits to their home became another enormous psychological pressure for the family," the neighbor said. 
Activists claim that police often blackmail gays to extort money. 
Members of the LGBT community also often face verbal and physical abuse. In 2017, five people were arrested in the eastern Ferghana Province for brutally threatening and then beating a gay man.
Police identified the attackers after they posted a video of their assault on social media.
At a meeting in Geneva in 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee called on the Uzbek government to abandon the Soviet-era sodomy law.
However, a member of the Uzbek government delegation, Abdukarim Shodiev, rejected the call, saying the law reflected Uzbekistan's culture and traditions.
Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
  • 16x9 Image

    RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

    RFE/RL's Radio Ozodlik is one of the only sources of reliable news and information for people in Uzbekistan. The country remains one of the most repressive in the world in terms of media freedom and human rights issues.

September 5, 2019

After Appearing in An Anti Gay Hit List She is Found Murdered At Her Apt. in St. Petersburg




Image result for Yelena Grigoryeva
 Yelena Grigoryeva
      

When Yelena Grigoryeva’s body was discovered on July 21, it had been lying in some bushes outside her apartment building in St Petersburg for 12 hours.
That same day, the city’s investigative committee opened a criminal case into the murder of the 41-year-old LGBTQ+ activist. On July 25, investigators announced the arrest of a 38-year-old man from Kyrgyzstan on suspicion of the murder. Another suspect, known to this man, was detained on August 1. Police investigators claim that Grigoryeva had known her killer and that the two had been drinking together on the evening before the murder. Grigoryeva had allegedly died in the course of a “sudden domestic dispute” with her killer, during which she was stabbed at least eight times in the back and face, dying from her injuries at the scene.
Grigoryeva’s friends and colleagues have been quick to share their grief and anger on social media, along with their suspicions about the police’s account of events. They suspect that she was killed for her activism; specifically her LGBTQ+ activism. Their comments were posted under the Russian hashtag #ЗащититеЛюдейОтПилы and the English hashtag #ProtectPeopleFromSaw.
I don’t believe that Yelena Grigoryeva was brutally murdered by some regular migrant worker, given that not long before her murder she had received threats from the homophobic non-people from the homophobic Saw group.
I demand a thorough investigation. The state should not appease murderers. #ЗащититеЛюдейОтПилы
— ᴀʀɪɴᴀ ᴅᴀᴢᴇ (@onprendra) July 23, 2019
Many were quick to point out that Grigoryeva’s name had featured on what appears to be a hit list from the homophobic website “Saw Against LGBT.”
The photojournalist George Markov writes:
In St Petersburg there is still active pressure on activists. If earlier it was arrests and criminal charges, now it’s murder. The political activist Yelena Grigoryeva, a supporter of LGBT views and simply a person with an active civic position, has been killed. […] And I also want to remind you that Yelena was on the list of the homophobic site ‘Saw,’ which has been threatening LGBT-activists throughout the country for a long time already.”
– George Markov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
While her colleagues said that Grigoryeva had reported violent threats to law enforcement before, the city’s branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs insisted that she had filed reports related to “various conflict situations” – but not death threats. The St Petersburg activist Dinar Idrisov, who knew Grigoryeva personally, rejected this account:
Yelena and her lawyer had reported on violence and threats [of violence] to law enforcement agencies, but there was no discernible reaction. It was like they said “If they kill you – call us.” She wasn’t able to make that call.
– Dinar Idrisov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
Earlier this month, screenshots from the “Saw Against LGBT” website began circulating online after the group (named after the American horror movie franchise “Saw”) posted an “anniversary” message on July 1. Featuring a picture of a noose, the post outlined plans for anti-LGBTQ+ acts and promised “dangerous and cruel gifts” to dozens of Russian LGBTQ+ individuals, activists, allies, and journalists. Yelena Grigoryeva herself was among those who saw the group’s message containing her name. She even shared a screenshot of the threatening post on Facebook on July 3. 

“Saw against LGBT” declares its five-year “anniversary,” promising a “new season” in its campaign against LGBT people. Website screenshot, taken from Yelena Grigoryeva’s Facebook page.
The list also named the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian language service, as well as several civil society organizations. The Yekaterinburg LGBT Resource Centre also reported receiving a threatening email from “Saw” on July 16. The Resource Centre has formally requested that local police investigate the email as a hate crime, and has previously been successful in persuading courts in the Sverdlovsk region to issue fines for homophobic comments on social media.
Following complaints by the Yekaterinburg-based NGO, the “Saw” website was blocked on July 17. LGBTQ+ rights activists have apparently been trying to get the authorities to investigate who is behind the website since it first appeared in spring 2018. Furthermore, the site has been responsible for leaking personal data on activists and anybody knew or presumed to be LGBTQ+, and allegedly even offered to pay “gay-hunters” to attack people.
Grigoryeva’s death came as a shock to others whose names appeared on the “hit list.” On July 23, YouTube star Andrei Petrov shared his reaction on Instagram, stating that although he had initially dismissed the list as a “provocation,” Grigoryeva’s killing made him fear for his life. In a video the following day, Petrov shared the first threatening email he received from an alleged member of “Saw,” telling him to transfer money into a Sberbank account if he wanted to “avoid a gift.” 
On July 28, self-described “openly gay” Youtuber Zhenya Svetsky shared what he called his “last video” in response to Grigoryeva’s death, saying he feared for his life because his name had also appeared on the list. In an accompanying Instagram post, he explained that he had been receiving threats from a member of “Saw” since February and that on June 20 he was given a month to leave Russia.
Recent days have also seen international support for an investigation into the suspicious murder. The German Foreign Office condemned Grigoryeva’s murder on Twitter, writing that they “expect a complete and transparent investigation of the circumstances, particularly whether her murder was related to her work for LGBTI rights.” On July 24, protestors also gathered outside of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, to call for an investigation into the activist’s killing.
According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, a Ukrainian NGO, the appearance of more hate speech against Grigoryeva online in response to her murder is further evidence that she may have been targeted for her activism. For example, self-proclaimed anti-gay “civic activist” Timur Bulatov referred to Grigoryeva’s murder as a “moral Jihad” and asked “who’s next?” on social media.
Nikita Tomilov, a lawyer and human rights activist, shared one of Bulatov’s posts with the words:
Here’s a message I just received today on Wattsap [sic] from Timur Bulatov about the murder of Yelena Grigoryeva. I am more than certain that Bulatov has a connection to this murder. I now call on all LGBT organisations and human rights defenders to file a statement requesting an investigation be opened into Bulatov’s involvement in the “Saw” group.
– lowayerTomilov, Facebook, 23 July 2019
Social media posts dedicated to Grigoryeva’s memory also include photos demonstrating her extensive involvement in activism. After moving to St Petersburg from her hometown of Veliky Novgorod, Grigoryeva became a prominent member of the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT People for Equal Rights, an organization defending LGBTQ+ rights in Russia. Grigoryeva also opposed Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, speaking out on behalf of Ukrainian political prisoners jailed in Russia and against repressions against Crimea’s Tatar population. More recently, she demonstrated in support of the Khachaturyan sisters – three teenagers who are being charged with murder for killing their father after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse. 
However, Grigoryeva’s background has also prompted debate over her political leanings. Grigoryeva was known to have supported nationalist causes in the past, and a July 2016 photo Grigoryeva posted to the popular Russian social network VKontakte displays a tattoo on her arm, which she described in the comments as “a matryoshka with a machine gun and the Odal rune.” Although the Odal rune is a symbol associated with Nazi movements, Grigoryeva’s colleagues claim that her political leanings had shifted towards more “right liberal” views over the years
Whether these attacks, threats and now the murder are linked to her political views, which changed from nationalist to right-wing liberal and LGBT, to her undoubtedly active lifestyle, character and patterns of behaviour – is absolutely unimportant. Every person has the right to life. And the Russian state was obliged to guarantee her the right to life
– Dinar Idrisov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
On July 23, dozens of people, including Grigoryeva’s friends and colleagues, took part in “solitary picket” protests in St Petersburg to mourn her death. Their demand is that the authorities seriously consider the idea that Grigoryeva was murdered for her political views. The next day, LGBTQ+ rights activists from  Vykhod – a St Petersburg organization (whose name is translated on their site as “Coming Out”) offering free psychological and legal support to the LGBTQ+ community – formally requested that police investigate the “Saw” group’s possible involvement in Grigoryeva’s death.
Grigoryeva was buried at a village cemetery in Russia’s Novgorod region on July 28.
But Saw’s story might not be over yet. “They think that they’ve blocked our site and that now we won’t be able to find an audience, that we won’t be able to attract the people. We’ll start soon. Everybody’s interested to find out who’s next,” reads a message posted on July 31 by one of the group’s Telegram channels.

Global Voices


July 27, 2019

A Gay Man Held Prisoner in Chechen Lives To Tell






BY KATY STEINMETZ 
8:00 AM EDT
It was just after lunchtime on the day Amin Dzhabrailov was taken. A woman who was about to get married had come to the salon in the Chechen capital of Grozny where he worked, and the two were happily chatting as he colored her hair. Then, he recalls, three men in uniform barged in, asking for him by name. Soon, Dzhabrailov was being hauled outside, handcuffed and thrust into the back of a car. It was hot. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. As the car took off, “my heart stopped,” he says.
Though the three men didn’t explain why they had come, it soon became clear, as they took Dzhabrailov’s phone, demanded his password and started scouring the device for messages and photos that would prove he was guilty of something considered deeply shameful in the conservative, predominantly Muslim republic: being gay. Dzhabrailov doesn’t recall how long the car ride lasted, but he does recall his overriding fear. “The door is going to open,” the 27-year-old tells TIME, “and I’m going to die.”
Dzhabrailov is one of at least dozens of men who were detained and tortured in an anti-gay “purge” that took place in Chechnya in 2017, according to news reportshuman rights organizations and European agencies. He is also one of the first to go on the record about his experience and reveal his identity in the media, though he fears retaliation against himself and his family. 
Despite international attention and outcry that followed the 2017 purge — including calls for Russian officials to investigate reported lawlessness and misbehavior among Chechen law enforcement — human rights organizationssay another anti-gay sweep took place in late 2018 and early 2019. Dzhabrailov, who fled to Canada from Russia after his detainment, is going public now because he wants to draw attention to the ongoing persecution of gay people in his homeland. “Each person matters. His rights matter,” Dzhabrailov says. 
It’s dangerous to tell his story. But two years in North America, including participation in New York City’s annual pride march this year, have helped him summon the courage to speak out. “It’s also dangerous not telling,” he says, “because this is going to continue.” 
Human rights groups and experts who have been keeping an eye on the Chechen situation express similar fears, and some say that what’s happening there is part of a broader trend. The rise of nationalism in many countries has dovetailed with the targeting of vulnerable minorities, even in countries like the United States that have seen civil rights for LGBTQ people shored up by lawmakers and courts: There has been an uptick in hate crimes against that demographic in the U.S. in recent years, with the majority targeting gay men. 
“What’s been reported in Chechnya is a crime against humanity,” says Lisa Davis, co-director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at the CUNY School of Law. “And we see this as a pattern of practice, a wave of violence that’s been happening across the globe.” When events like those in Chechnya fail to lead to consequences such as international condemnation, even amid widespread publicity, she says, “it sends the message that such persecution is tolerated.” 
Chechen officials have denied such crackdowns occurred. One government spokesperson said it wasn’t possible because gay people “don’t exist” in that part of Russia and if they did, their own relatives would be so ashamed that they “would have sent them to where they could never return.” The first individual to publicly challenge that stance was forced to recant and apologize on state TV in late 2017, after he came out in TIME and the state went after him and his relatives. 
“This is insane,” Dzhabrailov says. “Gay people are just everywhere.”
Dzhabrailov’s description of being detained, beaten, and forcibly outed to relatives who were encouraged to commit “honor killings” echoes testimony from other men who have fled Russia’s Northern Caucasus region in recent years.
The car carrying the slender, normally bubbly young man that day in March 2017 stopped somewhere outside Grozny at an unfamiliar building, and Dzhabrailov was led into one of many rooms lining a long hallway.
Amin Dzhabrailov in New York on June 30, 2019.
Amin Dzhabrailov in New York on June 30, 2019.

Heather Sten for TIME
According to Human Rights Watch, the roundups in 2017 were carried out by law enforcement officials and sanctioned by top-level Chechen authorities. Dzhabrailov says he doesn’t know who the several men there to receive him in the room were. (They seemed to be police who were “doing dirty work,” he says.) But he clearly remembers their actions. They sat him on a chair, he says, and demanded that he admit to being gay and name other gay men. At the same time, he says they kicked him with heavy boots and hit him with long plastic pipes, not wanting to touch him directly because of his sexual orientation. 
Though he admitted to being gay, Dzhabrailov says the violence escalated when he refused to name other gay men. The men took out a black box that Dzhabrailov presumed was a lie detector but that turned out to be a machine that delivered electric shocks. They attached wires to his fingers and put water on his body to help the current travel more effectively. “It was so painful, you’re just screaming, that’s all you could do,” he says. 
Eventually one of the men pulled out a gun, put it into Dzhabrailov’s mouth and threatened to kill him if he didn’t give up names. “At this moment, I myself, died,” he says. As he describes this part of his ordeal, he struggles through tears and an inability to find all the words he wants in English. “I was so lost,” he repeats. “I was so lost.”
After vowing to “keep working” on him, the men put Dzhabrailov into another room in the same building with about 25 other people in it. Some were men who were there because they were presumed to be gay, but there were also men and women who were apparently being detained for other reasons, he says. 
Agencies like the Council of Europe’s Committee For the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment have long accused officials in Chechnya of unlawfully detaining and mistreating individuals (and have criticized Russian authorities’ “persistent failure to improve the situation”). While LGBT people are one at-risk group, abuses have also been reported among alleged drug users, suspected terrorists and journalists.
Dzhabrailov says he was held for two weeks, cycling from the room where detainees were kept — and where he slept using a half-full plastic bottle as a pillow — to the room where he was beaten. There was torture “almost” every day. He and other gay men were also put to work washing cars and bathrooms and, one day, taken to clean garbage out of a lake. He describes it as being treated “like slaves.” 
Each man dreaded hearing his name called by the people running the facility, because that meant it was his turn to be beaten and pressed for information about other gay men. But it was also hard to see anyone else get called. “You’re going to hear his screams from the other side of the wall,” Dzhabrailov explains, adding that the captives tried to encourage each other not to name names.
After he survived the first few days, Dzhabrailov began to hope that he would be released. That hope was realized in a bittersweet fashion when, after about two weeks, he and the other men were told to give up phone numbers of their family members. In typical fashion, Dzhabrailov had never come out to his family. Given the strength of the taboo in Chechnya, being openly gay “is simply not an option” and “coming out of the closet would be suicidal,” says Tanya Lokshina, associate director for Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia.
Family members of all the detainees were summoned and gathered in a room and were then told that their siblings and sons were gay, Dzhabrailov says. Three of his brothers came. The detainees were then brought in and officials gestured to them, saying “‘You should take away your shame,’” Dzhabrailov recalls. “It was directly meaning ‘You should kill your kids because they are gay and this is shame for Chechnya and for your family.’”
When Dzhabrailov left with his brothers, he wanted to celebrate. He was thrilled to be released and to see them again. But there was only silence as they walked away from the building. “Everything changed,” he says. “My body was blue, purple. My heart was broken. My life was broken. I lost family, friends, career. Everything.”
His family did not hurt him. But for several days after he was released, Dzhabrailov could only sleep during the daytime, for fear that officials would return under the cover of darkness and take him again. After five days, he decided he had to leave Chechnya. He couldn’t have a life there now that he had been exposed. A longtime friend who had moved to Moscow from Chechnya asked him to come stay, and so on his 25th birthday, Dzhabrailov left everything he knew behind. 
The friend was Viskhan, a 28-year-old who prefers to only use his first name and tells TIME through a translator that he had left the republic years earlier because he was also persecuted for being gay. In his case, this happened in a more typical but still brutal fashion: men who appeared to be police officials posed as someone interested in a romantic encounter on a dating app, and when Viskhan agreed to meet in person, he was beaten and threatened with a gun. 
Sometimes these assailants demand money from such victims. In Viskhan’s case, he says, they demanded that he message with another man through the dating site to gather information that could be used against that individual.
“You always feel guilty,” Viskhan says of being gay in Chechnya. And survivors like him continue to struggle with the trauma of having been targeted by powerful people. “When we sleep, we go to bed with fear and when we wake up, we wake up with fear,” he says. 
Viskhan, who is also now living as a refugee in Canada, had learned through friends in Chechnya that Dzhabrailov had “disappeared” for two weeks. In an interview with TIME, he describes the physical appearance of his friend when he arrived in Moscow as “horror,” motioning to his side, arms, hips and back to point out where Dzhabrailov was injured. When they saw each other at the airport, both began to cry. 
Dzhabrailov soon decided the Chechen diaspora in Moscow was too prevalent and close-knit for him to be safe. “There was this massive panic” at the time, Viskhan says, with gay Chechens fearful that officials would come after them and homophobic countrymen living in Moscow would be anxious to help. 
And so Dzhabrailov moved on to St. Petersburg. For a month, he stayed with another friend and never left the building, living with paranoia that he would be tracked down and, perhaps, killed this time.
Amin Dzhabrailov and Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Rainbow Railroad organization, watch the Pride parade in New York on June 30, 2019.
Amin Dzhabrailov and Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Rainbow Railroad organization, watch the Pride parade in New York on June 30, 2019.

Heather Sten for TIME
Eventually the friend convinced him to reach out to a group called the Russian LGBT Network, which was attempting to help victims of the Chechen purge. Many dreaded being hunted by their families as well, and the organization was looking for ways to get them out of Russia. After months of waiting and living in shelters provided by the group, Dzhabrailov finally found himself in a small room with someone who gave him hope that claiming asylum in another country might be possible. 
The Russian LGBT Network had contacted Rainbow Railroad, a Canada-based international organization that specializes in helping LGBT people escape countries where they face imminent danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And the executive director, Kimahli Powell, had traveled to Russia to interview Chechen men who wanted to leave, a standard part of the organization’s vetting process.
It was nearing midnight when Powell prepared to sit down with Dzhabrailov, who was his last interview of a long day. He recalls the young hairstylist being forthright and — in what appeared to be a means of creating some order among chaos — especially well-coiffed. After hearing his story, along with dozens of others on the trip, “we knew we had to get them out of the country,” Powell says. “The question became where.”
Though Rainbow Railroad is guarded about how it facilitates travel, the organization will say that it eventually resettled roughly 70 Chechen men in other countries, some victims of the purge and some with credible fears that they would be targeted. Some went to Belgium, some to the Netherlands, and many went to Canada. 
Dzhabrailov vividly remembers stepping off a plane in North America in July of 2017, four months after his abduction. “I felt like I came back home. I was feeling so calm,” he says, “like I left a dark room and opened up the door to the light.” 
Some months later, after Viskhan’s life was threatened by a Chechen man living in Moscow, the same organizations helped him flee too. 
When reports of the 2017 purge in Chechnya surfaced, it seemed like Russian officials would act. Investigations appeared to be getting underway but such efforts came to little, watchdogs say. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a regional security organization that counts 57 states among its members, did its own investigation and released its findings in late 2018, concluding that the allegations of unlawful detentions and torture in Chechnya were credible. “[T]here is a problem of total impunity of the security forces” amid a “grave situation with regard to human rights,” it said.
Viskhan sees the crackdowns as part of wider oppression that has taken root in recent years. Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has kept the once rebellious region firmly under Moscow’s control for well over a decade. In exchange, the Kremlin has allowed him to rule Chechnya as what some reportshave described as a “personal fiefdom.” On his watch, women allegedly have been intimidated and shot with paintball guns for wearing clothes that Muslim men deemed immodest, for example.
“People gradually started having feelings of hate toward the modern way of life. The society saw that more and more people were free, freely expressing themselves,” Viskhan says of how the culture in Chechnya changed as he got older. “This manifested in hatred toward different ways of life.”
Experts on LGBT rights say that lawlessness — along with religion or conservative beliefs about gender norms — tends to be the common thread when it comes to identifying places where gay or transgender people are most at-risk. While the purges in Chechnya have been unusual in terms of their scale and severity, at least 68 countries have laws that criminalize same-sex relations, and persecution of LGBT individuals is not uncommon around the world. Countries such as UgandaEgyptBrunei and Iraq have all seen breakouts of anti-gay animus in recent years.
Rainbow Railroad has been seeing this wave in terms of the number of requests from people who want help leaving their home countries out of fear for their safety. In 2018, it received 1,300 such requests. This year, the organization had 1,500 requests by June. “It’s consistent story after story of just real horrific persecution,” Powell says.
Several factors limit how many people Rainbow Railroad can move each year. It is dependent on donations and the openness of host countries. There are some countries, like Syria, where the organization’s workers simply cannot develop safe routes of passage.
None of the roughly 70 Chechens that Rainbow Railroad relocated went to the United States. The situation required “a response that was more immediate and more robust than the United States was willing to do,” Powell says. In the hopes of furthering their work with the country — even under the Trump Administration, which pushed to limit the acceptance of refugees — both he and Dzhabrailov visited officials in Washington, D.C. last year. They met with staff from the State Department, the White House and Congress, and the Chechen refugee told his story while Powell tried to summon political will. “Did I leave with any promises? Absolutely not,” Powell says. But, he adds, “we’re playing a long game here.”
While Dzhabrailov is going public to help shine the international spotlight on what happened to men like him, he is also thinking about what life was like when he was a boy. He remembers how, as a young man, he heard about a Chechen man who was murdered because he was gay. Growing up, he lived in fear, adopting two personas — a straight one and a secret one, pursuing romance only in hidden locations and using fake names. His hope is that young gay men in Chechnya might come across his story today and see that there’s hope. “Even if you’re in trouble, you can get out,” he says, “and be free men, just free men.”
As for official denials that the purge took place, Dzhabrailov has few words to say. “The truth,” he says, “exists.”
Write to Katy Steinmetz at katy.steinmetz@time.com.

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