Showing posts with label Gay Persecution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Persecution. 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 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 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."

Couple Attacked and Targeted as Gay in Austin

A photo of Tristan Perry in the hospital after he says he and his boyfriend were attacked along Red River Street for holding hands. (Photo Courtesy Spencer Deehring).  



AUSTIN (KXAN) —  A gay couple in Austin say they were the target of a homophobic slur, then attacked in downtown Austin in the early hours of Saturday morning. Both were hospitalized for their injuries.

Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry say they love holding hands with each other and being affectionate. A friend had a birthday party Friday night, so the couple and their friends went to several bars downtown to celebrate. The two say they only had two drinks early on in the night and drove downtown so they wanted to make sure they were sober by the time the night was over.

The two were walking out from Rain nightclub on 4th Street at around 2:45 a.m.

Because of the head trauma he sustained, Perry doesn't remember any of what happened next.

Deehring believes that they were walking near 7th Street and Red River Street (though he says it's possible they could have been a block or two away from that point) when a man walked past them and said a homophobic slur to them.

"I hate that word," Perry interjected. "I'm not going to have someone walk all over me, but that also doesn't warrant getting punched in the face or having a broken nose."

Deehring recalls making a retort back to the man, saying something like "I'm sorry I couldn't hear you."

Then he said that man called over to his group of friends who were out of sight, motioned for them to come over, and within a few seconds, the group was following Deehring and Perry as they walked to their car.

"They started following behind us pretty closely yelling every expletive you can think of," Deehring said. "The last thing I said to one of the guys before they attacked both of us was like, 'I don't have anything more to say to you guys, we're just going home, leave us alone.'"

That's when Deehring said one of the men punched Perry in the face, breaking his nose and causing him to fall to his knees. Next, he recalls two other men stepped in and hit Perry again until he was laying on the ground. Then, Deehring said another man kicked Perry in the back of the head.

Deehring said he immediately tried to tackle the men who were attacking his boyfriend.

"That was my first reaction, was to stop them from kicking him because he couldn't receive one more blow to the head or he may well have been dead," he said.

But Deehring said he was knocked unconscious by the men punching him.

A bystander called 911 and waited there until police and EMS arrived, which Deehring estimates took more than 20 minutes. Both Deehring and Perry were hospitalized.

"If the bystander had not been there [the attackers] may have continued, it may have been much worse," Deehring said.

The couple believes that their attackers were set off by seeing them holding hands.

Perry has a laceration on the back of his head, his nose is broken,  he has swelling in his face up to his cheekbones, his lip is busted, his teeth are chipped, he has neck and upper back pain and his memory has some lapses.

Perry was planning to take the state board exam for his cosmetology license this week, now he fears he will have to delay it. He was rehospitalized Sunday morning after his bleeding continued and symptoms persisted but he has since been discharged.

Deehring has swelling to his mouth and jaw as well as lacerations on his forehead that required skin glue. He also thinks he has bruising from blows to the back of his head and neck.

Both Perry and Deehring have difficulty chewing and are experiencing pain.

"It shouldn't happen to anyone else, and it breaks my heart that it's probably going to [keep happening] until these guys are caught," Perry said.

"Living in Corpus Christi and moving to Austin,  I thought, 'Oh everyone is going to be so open-minded,'" Perry said. "I think that a lot of people think that and it's overlooked that this could happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime."


A photo of Tristan Perry in the hospital, he says he and his boyfriend were attacked while holding hands in downtown Austin. Photo Courtesy Spencer Deehring. 
Anna Nguyen, the president of the Austin chapter of PFLAG, told KXAN Sunday she sees this attack as "alarming."

In her 26 years living in Austin, she recalls many attacks on LGBTQIA individuals.

"But it feels as if lately the frequency has ratcheted up quite a bit," she said.

"I think Austin as a community needs to step up its game and prove its one of the most LGBTQIA friendly cities in the country by deeds and not just by words," she said.

She hopes that APD can quickly make headway on finding the person who attacked Perry and Deehring. Nguyen added that in the meantime there are many LGBTQIA groups in Austin that victims of attacks can turn to for support. The couple says they have filed a police report and KXAN is waiting to hear back from Austin police and Austin-Travis County EMS for their records on the case.

In the last few months KXAN has spoken with Austin Police several times about the crimes they see downtown, Assistant Chief Justin Newsom told KXAN that the most common type of calls APD officers responds to downtown are "disturbances" or fights. He estimates around one happens every day and that these calls often involve people who are intoxicated. Newsom told KXAN in December and Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday reiterated in January that they feel more officers are needed to meet the growing number of demands downtown.

While Perry and Deehring wait to hear from an APD detective, they are trying to encourage others to be cautious when out at night and not to travel alone.

"If he wasn't there I don't know that I would still be here today," Perry said looking at Deehring.

They decided to share what happened to them over Facebook for the benefit of others who may have gone through something similar but might not feel comfortable talking about it.

"We want people to understand that it is possible for this to happen, it's not something where you could say its 2019, this doesn't happen anymore, we are living proof of it," Deehring said.

Deehring explained that in sharing about this attack, he also came out to his loved ones about his sexuality. Both he and his boyfriend said they were grateful for the outpouring of support they've received since.

They have a message they want to share:

"Spread love, end all this hatred, end all this closed-mindedness always watch your surroundings, always be aware of your surroundings, don't walk alone," Perry said.

"Be aware of your surroundings, but don't change who you are as a person, don't ever change who you are as a person and don't be afraid to go out there and explore the world, just as you are," Deehring said. "We're gonna do that too."

The couple explained that while this attack has rocked them, they plan to continue going out in public and being affectionate in public.

They have created a GoFundMe page for their medical expenses, which you can find here.

A photo of Tristan Perry and Spencer Deehring. Photo Courtesy Spencer Deehring.
Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

January 12, 2019

Some Gay Men and Women Detained in Chechnya

Several people have been recently detained in Russia's Chechnya region on suspicion of being gay, in a throwback to an earlier crackdown, activists said on Friday.
The reports come a year and a half after more than 100 gay men in Chechnya were arrested and subjected to torture, and some of them were killed, according to activists. Chechen authorities never admitted their role in the well-documented abuse, and federal authorities conducted a probe that did not produce any findings to back up the reports. 
 Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which broke the news of the crackdown in 2017, earlier on Friday reported renewed persecutions of gay people in Chechnya.
'I Want Justice': Victim of Chechnya's 'Hunt for Gays' Comes Forward 
Russian authorities kept denying that the killings and torture took place in the predominantly Muslim region where homosexuality is a 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, and kept in custody for two weeks, where he was repeatedly beaten. He was let go after he signed a statement acknowledging 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 who hails from Siberia, was the first to file a complaint with Russian authorities over the wave of arrests of gay people.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last month called on Russia to investigate the reports, and Lapunov's case specifically.

November 2, 2018

Tanzania Putting Out Surveillance Squads to Hunt Down Gays

President Magufuli said that a list of 200 suspects had already been drawn up thanks to public tip offs
President Magufuli said that a list of 200 suspects had already been drawn up thanks to public tip-offs CREDIT:  THOMAS MUKOYA/ REUTERS
Residents in Tanzania’s biggest city have been urged to inform on neighbors and friends ahead of a police operation to hunt down and jail homosexuals.
A 17-member committee appointed by Paul Makonda, Dar es Salaam’s powerful regional commissioner, will attempt to identify all gay men living in the coastal city after it first convenes next Monday.
Mr Makonda, a close ally of Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, said that a list of 200 suspects had already been drawn up thanks to public tip-offs and a trawl through Tanzanians’ social media accounts.
“I have information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province,” he told reporters. “These homosexuals boast on social networks. Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”

Homosexuality is not strictly illegal in Tanzania. Sodomy, however, carries a sentence of between 30 years and life in prison, while other sexual acts between consenting men also carry jail terms.
Tanzania was seen until recently as more tolerant of homosexuals than neighboring countries, but the atmosphere has chilled since Mr. Magufuli became president in 2015. Last year he announced the closure of AIDS clinics after accusing them of promoting homosexuality. 
Mr. Makonda, a devout Christian who has long railed against gay Tanzanians, is one of the country’s most powerful figures and is viewed as increasingly untouchable.
Last year he stormed a private television station at the head of a group of armed officers after it declined to broadcast material allegedly incriminating one of his critics in an affair. President Magufuli then sacked the information minister for investigating the raid.
Mr. Makonda has also used his role as the government’s chief representative in Dar es Salaam to champion a clampdown on free speech, instructing police to arrest anyone who “insults” political leaders.
Acknowledging the potential for a backlash from the West if homosexuals are detained en masse, Mr. Makonda said: “I prefer to anger these countries than to anger God.”
Britain, which will give Tanzania £153m in direct aid this year, is one of Tanzania’s largest bilateral donors.
The clampdown comes after the arrest on Thursday of Zitto Kabwe, arguably the country’s best-known opposition leader, after he accused security forces of killing as many as 100 people in clashes with cattle herders in Tanzania’s west. Mr. Kabwe was denied bail and is being held in custody.

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