New Anti-LGBT Purge Alleged in Chechnya

Ramzan Kadryov, the leader of Chechnya, pictured in 2018 (Wikimedia Commons).

Ramzan Kadryov, the leader of Chechnya, pictured in 2018 (Wikimedia Commons).

Chechnya, a republic within Russia which is known for its repression of LGBT people, launched a new campaign against suspected LGBT individuals within the republic as 2018 came to an end, according to Russian LGBT activists.

News of Chechen homophobic human rights violations first arose in 2017 when Russian opposition paper Novaya Gazeta reported on the violence. This period of purges resulted in countless extrajudicial kidnappings and incidents of torture, as well as the murders of at least three suspected gay men.

When questioned about these allegations in an interview, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that “we don’t have any gays [in Chechnya]” and asked that those who remain be taken to Canada. Although around 150 gay men were evacuated from Chechnya that year, attention shifted away from the republic as reports died down.

However, in early January, details of a new anti-gay purge in Chechnya emerged. According to the Russian LGBT Network, this new wave of arrests began following the arrest of an administrator of a pro-LGBT VKontakte page in late December 2018. VKontakte is one of the most popular social media sites in Russia and is comparable to Facebook.

Since then, activists from the LGBT Network told the Moscow Times that more than 40 people had been detained and at least two killed. Other reports suggest that up to 20 people may have been killed in the last month alone.

In addition to violence at the hands of the state, police have also encouraged families to conduct honor killings of their allegedly gay relatives and document proof of their murders. At least one detainee was held on ransom, with police requesting one million rubles from the family in exchange for keeping their relative’s sexuality secret.

Kadyrov’s press secretary Alvi Karimov referred to the allegations as “untruth and misinformation,” claiming that only official prisons exist in Chechnya.

Chechnya’s information minister added that newspapers are profiting off of “the words ‘Chechen’ and ‘gay’ [appearing] next to each other.” He also claimed that non-Chechens may be buying Chechen passports in order to make obtaining asylum easier, despite the fact that authorities have reportedly confiscated detainees’ documentation to prevent fleeing.

In an official statement, Robert Palladino of the U.S. State Department called on Russia to “launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses,” while the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office described the revelations as “appalling.”

Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Russia will address this issue. Kadyrov controls Chechnya largely without Russian oversight in exchange for keeping Islamic terrorism at bay, and uses his influence with Russian Muslims to sway Russian leadership. When reports of abuse came out in 2017, Russia refused to open an investigation into the case of Maxim Lapunov, the only victim to speak out publicly, who was allegedly held and beaten for 12 days.