The events of the last two weeks in the most controversial and oppressive region of Russia have left many activists and journalists in shock. According to various reports, including Human Rights Watch, hundreds of Chechen gay men have been captured, tortured and some even murdered for being homosexual or in any way associated with the LGBT community. Among them, religious leaders close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, TV celebrities and public people from Grozny and other cities.
Novaya Gazeta, a leading independent Russian newspaper, which in the last 15 years lost a number of its own journalists for their work on Chechnya, has conducted its own investigation, collecting many stories of witnesses and opening a hotline together with the Russian LGBT Network.
Within the investigation, sources from the Chechen enforcement agencies confirmed to Novaya that abducted men are kept in a prison in the Chechen town of Argun. There, in a concentration camp-like setting, the investigation claims, the men are repeatedly tortured so as to reveal names of other known gay people in the country. Needless to say, the Chechen authorities deny all of this, along with the very existence of any LGBT people in the republic.
According to human rights groups, it is not the first time the Chechen government has turned to mass abductions and torture or targeted people for their political beliefs, their fight against corruption or for speaking freely and openly. But it is one thing to denounce your beliefs because it might save you from lifelong detention; it is a different scenario to be homosexual, which calls for a death sentence.
“You can stop being a human rights defender, change your political views and even religion. But you can't change the colour of your skin or sexual nature”, says Elena Milashina in her Novaya Gazeta article. According to her, these men have nowhere to go to seek help in case of danger. Families tend not to speak up about any police abuse against their relatives once they find out their family member is gay. And of course honour killings, which are also widespread in Chechnya and often left uninvestigated, naturally makes the LGBT community a primary target.
These men are the most disempowered people in Russia today.
And just like many other cases, when the horrors of one man’s unlimited power threaten the most vulnerable people, the international community’s response is often the key to halting catastrophic consequences.
We, at Change.org, see this daily, and we know that people connecting and organising online from all over the world, united with a common goal to fight concrete cases of injustice, can achieve incredible things in literally hours. We believe anyone can be a part of important change anywhere in the world, and there is so much one can influence simply by tweeting or sending an email.
This is why I decided to share these 8 easy things you can do right now to help stop the torture of gay men in Chechnya.
SIGN THIS PETITION
Sign and share this Change.org petition of Igor Yasin, an LGBT activist in Russia, who is asking the Prosecutor General of Russia to immediately investigate mass abductions and torture of gay men in the Chechen Republic. Signing this petition will also help you stay up to date about the situation and further actions Igor will be organising on the ground.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Tweet to Prosecutor General at @Genproc and the Investigatory Committee of Russia at @sledcom_rf demanding to start an investigation into mass torture and murder of LGBT people in the Chechen Republic.
SUPPORT A HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Join Amnesty International's global campaign to stop abductions and torture of gay men in Chechnya.
PUT PRESSURE ON THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY
OFFER YOUR HELP TO LGBT MOVEMENTS IN RUSSIA
Reach out to the Russian LGBT Network via their hotline email address to see if there is any help needed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT YOUR UNITED NATIONS AMBASSADOR
LOBBY LGBT DATING APPS
Call on Grindr and Hornet to send an automated message to Russian users in the area warning them of potential risks to their personal safety.
KEEP UP MOMENTUM
Reach out to LGBT organisations in your country to see what they are doing on the ground on this issue and attend upcoming protests.