40 men may have fled the detention centre where people are being murdered, but they can’t get visas out of the country – here’s how you can help
Despite hundreds of thousands of people across the world calling for an investigation into the horrific purge of gay men in Chechnya, the destiny of hundreds of those still locked in Chechen prisons remains unknown. Last week Angela Merkel raised the crisis with Putin during her recent visit to Moscow. Putin responded by supporting the ongoing official investigation, but it seems it’s had little to no impact.
“Inside Russia, Putin’s promises have brought no results yet, unfortunately,” a press officer for the Russian LGBT Network (who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons) told Dazed. “The horrors of mass pressure and detentions are still going on in Chechnya”.
In her recent interview with Dazed, Elena Milashina, the journalist who broke the story, confirmed that detentions and torture are still continuing in Chechnya, despite an international outcry and an investigation carried out by the Investigatory Committee in Russia. “We still do not know the real scale of these abductions,” she said, stressing that she believes the real number of victims to be a lot higher than reported.
Speaking to Dazed, representatives from the Russian LGBT Network supported these concerns: "“From the moment we learned about the torture and abuse over 80 people came to us via our hotline. Today 40 of them have been rescued and removed from Chechnya. They were provided with housing, documents as well as the much needed psychological help, which is extremely important”.
“Putin’s promises have brought no results yet...the horrors of mass pressure and detentions are still going on in Chechnya” – unnamed source from Russian LGBT Network
However, what is critical at the moment is making sure that those who escaped actually remain out of danger. As many victims report, once they are out of detention the risk of being prosecuted and killed by their community and even their parents is very high. It is equally high even when they remain elsewhere in Russia.
Last week foreign ministers of the UK, France, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden appealed to Vladimir Putin, demanding a full-scale investigation into the crimes, but almost none of the victims were able to receive visas to escape Russia into the safety of another country.
“That’s why we are continuously calling for people outside of Russia not only to organize local protests and actions in front of the Russian Embassies, but also reach out to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in your countries to let them know that these people need help with visas,” says Russian LGBT Network. “It is very important, since we are talking about not only discrimination, but the actual murder of these people. They need to run away.”
How can you help?
As activist Igor Yasin states in his petition, it is critical to continue pushing foreign ministries. He writes: “Please reach out to your Foreign Ministry in your country. It is VERY important that these Chechen men get visas, because they need to leave the country. As far as we know only few managed to leave so far. Find your Foreign Ministry here, go to their contact page and ask them to make sure they give free and easy visas to these men”.
Today, 1 million signatures will be delivered to the Prosecutor General's Office in Moscow, uniting the voices of those who came to support the LGBT community in Chechnya via Change.org, Avaaz and AllOut.