“Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere,” says Adam Eli, the founder of Voices4, the advocacy group out rallying in New York for LGBT Chechens.
It’s one year on from when news was first reported of the violence carried out against queer men at the hands of Chechen authorities. In the semi-autonomous Russian state, where its leader Ramzan Kadyrov branded LGBT people ‘devils’ or just completely nonexistent, dozens of men were detained, tortured, and extorted for their sexuality. According to the Russian LGBT Network, the organisation has evacuated over 100 people who have told horror stories of the goings on in Chechnya.
Voices4, the NY-based direct action advocacy group, staged a demonstration to call out the inaction by international governments at the weekend (April 28), with sister protests in Kentucky and the Netherlands. The action saw Voices4 members place pink silk hoods on the heads of other protesters, binding them together with a chain of rainbow LGBTQ flags to symbolise the anonymity of Chechen victims. Testimonies of survivors were read to the crowd, and chants began.
A digital protest also took place, as members flooded Grindr and Tinder with profiles of the hooded figures, including information on the goings on in Chechnya. This part of the protest reflected how dating apps were used to ensnare queer victims, in Chechnya and elsewhere.
Since last year, when first reports were made and corroborated, the group asserts that the U.S government and international communities haven’t done enough. Only one investigation has been carried out by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), which the Russian government has sole authority to release. According to Russia, the report found no confirmation of executions or punishment (while journalists and charities have found the opposite), but Voices4 demand and claim the report’s release is necessary to move forward. They also call for a third party investigation into the horrors of Chechnya, and for the authorities at fault to be brought to justice.
“This protest, and our group, carry a message of universal queer solidarity. We speak out because if the queer community doesn't stand up for its most marginalized members then nobody else will,” says Eli. “We speak out to push our beloved LGBTQIA+ movement forward. The moderate freedom SOME of us have right now in America does not give us license to stop fighting.”
Jason Rosenberg, an activist with ACT UP NY, said: “We’re here to remind folks, that we’re still fighting for our queer Chechen siblings one year later, and alike to our ancestors we’re fighting back and demanding accountability.”