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photography Bex Wade

Anti-LGBT persecution is happening again in Chechnya

40 people have been detained and two are dead in a new crackdown – here’s what you can do to help

Human rights defenders are reporting new arrests and cases of torture of LGBT men and women in Chechnya, Russia. According to the Russian LGBT Network, Chechen authorities have detained around 40 people and at least two people have already been confirmed dead since end of December.

This is the second wave of mass abductions by the Chechen authorities. In April 2017, 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, investigated that hundreds of men and women aged 16 to 30 were arrested and physically abused, with hundreds missing or turning up dead as the result of the crackdown. Novaya also confirmed that the Chechen enforcement agencies that abducted men have been 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.

Igor Kochetkov of the LGBT Network tells Dazed that, similar to the events of last year, it is still impossible to name the precise number of victims, however, they can confirm the death of at least two victims that have resulted from torture.

“We know that the detentions are conducted by the law enforcement officers, and the victims are detained in Argun (an illegal prison investigated previously for allegations on mass torture of LGBT population). The local police makes every effort to prevent victims from leaving the region or applying to the courts in the future. They take away documents, they threat the victims with the criminal proceedings against them or their close ones, and they force them to sign empty forms”.

The recent crackdown allegedly started at the end of December 2018, after the detention of an organiser of an VKontakte group, a messenging service where gay men from the region connect and chat. This then led to their identification and arrests of more men related to the group. 

On Monday (January 14), a spokesperson for the Chechen government told the Kremlin-backed RT that the allegations from the activist group were “lies”. “If even a single person were arrested, let alone 40, the entire Chechen public would have known. The claim that two were killed is even more absurd,” Alvi Kraimov said.

Between April 2017 and 2018, the Russian LGBT Network evacuated over 150 people out of Chechnya and the surrounding region, with around 130 people found sanctuary out of Russia. In December last year, an OSCE report confirmed the Chechen government’s involvement in committing torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations. In Russia, the investigation carried out by the government is yet to officially come to a conclusion. 

“They threw me to the floor and beat me,” a victim of the previous crackdown told Human Rights Watch. “They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor. One of them said: ‘Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that’. They addressed me with female pronouns and demanded that I tell them the names of other gay people I knew. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t.”

report by Human Rights Watch at the time detailed horrific living conditions for detainees, beaten, shocked, and forced to sleep for only three hours on a concrete floor with no access to bathrooms.

“Many LGBTI people in Russia are still traumatized by the 2017 purge which saw dozens of gay men in Chechnya abducted and tortured and others killed. News that the authorities have resumed the crackdown is absolutely spine-chilling,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

“With lives in jeopardy, there is an urgent need for an international response to protect gay and lesbian people in Chechnya.”

Here are four things you can do to help.


Over 500,000 people are demanding for an immediate and full investigation into the mass murder and abductions of LGBT people in Chechnya. 


Find the contact information of the Russian embassy in your country, and send them a quick email demanding the immediate investigation of all crimes committed by the Chechen authorities against LGBT people. Feel free to show them the petition you had signed. Remember to be respectful, but firm. You can look back at last year’s protest outside the London Russian embassy calling for worldwide action on the persecution of LGBT people here.


The Network continues to receive calls for help from Chechnya and the region. They have already helped hundreds to relocate and stay safe, but then can do more if they had more resources. You can help by donating here.


Share this article, repost the petition, speak to other grassroots LGBT organisations. Every voice matters. Last year, the abductions were stopped and full investigations started only because people like you spoke up.