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LGBTQ protest for Chechnya
photography Nick DeLieto

A new wave of anti-LGBTQ abuse is happening in Chechnya

Men are being detained, starved and beaten

A new report has detailed that gay and bisexual men are facing a new wave of beating and illegal detainment at the hands of police in Chechnya. The report, released by Human Rights Watch, highlights the third crackdown in two years in the Russian region.

Activists from the Russian LGBT Network say that at least 23 men were detained between December 2018 to April 2019 on the basis of their presumed homosexuality. Detainees are said to have been subject to torture which includes kicking and electric shocks, and one man was reportedly raped with a stick. Police have also seized detainees cellphones and forced them to out other gay men they know.

These horrifying reports come against a backdrop of abuse against sexual minorities in Chechnya. In 2017, an “anti-gay purge” saw hundreds of men detained and tortured, placing Chechenya’s abysmal human rights record under global scrutiny. 

While Human Rights Watch said that these persecutions were not sanctioned by Chechen authorities, as they had been with the events of 2017, they also said it’s clear that “the police involved felt at liberty” to hold and torture people unlawfully.

Same-sex activity is not illegal in Russia, but a 2013 rights act banning what it considers to be the promotion of homosexuality has created fertile ground for abuse against members of the LGBT community.

When allegations first emerged about anti-LGBTQ activity, Chechen authorities denied that any persecution is taking place. Dzhambulat Umarov, the minister of information, called the claims “utter crap”. Then, back when reports first surfaced, a spokesperson refuted the allegations by denying the existence of gay Chechens altogether saying: “You can’t detain and harass someone who doesn’t exist in the republic.” 

“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.”

The Russian justice ministry investigated claims of Chechnya torture in May 2018, and reported that not only did it find no abuse against LGBTQ people, but also that no LGBTQ people existed in the region. It regurgitated a claim from the region’s leader Kadyrov, that the abuse was made up by LGBTQ activists in a bid to win grants.

The Russian LGBT Network says that since the story of the purge in Chechnya broke in April 2017, more than 150 LGBTQ people have left the area, and more than a dozen are currently under the organisation’s protection.