Chechnya rounds up gays, "We got no choice but to kill you"
More victims of the homophobic campaign by Chechen security forces have confirmed the crimes against them and their friends.
New witnesses emerged to testify to torture and homicide of homosexuals in Chechnya. Svoboda Radio cited a source among Chechen gays sharing new stories of those who barely escaped death. All those who managed to escape are not in Chechnya at the moment, and still find it hard to trust anyone. They said that the gay roundups actually began in December 2016 instead of previously reported February 2017. They kept the unwanted people in Chechnya’s two secret prisons: in Argun and in Tsotsi-Yurt.
27-year-old Said (the names of all the people in the article have been changed) told that he was set up by people whom he had known for 1.5 years – it turned out that all that time they had audio and video recorded their conversations. According to him, the first victims of the raids got into prisons because of the same set-ups. Then, by torture and humiliation, security forces learned from them of other people of the republic's sex minorities. Of course, they checked all their ties through phones and social networks.
Said himself managed to escape. After he was blackmailed (they demanded 2.5 million rubles, that is $43,000) he sold his car and went first to Krasnodar and then to Moscow. In early 2017, he secretly came to Chechnya, and literally missed law enforcement officers by several hours as by then they knew everything and were looking for him.
After the early departure, his relatives started to call him and asked to return. Later, the security forces began to call too. After he refused to come back, they took his brother hostage.
Later, talking on the phone with his military relative, Said confessed his sexual identity, to which they replied that they had "no choice but to kill" him. Said never returned home. Today, he is in Europe and has no contacts with his family.
He heard about some of his friends and what happened to them. They turned out to be less fortunate than him, all detained. One of them, after returning from prison, turned in all his friends, but even after that he was not left alone: Said does not know what happened to him. Another 20 or 21-year-old guy was given back to his relatives only on the condition that they would kill him themselves.
Malik, another victim of the homophobic campaign, spent 10 days in prison. His description of what was happening there is similar to the stories of other prisoners whose testimonies were published earlier by Novaya Gazeta. According to him, gays (or suspects in homosexuality) were kept in a prison barrack together with "drug addicts" (most often the consumers of "Lyrika", drugs against epilepsy with narcotic properties), who helped the guards to beat the gays. "Drug addicts" were considered higher in status, so the gays were only allowed to sleep on the floor. Warm clothing was taken from them; they were fed by what remained after the "addicts". The law enforcement officers tried to obtain information from them about their gay acquaintances. During the interrogations, the same methods were used, beatings and torture by electricity.
According to Malik, the purpose of the "anti-gay" actions was not extortion of money, or their physical destruction. It was "prevention." All those taking part in it - police, investigators and military - demanded that the detainees do not "do it" anymore, Malik recalls. After some time, they were released, and soon he fled from Grozny. What happened to the other gay cellmates, he does not know: they all deleted their social accounts. However, Malik realized that one of them is dead by indirect signs: he read condolences to his family in a Chechen chat. Malik believes that his relatives, most likely, have killed him.
Another narrator named Hasan was the victim of a set-up last fall. In the social network VKontakte, he met a man and agreed to meet after a chat with him. When they met, he realized that the photos he had sent to him were not his, but did not think it was much of a deal, since this could be explained by precautionary measures, which is normal for Chechnya.
Hasan got into his car, and he brought him into the forest, where men in uniforms were already waiting for them. According to Hasan, the men in the uniforms were fighters of the SOBR Terek. They stripped him naked and began to beat filming everything on a phone. They broke his jaw; threatened that they would upload the video on the Internet. For their silence, they asked 300 thousand rubles. He found the money. There was no other way for him, as was confirmed by other Svoboda Radio sources. If his homosexuality would be made public, it would have most negative consequences for his entire family, as other relatives and friends would have turned their backs on them. Some family members would lose their jobs, girls from this kind of a family would hardly be able to get married, and if some of them were already married, then the husband's parents could bring the daughter-in-law back to her father's house, taking away the children.
We should remind that information about the persecution of gays and the reaction of official representatives of the Republic caused a wide response. The Human Rights Council (HRC) under the President of Russia and the international human rights organization Amnesty International have demanded that the authorities should investigate these facts. Then, the Russian human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office and the Chechnya’s Prosecutor's Office to check information about the kidnappings of gays in Chechnya. On 8 and 9 April, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain and Germany, as well as the US State Department, applied to Russia to ensure the safety of LGBT community representatives in the Caucasus Republic.
On September 21, kingpin Vladimir Vagin, aka Vagon, hanged himself. Two years earlier another thief in law Max Pioner also committed suicide. Vagon's lawyer does not believe in the version of suicide and intends to apply for a forensic medical examination.