LGBT community worldwide raises funds to get Chechen gays to safety
News broke two weeks ago with details on illegal detentions, murders and tortures of homosexuals in Chechnya’s illegal detention centers, causing a wide public response around the world. The international organization All Out united to rescue Chechen gays.
All Out and the Russian LGBT Network have launched a joint fund-raising campaign to help victims of the “preventive cleansing" affected by the Chechen authorities and to get the remaining homosexual men out of the region.
“What is happening in Chechnya is outrageous. Our priority now is to help get as many people as possible to safety, before it’s too late,” said Matt Beard, Executive Director at All Out.
“Our team is doing everything possible and impossible to achieve that. And we want Russian officials to intervene, to stop the killing and to start proper investigations. There are no excuses for silence when people are being kidnapped, tortured and killed,” added Svetlana Zakharova, Communications manager at the Russian LGBT Network.
The crowdfunding campaign website is available at: allout.org/Chechnya.
Set-ups for gays
According to a number of sources, the Chechen authorities started a hunt for homosexuals, and those who have not come out yet, in December 2016. The CrimeRussia wrote before that the roundups on gays in Chechnya had been a governmental initiative from the very beginning.
LGBT people were caught with the use of set-ups, when personal ads were posted on social networks luring homosexual people. Those who responded were kidnapped and tortured. They were forced to turn in other gays they knew, then the authorities detained every men they saw in the phonebook. The first-wave detainees were released one by one in January, after that many left the republic. However, a month later, a second wave of repression began and was even bigger, sometimes going so far as to kill the men.
Russian LGBT network have reported at least three murders of homosexual men so far, a few people have disappeared. Those who managed to escape say that the missing men most likely have been killed by their relatives. They say that the secret prisons give gay prisoners back into their families only on the condition that they would kill their relative themselves, which is called a "murder of honor."
The secret prisons where at least 100 homosexual men are kept illegally, are in Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt, according to the fugitives. Apart from the local home ministry, SOBR Terek fighters and “oil regiment" servicemen presently under Rosgvardia, are involved in the round-ups of gays. According to the sources, Chechen Parliament Speaker Magomed Daudov (call sign "Lord") and the head of the local Ministry of Internal Affairs Argun Ayub Kataev personally supervise the repressions against homosexuals.
Hematoma after tortures in prison
In addition to the crowdfunding campaign to evacuate Chechen gays, All Out made a petition to Russian President Vladimir Putin that has been signed by 75.000 LGBT members around the world. The paper will be sent to the president once it reaches 80.000 signatures, All Out reported in a press release that they sent to the CrimeRussia.
The people urge the Head of state to “immediately investigate these atrocious crimes and to bring to justice all those responsible for the arrests, torture, and killings of gay men in Chechnya”.
Earlier, the same call had come from Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the US State Department, the Foreign Ministries of Great Britain and Germany, the human rights organization Amnesty International and the Human Rights Council (HRC) under the Russian President. Tatyana Moskalkova, the human rights ombudsman in Russia, appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation and to the Chechnya’s Prosecutor's Office requesting to verify information on kidnappings and killings of gays in the Republic.
Meanwhile, Chechen officials deny all the persecution reports, while highlighting their explicitly negative attitude towards non-traditional sexual minorities. For instance, the spokesman of the Chechen head Alvi Karimov said: "one cannot persecute someone who simply isn’t there," while HRO Kheda Saratova stated that she would not even consider a police statement about a homosexual homicide, because "homosexuality is a vice that every citizen of the republic will fight against." Later, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, the Human Rights Ombudsman for Chechnya, said the reports of mass detentions of homosexuals were "complete nonsense and an attempt to create a scandal defaming the Chechen society."
Information about the persecution of gay men aroused worldwide response. The US Department of State expressed concern about the situation in Chechnya, where there have been reports of repressions against men of unconventional sexual orientation. The Human Rights Council (HRC) under the President of Russia and the international human rights organization Amnesty International demanded that the authorities investigated allegations of the persecution of homosexuals. Then, Human Rights Commissioner for Russia Tatyana Moskalkova appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office and the Chechnya Prosecutor's Office to check the information about the kidnapping of gays in Chechnya.
Viktor Zakharchenko, who is accused of embezzlement of 4 million rubles (~70.000 USD) from the funds of the bank Moskovskoye Ipotechnoye Agentstvo (Moscow Mortgage Agency), was placed under house arrest.
Officer of the FSB in Moscow and the region Pyotr Koryugin participated in the extortion of 2 million rubles ($34.800) from an Azerbaijani citizen, and he warned a drug dealer about a forthcoming search for 300.000 rubles ($5200).