One of the men detained by authorities in Chechnya for allegedly being gay, has just been kidnapped by his own father and men who looked like police in St Petersburg, Russia.
Zelimkhan Akhmadov, 20, had escaped to Russia after Chechen authorities detained him multiple times in the region’s anti-gay purge.
In April last year, Russian news site Novaya Gazeta broke the news that Chechen authorities were detaining, torturing and executing suspected gay men.
Novaya Gazeta also broke the news of Zelimkhan’s kidnapping.
Zelimkhan escaped Chechnya after he faced repeated arrests, beatings, extortion and pressure to ‘out’ his friends. After his escape, Chechen authorities put him on a federal wanted list.
The young man was also in danger from his family who had been instructed to murder Zelimkhan in an ‘honor killing’.
The first attempt to kidnap Zelimkhan happened in April this year. Some of his family and Chechen police tried to kidnap him, but he managed to escape. But his kidnappers stabbed a friend Zelimkhan was staying with.
After that he went to the Russian LGBT Network for help, which put him in to a safe house. But when he took the garbage out on Friday (13 July) a group of people, including his father forced him into a car.
According to witnesses, Zelimkhan screamed for help that he was being kidnapped. He managed to send a short text message saying ‘help me’ to a member of the Russian LGBTI Network.
The Network has called on St Petersburg police to open an investigation into the young man’s kidnapping. Advocates also appealed to the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation for help.
A few days after his kidnapping, local police arrested a group of people on suspicion of Zelimkhan’s kidnapping. Police detained the group and also Zelimkhan at the local station. Representatives of the Russian LGBT Network and a lawyer are accompanying him at the police station.
Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization that advocates for democracy and human rights spoke out against Zelimkhan’s kidnapping.
‘The persecution of the Chechen LGBT community is tragically far from over,’ said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House.
‘Like many others, Zelimkhan fled Chechnya after being repeatedly detained and beaten by local authorities because of his perceived sexual orientation.
‘Given the lack of a credible investigation by the Russian authorities, Freedom House echoes the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution of June 27, urging the international community to press for an independent investigation into these atrocities committed by the Chechen authorities.’
Chechnya’s anti-gay purge started in December 2016 and since then it is estimated about 120 men have fled Chechnya. But countless others faced detention in ‘gay concentration camps’, torture, and in some cases, execution.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has denied that gay people even exist in Chechnya. He also denies the atrocities committed against suspected gay men.
‘They are devils. They are for sale,’ he said in an interview last year.
‘They’re not people.’
But he told Chechens who have suspected gay relatives to ‘send them to the address from which one does not return’.
‘If we have [gay] people here, I’m telling you officially their relatives won’t let them be because of our faith, our mentality, customs, traditions,’ Kadyrov said.
‘Even if it’s punishable under the law, we would still condone it.’