A Toronto-based charity is helping to grant asylum to gay and bi men facing horrendous persecution in Chechnya.
In partnership with the Russian LGBT Network, Canadian charity Rainbow Railroad said it’s helped 35 men escape Chechnya, with 31 settled in Canada.
Rainbow Railroad executive director Kimahli Powell said: ‘We have been working on a program with the Canadian government that allowed the entry of persecuted LGBTI Chechens into the country,’ he told CBC News.
After reports of gay and bisexual men suffering government-led persecution, the Russian LGBT Network set up safe houses and communication channels for people in Chechnya wanting to flee. Then Rainbow Railroad helped them escape.
For three months, the Canadian government also led initiatives to grant asylum to the escapees.
Canadian charity calls for all hands on deck
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland decided to act after initial reports, even though it could cause great tension between Canada and Russia.
They initially kept the operation secret for the safety of the escapees, but Powell believes it’s important to speak out now.
He said: ‘We needed to be discreet about the program for as long as possible to maintain their safety.
‘We now have to focus on settlement and integration of these individuals. And it’s important that our community, who are concerned about them, know that they’re here, that they’re safe,’ he said.
He believes the new arrivals need help with employment, language training and counselling. This is difficult if no one knows about the secret operation.
Gay and bi persecution: A background
Reports of persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya surfaced in December of last year.
In a new video, the Russian LGBT Network reveals what exactly happened to the captured men.
Chechen officials are locking up LGBTI people and horrifically torturing them. Then they tell their families to turn on them and kill them, or the government will step in.
It’s now thought over 200 are victims of the ‘anti-LGBT purge’ with at least 20 dead.
The Human Rights Campaign also released a 42-page report on the persecution of gay men in Chechnya based on interviews with 6 victims.
The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov believes gay people are ‘devils’ and they are not people. He actually urged all of the gay people in the Russian-state to flee to Canada.
Kadyrov said: ‘We don’t have those kinds of people here.
‘We don’t have any gays.
‘If there are any, take them to Canada.
‘Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them,’ he said.
When pressed on the matter further, he continued: ‘They are devils. They are for sale.
‘They are not people.
‘God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the Almighty for this,’ Kadyrov said.