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Chechnya’s gay purge: A timeline of the atrocities

Chechnya’s gay purge: A timeline of the atrocities

Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov

The world has been aware for the last couple of years that LGBT people in Chechnya face arrest and persecution. But what exactly is happening in the region and why? Below are some of the key details and facts.

Where is Chechnya?

Chechnya, or the Chechen Republic, is a subject of the Russian Federation located in the North Caucasus region. It has a population of 1.4 million and the capital is Grozny. The main religion is Islam and people mainly speak Chechen and Russian.

Its president is Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been in power since 2007. He tends to rule the country in accordance with traditional Islamic social codes, even if these contravene Russian law.

Chechnya relies on Russia for federal assistance, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has often turned a blind eye to Kadyrov’s human rights abuses or failed to act.

What’s Chechnya’s relationship to Russia?

There has been much friction between the two regions in recent years, with two Russian-Chechen wars in the 1990s. Russia took control of Grozny in 2000 and subsequent Chechen leaders attained power with the tacit approval of Moscow.

However, Chechen rebels continued to undertake terrorist attacks in their bid to advance their cause.

These include an attack by Chechen rebels on a Russian theatre in Moscow in 2002, during which they take 900 people hostage. When Russian special forces pumped an unknown aerosol into the theatre to try and incapacitate the rebels, 117 die (including 50 rebels).

Another terrorist attack involved a school occupation for three days. Rebels took over 1,100 people hostage, including 777 children at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. On that occasion, 331 people, including 186 children, died.

Ramzan Kadyrov came to power in 2007, following in the footsteps of his father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Kadyrov Snr, a former Chechen President, was assassinated in 2004.

Corruption, gay persecution and poor human rights records accompany Ramzan Kadyrov’s reign. However, to Russia’s approval, he has forcefully clamped down on Chechen rebels wanting Chechen independence.

Donate: Our Chechnya Crisis Appeal is raising funds to support the Russian LGBT Network help evacuate LGBTI people

When did Chechnya begin its persecution of gay people?

December 2016

Russian LGBT Network starts receiving calls from persecuted Chechens. It begins its own investigations into what is happening there.

April 2017

Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta publishes story outlining details of the gay purge. Ramzan Kadyrov denies it’s happening, claiming gay people don’t ‘exist’ in Chechnya.

Details of the atrocities begin to emerge. These include a man strapped to a homemade electric chair and beaten with a hose. Others are tortured to reveal the names of gay contacts.

Further investigations reveal Chechen authorities have opened up ‘concentration camps’ for gay men. About 100 men were rounded up in the first wave of persecution. It’s believed Chechen authorities set up six concentration camps across Chechnya. The main one is in Argun.

UN Ambassador for the US, Nikki Haley speaks out against the atrocities. So does Hillary Clinton, who urges President Donald Trump to act.

Human rights advocates identify four gay men have disappeared, suspected killed. Despite this, Kadyrov does not waver in his condemnation of gay people. He vows to ‘eliminate’ all gay men by the end of May.

A placard at a Chechnya protest in London, April 2017, targeting Russian President Putin for his inaction
A placard at a Chechnya protest in London, April 2017, targeting Russian President Putin for his inaction (Photo: David Hudson)

Family honor killings

May 2017

Russian police detain ten protestors in St Petersburg. They took to the streets to demonstrate against the atrocities.

Testimonies from gay men reveal the extent of the atrocities. Authorities would bring families of the men to the concentration camps and order them to kill them.

Others were released back to their families. However, the families are instructed to take it upon themselves to stop the men bringing shame upon them. Reports emerge of men being killed by relatives to preserve ‘family honor’.

One family in Chechnya push 17-year-old boy off a ninth story balcony for being gay.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel asks Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to end the gay purge.

Putin bows to public pressure and calls from the human rights ombudsman to investigate the atrocities.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May speaks out against atrocities in letter to an MP.

Five Russian LGBT activists arrested and detained after attempting to deliver a petition with 2 million signatures to the Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow.

Chechen government wants to sue Novaya Gazeta for publishing the initial report about the anti-gay purge.

Three French LGBTI groups file a complaint against Chechnya with the International Criminal Court.

Other countries begin to grant asylum to gay Chechens

Lithuania believed to be first country to grant asylum to gay men escaping Chechnya.

Chechen authorities move 42 suspected gay men from their Argun detainment camp to an unknown location.

Human Rights Watch publish a detailed, 42-page report on the persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

French President Emmanuel Macron presses Putin on the gay purge, and Putin promises again to investigate.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov invites Macron and Merkel to Chechnya to ‘investigate the truth’.

Germany and France grant asylum to a small number of Chechens, while the Australian government calls out the atrocities in its Senate.

Lord Michael Cashman and actor Ian McKellen at a protest outside the Russia Embassy in London, June 2017
Lord Michael Cashman and actor Ian McKellen at a Chechnya protest outside the Russia Embassy in London, June 2017 (Photo: David Hudson)

June 2017

World gets first glimpse into the concentration camps. Authorities start rounding up more suspected gay men.

July 2017

The names of 27 men executed in Chechnya are released, with six believed to have been executed because of their perceived sexuality.

Lesbians and bi people become a target as well, and the US State Department labels the reports of the purge ‘upsetting and disturbing’.

September 2017

It emerges Canada granted asylum to at least 31 LGBTI Chechens escaping persecution.

Pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev disappears 

October 2017

Maxim Lapunov becomes first gay purge survivor to speak out publicly, while local pop singer, Zelimkhan Bakaev, goes missing and is feared murdered.

US bans Ramzan Kadyrov, freezes his financial assets and imposes travel ban on him.

December 2017

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tells Russian counterpart the UK can’t ignore what’s going on in Chechnya anymore.

April 2018

New website emerges inspired by Chechnya’s anti-gay purge and calls on people to target gay men in homophobic attacks.

May 2018

Russia tells UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that gay people don’t exist in Chechnya.

New arrests and detentions in Chechnya reported

December 2018

OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) releases damning report confirming the atrocities and implicating high ranking Chechen officials in carrying out the torture.

Chechen authorities begin rounding up more gay men and women this time. They place an estimated 40 individuals into detention.

January 2019

Public becomes aware of latest purge. Russian LGBT Network says it believes two people have been tortured to death, and women also sexually assaulted as part of the ongoing persecution.

As well as using our investigative journalism to keep you informed about what’s happening on-the-ground as it happens; we’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Crisis Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Please also share our appeal with your followers, friends and family; ensuring we raise awareness and apply pressure to permanently end this abuse.

See also

This is what it’s like to be tortured in a Chechnya gay concentration camp

Human rights group reveals details of ‘gruesome ordeal’ facing gay men in Chechnya