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Gay refugees from Chechnya still scared for their lives

Gay refugees from Chechnya still scared for their lives

Protestors demonstrated against Chechnya's persecution of gay men

A human rights advocate has shared the heartbreaking reality of Chechen refugees who still don’t feel safe, even though they’ve escaped certain persecution.

It was revealed earlier this year the gay and bisexual men were being detained, tortured and in some cases killed in Chechnya.

A number of countries agreed to take in refugees including, Lithuania, France, Germany and Canada.

But for two Chechen men they do not feel safe even in their new home in a bustling living in Western European metropolis.

Bula and Zelim* are in their early twenties. They met with Boris Dittrich, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Advocacy Director, of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program.

‘We were abducted, tortured in Grozny (Chechnya’s capital). The police extorted us for money because we are gay. They threatened to disclose our sexual orientation to our families. We paid them a lot to avoid that,’ the men told Dittrich.

They had manage to escape Chechnya before this year’s purge against gay men.

Bula showed Dittrich of photo of himself with a broken nose and a black eye. But even in Western Europe, the men are not safe from those who want to hurt them.

‘This happened in Moscow where I was hiding after I fled from Grozny. I was attacked by two Chechens who came to look for me. After that I escaped to Western Europe in 2016,’ Bula said.

‘A few days ago, the police came to my parent’s house in Chechnya. They demanded that I come back. If not, they said they would return to take revenge and arrest my father. Arrest means torture or worse.’

Wanted men

Even though they escaped Chechnya, the authorities could still fined them.

‘We received text messages from people we met only once or twice in Grozny,’ Bula said.

‘They say they want to meet with us here in this country or elsewhere in Western Europe. But we suspect they want to trick us and abduct us to Chechnya.’

Bula explained the Chechen authorities will not stop until the men are punished for seeking asylum. Even if it means death at the hands of their own families.

‘We violated the honour and reputation of our country by asking for asylum based on our sexual orientation and now they want to punish us,’ he said.

‘If not the government, then our families are expected to kill us. This happened to some of our friends.’

Zelim simply said: ‘I miss my mother.’

*not their real names