The Russian LGBT Network was not surprised the Chechen government started its persecution of gay men again.
A spokesperson for the Network told Gay Star News that the persecution likely slowed down during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. The international attention may have also been another reason.
‘Unfortunately I have to confirm this information and we are starting to get new requests on our hotline and people are contacting us saying that the situation is dangerous,’ the spokesperson said.
The Russian LGBT Network said it has become more efficient at helping men escape Chechnya.
‘We had to restart evacuation, we started on that from the beginning and we are able to work on evacuation from the region the next day after the first contact,’ they said.
‘So we are taking people out of Chechnya to some other regions of Russia and we are providing them with everything needed like accommodation, food, medical support, psychological support because almost all of them need it.
‘We try to relocate them to another country.’
Since the beginning of April, more than 120 people applied for emergency assistance through the Network’s hotline. The Network has interviewed the men and have first-hand accounts of how dire the situation is in Chechnya.
‘They are all telling horrible stories, many of them were arrested while at home or work or just on the street,’ the spokesperson said.
‘And then those people were taken to secret prisons and stayed there from like a few days to a few weeks. And all this time they were deprived of food and water.
‘They were beaten and tortured. Many were beaten with an electric current.
‘So all these stories are truly horrible and it’s just unbelievable these things are happening in Russia right now and the government doesn’t act at all.’
All LGBTI people are at risk
Men accused of being gay are at the most immediate risk of detainment and torture. But all LGBTI people in Chechnya face persecution.
‘Of course there are lesbians and transgender people in Chechnya like in all parts of the world,’ the Russian LGBTI Network spokesperson said.
‘Of course they are targeted, but there are different kinds of persecution.
‘Gay men who are taken to prisons, it was a kind of massive attack against those homosexual people. Homosexual women are treated differently.
‘So it’s considered that families should take responsibility for them, so there is a lot of domestic violence and we’ve heard there are a lot of honor killings of those lesbian women.’
More than 60 people have been evacuated from Chechnya and 27 of those have been moved out of Russia entirely.
While there was no other option for the men, leaving their families can be a harrowing experience.
‘When people contact us they know there is no way back, that after they’ve emigrated they can’t go back,’ the spokesperson said.
‘So they have to break all the relations with their families. For Chechen people, family is a very important issue, for them it’s a huge thing.’
The Russian LGBT Network has been working closely with All Out – an international LGBTI advocacy group.
The two organizations released a joint statement correcting media reports that 27 gay men had been executed in Chechnya.
The media reports followed Russia’s Novaya Gazeta’s decision to publish the names some of the men executed.
‘As far as the Russian LGBT Network and All Out know, the list of names that appeared in that publication does not include victims murdered because of their sexual orientation,’ they said in the statement.
‘So far, there is evidence of at least 6 gay men who died in the anti gay purge and the federal law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation continue to remain silent on the matter.”
In the meantime the two organizations are working on campaigns to support the gay men in Chechnya. They also want to ‘make sure sure that the crime against humanity that has been happening in Chechnya will be investigated, and those responsible will be held accountable’.