A lesbian who escaped the ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya has bravely shared her story, even though it could get her killed.
The woman – who remains anonymous for her safety – shared the horrors of growing up LGBTI in Chechnya and how she wasn’t even safe from her own family.
In early 2017 the world started learning how Chechnya – a region in the north Caucasus of Russia – had started rounding up, detaining, torturing and executing men because of their real or perceived sexual identity.
But in 2018 Chechen authorities turned their sights onto lesbians and trans people.
‘In two years, we were approached by 37 girls who position themselves as lesbians, and two transgender women from the republics of the North Caucasus,’ said Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBTI Network.
‘Also in 2018, we began to receive reports of girls being detained by the police on suspicion of homosexuality. According to reports from Chechnya, there are girls among those detained in December to January.’
Chechen authorities denied the claims, saying gay people don’t exist in Chechnya.
Not even safe from family
The lesbian who escaped Chechnya told news agencey current time that her ex-girlfriend outed her to her family. Even though she ran away from home twice, on of her brothers tracked her down.
‘One of my brothers came for me, and we went home. My mother was unhappy with this. She told my brother: “Why did you bring her home? You should have shot her somewhere in the forest, as we agreed”,’ the woman said.
‘But my brother did not do it – my father forbade him to do it.’
Kochetkov said the Russian LGBT Network had received many reports of ‘honor killings’ of women who had relationships with other women in Chechnya.
Her parents tried to send her to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and told her the demon, Jinn, had possessed her. So they sent her to a local mosque to undergo an exorcism to expel it.
‘We all understood that there was no Jinn in me, but I had to pretend and pretend that it actually existed,’ she said.
‘I pretended, my parents believed me, but after a few months I ran away again. And then I turned for help to the Russian LGBT Network to help me, hid me. It was 2017.’
No one cares if a lesbian is killed, says persecuted lesbian
Six months after her second escape to Russia, the woman managed to leave the country altogether. But she said not so many women in Chechnya are as lucky as her.
‘There are those who are still in Chechnya and [for various] reasons cannot leave there,’ she said.
‘This is especially true for girls. It is much harder for them to do this, because they are controlled: they cannot quietly leave the house, so that someone does not accompany them. Therefore, their evacuation is quite difficult to arrange.’
The woman said more men have been detained in Chechnya because ‘girls almost always go out to the street accompanied’ by a family member.
She also said many people who had escaped Russia are still to afraid to speak out, even if it is anonymously. But she chose to do an interview because ‘the less we talk about it, the less something will change’.
‘I would like people to talk about the problems that exist, and also talk about the problems of [Chechen lesbians], because no one notices women,’ she said.
‘If they kill a gay, everyone talks about it. But if a lesbian is killed, almost no one writes about it.
‘A woman [can] be taken out to the forest, killed, come home and pretend that there was nothing. And not a single neighbor, not a single relative will ask.’
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.