- Refugees explain how they fled the ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya and attack in Jamaica.
Refugees have shared their stories of fleeing the ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya and violence in Jamaica.
They are supporting the international organization that helped them flee to safety – Rainbow Railroad.
The organization, dedicated to helping LGBT+ people escape violence and persecution to find safety, says it is now struggling with a caseload of 3,000 people needing help each year.
Meanwhile, during the pandemic, it says it has tried to support 448 people, including helping 49 of them flee to a safer country.
One of the people Rainbow Railroad previously helped was Amin. He was a victim of the infamous 2017 ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya which saw the creation of ‘concentration camps’ for gays.
Amin said: ‘In Chechnya, being gay, you always have to hide who you are.
‘I was kidnapped from the salon I was working in by soldiers with guns. I was tortured with other gay men for two weeks, expecting that I am not going to leave that place alive.’
He ‘left everything behind’ – including his career, family and friends – to find safety.
‘I was attacked by two young men’
Meanwhile Jamaican LGBT+ campaigner Elton has also shared his story. He said:
‘It was difficult living [as] LGBTI in Jamaica, especially because I was an advocate.
‘I was attacked by two young men, one of which I went to school with. Luckily I escaped with bruises and cuts.
‘Most police in Jamaica, they don’t have any sense of care towards the LGBTI community.
‘I had to reach out to Rainbow Railroad to basically rescue me.’
Now Elton is making a new life in Canada, and hopes to contribute to his new home by becoming a teacher:
‘My life has changed significantly. I want to pursue my masters in education so I can be an educator.
‘It feels like freedom to be able to live as an out gay man in Canada.’
Likewise, Amin is now happy and safe, living in Toronto, Canada with his partner.
Amin said: ‘I am just living my best life. I am not afraid to open and speak who I am now. It is being yourself, each day, this is the best thing.’
‘The stakes are high’
However, Rainbow Railroad, also based in Toronto, says it is struggling with huge numbers of LGBT+ people in danger.
Rainbow Railroad executive director Kimahli Powell said:
‘The stakes are high. We now field nearly 3,000 requests for help a year.
‘And at this very moment, we are triaging the cases of hundreds of LGBTQI people around the world who need support right now. We need our community to come together and help us give a chance at freedom to as many people as possible.’
At the moment over 70 countries criminalize homosexuality with up to 11 imposing the death penalty. Many more also criminalize trans identity.
But even those figures are underestimates. Police and prosecutors use pornography, vagrancy and ‘public morals’ laws to persecute people even in countries without specific LGBT+ criminalization.
Rainbow Railroad says it costs around $10,000 to help an LGBT+ person find safety.
So it is trying to raise CA$600,000 before the end of 2020 to save 60 lives. So far it has raised over CA$140,000. You can find out more and donate here.