A Russian website which ‘gamefies’ assaults has now singled out leading LGBTI activists and journalists.
‘Saw’ launched last year and ‘welcomes gay hunters’ by charging 200 Rubles (US $3) to find personal information of allegedly gay people. A number of men reported homophobic assaults after their names appeared on the site. But if your name is on the database and you want to have it removed, you have to pay a bigger fee: 1500 Rubles (US $23).
The website calls the homophobic hunt ‘Chechnya’s Comeback’ referring to the northern Caucasus region which began a ‘gay purge’. Since December 2017 Chechen authorities have rounded up, illegally detained, tortured and executed allegedly LGBTI people.
Saw offers legal protections to users but warns them they can do ‘anything but kill them’.
Real people are now targets
Misha Tumasov, head of the Russian LGBTI Network, has temporarily left Russia after fears for his safety.
He was one of the LGBTI activists Saw named in its most recent post. They also named his fellow activists Igor Kochetkov, and Elena Klimova and editor in chief of leading gay website Guys Plus, Vitaly Bespalov.
Kochetkov has also faced intimidation from pro-government groups for his work for trying to protect LGBTI people in Chechnya.
The website also named journalists from Novaya Gazeta – which broke news of Chechnya’s Gay Purge – and Radio Liberty. Video blogger Zhenya Svetsky, also appeared on the site.
‘That was a little bit scary, especially for my family. They were scared a lot about my safety,’ Tumasov told Gay Star News about being named on the website.
‘It is not first time they named me personally. The very first time it was in February this year.’
Tumasov called on state security officers to investigate the website and ‘protect people from such personal threats’. He and his partner decided to leave Russia temporarily. While he’s still involved in Russian human rights work, he admitted it has been very difficult.
‘Living outside Russia means you are a foreigner for everything: The life outside means to be an alien for everything: language, culture, social connections and of course work,’ he said.
‘I am still struggling to a find job.’
MMA fighter Viacheslav Datsik
Another character to have inserted himself into Russia’s ongoing homophobia is former kickboxer and MMA fighter, Viacheslav Datsik.
Datsik earned a reputation for his erratic behavior in the ring and short-lived volatile career. After his fighting career ended Datsik became embroiled in violent crime and vigilante raids on brothels.
He holds anti-Christian and anti-Semitic views. Datsik has been in and out of prison and mental health facilities since 2007.
After his release from prison in February this year, the Saw website reported he wanted to ‘talk’ to Tumasov and Kochetkov.
Homophobic attacks have risen in Russia since its president, Vladmir Putin, introduced the ‘gay propaganda’ law. It prevented the positive portrayal of LGBTI people in any form of media, including social media posts.