You hear a rapid knock on the door. Your eyes dart to the window, your heart beats faster.
‘It’s the police – open the door,’ a man says loudly from outside. You do – there are three military officers.
They ask for your name and you give it willingly. You haven’t done anything wrong.
But, in Chechnya, your name may have been forced out of a tortured friend’s lips.
And from there, a horror awaits you just because of your sexual or gender identity.
Inside life at a Chechnya concentration camp
LGBTI people have been kidnapped, tortured and killed inside concentration camps in Chechnya.
The ‘purge’ was first revealed in 2016.
Hundreds of men and women are suffering or have suffered inside these torture chambers.
The first known camp was in Argun, a former military prison.
One gay man was detained for a week, tortured in a homemade electric chair.
He said he was beaten with a hose to force him to ‘confess’ to names of other gay men.
He was also forced to sleep in a room with 30 other people and were barely fed.
Prisoners were forced to pay bribes, threatened with murder. If they escaped with their lives, they were told to not speak a word or face being hunted down. All were told LGBTI people do not belong in Chechnya.
While Argun has been closed, other camps are known to also exist.
Novata Gazata, the paper that first discovered the ‘purge’, has reported that at least four more concentration camps have been discovered.
Concentration camp survivor
Maxim Lapunov, 30 and from Siberia, worked and lived in Chechnya for two years.
He alleged he was grabbed and dragged into a car one night in March by two men he didn’t know.
He then spent 12 days in a blood-soaked cell.
At a police facility he was also interrogated, forced to name another men and beaten.
‘They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me,’ he recalled, speaking at a small gathering in Moscow convened by human rights activists.
‘Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on,’ he said quietly.
‘Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how.’
Other killings in Chechnya
Relatives have also been responsible for murdering family members.
A 22-year-old gay woman said to a friend that her family had beaten and threatened to kill her due to her sexuality.
Within a week of telling her friend, she was dead.
Her family claimed she succumbed to kidney failure. Others believe she was poisoned.
Her family also buried her body before it could be autopsied.
Chechnya denies existence of gay people
A government spokesperson has denied there were any gay people in the region to detain. They insisted ‘you can’t detain and harass someone who doesn’t exist in the republic.’. The Kremlin also denied knowledge of a ‘purge’.
Mikhail Tumasov, Chairperson of the Russian LGBTI Network, told Gay Star News: ‘In 2017, the world learned about what could happen in our industrial age: people are caught, tortured, and killed solely because of their sexual orientation.
‘And where? In one of the most civilized countries: Russia, in a country that is famous for ballet, opera, humanistic literature.
‘And here again a new wave. Again, ordinary people and their families suffer. And this time, the killers are more cynical, for they enjoy their impunity. Putin is silent. So it means he feels fine with these murders.’
Help us make a difference
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.