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LGBT purges in Chechnya continue

Two years after the anti-gay purges in Russia’s Chechnya region began, Russian authorities still have failed to provide justice for the victims, Amnesty International said yesterday.

“The Russian authorities have shown themselves to be complicit in heinous crimes committed in Chechnya against people believed to be gay or lesbian,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in a statement on April 1.

Reports of the horrifying LGBT crackdown first broke out in April 2017 in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. That year, Russian police detained more than 100 men and tortured many with electrical shocks in an attempt to root out other suspected gay men and at least three had died in extrajudicial killings, according to the New York Times. Furthermore, officials also encouraged relatives of gay Chechens to participate in honor killings to rid their family of the perceived shame of homosexuality, according to the Guardian.

Yet another wave of persecution began in when the police detained the moderator of an online chat room for gay people, who had many contacts in the community, according to NBC.

“The main difference between the current campaign and the campaign of 2017 is the torture became harsher,” Igor V. Kochetkov, the director of the Russian LGBT Network, said in an interview with The New York Times.

By January 2019, two gay men had been tortured to death and about 40 suspected gay people have been detained in a makeshift prison, according to The Guardian.

Not a single person has been held accountable for these crimes. Russian officials have yet to even acknowledge the purge’s existence — when the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov was questioned about anti-gay pogrom, he denied it, stating it would be impossible because gay men simply do not exist in Chechnya.

“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov said in an interview with HBO reporter David Scott. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada… They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people… God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the almighty for this.”

Since 2017, over one hundred LGBT Chechens have emigrated to European countries and Canada, but such offers of protection have faded, leaving many still vulnerable to such violence.