A Russian LGBT advocacy group says it has evacuated 64 people from Chechnya over the last four months.
A 31-page report the Russian LGBT Network released on Monday notes those it has helped leave the semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucuses “were relocated” to shelters in central Russia. The Russian LGBT Network, which is based in St. Petersburg, also said more than 130 people from Chechnya and neighboring republics have “requested assistance of a different nature because of the persecution from the local authorities and hostile relatives.”
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April reported Chechen authorities have arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation since the beginning of the year. At least three of these men reportedly died after their arrest, while others have been beaten and tortured and sent to secret prisons.
“They threw me to the floor and beat me,” said a person identified as I.J. in the Russian LGBT Network report. “They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor.”
I.J. also told the Russian LGBT Network he thought authorities were going to rape them as they took off their clothes. A person identified as A.B. said authorities forced them to watch a video of them torturing a man by inserting a hollow tube and a piece of barbed wire into his anus.
“They enjoyed the torture,” said A.B. “We were forced to beat others up and to electrocute them. They instructed other inmates to do whatever they wanted with us.”
Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina contributed to the report, which indicates Chechen authorities have begun to target lesbian women. The Russian LGBT Network also notes dozens of gay Chechens may have been killed by their relatives in so-called honor killings.
U.S. remains ‘deeply concerned’ about crackdown
The ongoing crackdown against gay and lesbian Chechens has sparked widespread outrage around the world.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in April said the U.S. is “disturbed” by the crackdown. The State Department has also urged the Russian government to conduct an investigation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the world leaders who have condemned Chechen authorities. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told the Washington Blade last month the State Department has raised the crackdown in “conversations at the highest levels,” even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in June during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing he has not discussed it with Russian officials.
Neither Tillerson nor President Trump has yet to publicly condemn the crackdown.
Tillerson on Tuesday made no mention of Chechnya when he spoke to reporters about relations between the U.S. and Russia during a State Department press briefing.
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 1, 2017
“The United States continues to be deeply concerned about the situation in the republic of Chechnya, where credible reports indicate at least 100 men have been detained and tortured with some killed on the basis of their sexual orientation,” a State Department official told the Blade on Tuesday in a statement.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said last month during an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that gay people don’t exist in the republic. The Russian LGBT Network has also expressed skepticism over the Kremlin’s claims it has launched an investigation into the crackdown.
Nauert on July 18 described Kadyrov’s comments as “very concerning and upsetting to us.” The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke on Tuesday stressed the U.S. “categorically condemns the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis.”
“We urge Russian federal authorities to follow through on its promise to conduct an independent and credible investigation into these reports, and hold any perpetrators responsible as soon as possible,” added the official. “We also urge Russian federal authorities to speak out against such practices and take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained.”
Media Matters criticizes lack of Chechnya coverage
The Russian LGBT Network released its report a day before Media Matters for America published a study that notes there have only been three “significant mentions” of the Chechnya crackdown in the six major networks’ evening newscasts between April 1-July 31.
A segment of NBC’s “Nightly News” broadcast on April 23 focused on Chechnya. CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and “Anderson Cooper 360” highlighted the anti-gay crackdown on April 24 and May 4 respectively.
“Chechnya’s brutal attacks against and murders of queer men in the region have become an international human rights issue, but the American public would not know that by watching the evening news,” said Media Matters. “Though NBC’s and CNN’s pieces provided solid reporting, one package on each network’s evening programming over a four-month span is not enough, and the utter silence of ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and Fox News does a disservice to their viewers.”