Last week it was reported that gay men in Chechnya – a republic in South West Russia – were being actively sought out, arrested and murdered by official authorities.
Leading Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed that over one hundred had been detained, with the identities of three gay men who had been reportedly murdered known. The paper reported that, in the space of a week, the men had been arrested “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such”.
Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied the report made by Novaya Gazeta at the time, expressing that “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”
Since said claims, reports of horrific conditions at concentration camps used to detain and torture gay men have emerged. The ‘secret prison’ in the town of Argun was set up to detain the arrested men, with personal belongings of those captive being seized and their contacts on their phones being targeted, regardless of sexuality. These are the first authority driven concentration camps targeting LGBT+ people since Hitler.
Russian LGBT Network’s Svetlana Zakharova, told the Daily Mail: “We are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region. Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40.”
“They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”
Reports express concerns that gay men in the region have been deleting their social media in fear of being targeted and arrested after claims emerged that authorities were covertly using them to hunt LGBT+ men. Of those who escaped the camps, one told Novaya Gazeta that they were beaten until they revealed the identities of other LGBT+ people in the region.
Russia project coordinator for the International Crisis Group Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya told the New York Times and the Guardian that she had received similar reports of gay men being executed or murdered in extrajudicial “honour” killings.
Tanya Lokshina, a representative from Humans Rights Watch claims that very few people in Chechnya dare speak to human rights monitors or journalists even anonymously because “the climate of fear is overwhelming and people have been largely intimidated into silence.”
Amnesty International have previously released detailed reports covering widespread human rights issues in Chechnya. In 2009, AI revealed that those abused in the republic had no method of redress against assaults, ranging from kidnapping to torture, while those responsible were never held accountable.