Reports that police in Chechnya have been ’rounding up gay people’ have been confirmed by human rights groups.
Last week, it emerged that gay people are being targeted and detained in Chechnya — a region which is formally a part of Russia but has substantial autonomy.
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that more that more than 100 gay men had been detained over the last fortnight “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.”
At least three people are also reportedly feared dead after the violent raids.
There was initially little verification of the claims from the remote region, however, human rights groups – Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group – have now confirmed reports that gay men have been targeted in a brutal campaign.
In its report, Human Rights Watch confirmed: “The information published by Novaya Gazeta is consistent with the reports Human Rights Watch recently received from numerous trusted sources, including sources on the ground.
“The number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred.”
Chechen society is strictly conservative, meaning that unlike in other areas where family and activitists may put pressure on local authoirities, those suspected of being gay are likely to be disowned by their own families in Chechyna.
In its report, Human Right Watch added: “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant.
“LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to “honour killings” by their own relatives for tarnishing family honour.”
Ekaterina L. Sokiranskaya from the International Crisis Group told the New York Times: “I got numerous, numerous signals… it came from too many sources not to be true.”
The LGBT Network in Russia has opened a special hotline to provide emergency support to those who find themselves in immediate danger.
Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for the Chechen government, described the report as “absolute lies and disinformation” claiming that gay people haven’t been targeted because “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.”
He added: “If there were such people in the Chechen republic, law enforcement wouldn’t have a problem with them because their relatives would send them to a place of no return.”
A spokesperson for the Kremlin claimed that they would “investigate” the reports but denied any knowledge of a purge.
In the UK, activists have written a letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urging the British government to intervene in the Chechen crisis.
Co-chairs of Pride in London, Michael Salter and Alison Camps, said: “Pride in London is alarmed to learn that authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have launched a campaign to identify and execute members of the LGBT+ community.
“Pride in London would urge the UK Government to take meaningful steps to assist the LGBT+ community in Chechnya and to offer protection and support to what amounts to state-sponsored genocide.
“The statements issued by the authorities in Chechnya, that LGBT+ citizens do not exist in the state, are a chilling indictment to the goals of an extermination agenda rather than that of fact.”
In a statement to Buzzfeed, the Foreign Office replied: “We are very concerned by reports of mass arrests of individuals in Chechnya due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation. We condemn any and all persecution.
“The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we have voiced our serious concern over these developments with Russian authorities at all levels.”
The Foreign Office also restated that it advises “against all travel to Chechnya”.
Words Laura Aisling Mullan