A year after the horrific abuse against LGBTQ people in Chechnya was first reported, two new first-person accounts recall the appalling treatment they were subjected to during what has been described as “a big cleansing of gays”.
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazetta broke the story that up to 26 men had been killed as part of an alleged anti-gay purge in Chechnya last March.
Chilling reports of young gay men being murdered by their own family members followed, as authorities told parents to kill them – or they’ll do it themselves.
A 17-year-old male was reportedly murdered by his own uncle, after being pushed from his 9th floor balcony.
The Kremlin and Chechen government have both repeatedly denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region, but Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has never kept it a secret that he is staunchly anti-LGBTQ.
Kadyrov has maintained that all of the reports were false because in Chechnya, “we don’t have these kinds of people here.”
However, a 30-year-old man named Ruslan has now come forward to speak of his experience during the anti-gay purge.
He revealed that he was outed to his family when his daughter-in-law discovered text messages he had sent his boyfriend on his phone.
His own family swiftly took away his passport and phone, and locked him in his room for a month.
“In Chechnya there was a big cleansing of gays. People working for Kadyrov (Chechnya’s leader) would target one (gay) person and through blackmail and beating would force him to surrender others,” Ruslan told BBC Russian.
“Some were caught, taken to the cellars, beaten violently, others were not found. Relatives sometimes did not even look for them, as they wanted to wash away the shame.”
Ruslan finally managed to escape his family home, borrowed a phone from a passerby to call his boyfriend, and made it to Moscow.
Meanwhile, Marko admitted to having had suicidal thoughts because of her sexuality, and even underwent a kind of exorcism to rid her of the demons her family told her were inside her.
She managed to trick her family into thinking she was ‘cured’ by pretending to speak in different voices and twitching her body to make it seem as though these demons were leaving her.
Image: The ‘camp’ where men were reportedly being held on suspicion of being gay.
“They told me directly, either you do something else, or we will kill you,” she said.
“Even if my family does not want to kill me, there are a huge number of relatives who do and they will not stop until it’s done.”
These new account of the persecution LGBTQ people face in Chechnya comes as the Human Rights Campaign give repeated calls for Donald Trump to publicly condemned the Russian Republic’s actions.
They want the US president to “end his deafening silence” on ongoing crimes against people suspected of being LGBTQ in the country.
“These atrocities constitute crimes against humanity…None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice,” they put in a letter to the White House.
“Russia has refused to launch an investigation, and those who carried out these abuses face no repercussions for their actions.
“You must condemn these crimes against humanity and call on Russia to conduct an investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.”