It’s been four years since the start of Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown and the gay community is still at risk.
Earlier this year, 20-year-old Salekh Magamadov and 18-year-old Ismail Isayev were handed over to the Chechen authorities and detained.
Both have been imprisoned in the Chechen Republic, as accused of aiding an illegal armed group under Part 2 of Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
The pair previously fled persecution and torture in Chechnya and taught refuge in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Last June, both Magamadov and Isayev were forced to leave Chechnya after being tortured by Chechen special police for running an opposition Telegram messaging channel. The police made the men publicly apologise in a recorded video.
On March 17 the mother of Isayev, Zara Magamadova, recorded a public appeal to the Human Rights in the Russian Federation.
“On February 4, 2021, we – Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov – were detained by people in uniform in the apartment where we lived, after which we were taken to the police department of Nizhny Novgorod.
“There, we were handed over to employees of the Gudermes department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia,” the testimony of Isaev read.
“We were taken to the Chechen Republic. On the way which lasted two days and throughout which we were subjected to physical and psychological violence, there was a stop, we were taken to an unknown house. We spent the night there. All this time we were handcuffed.”
After testifying, both men were released and detained by police officers and taken to the Sernovodsky District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Veronika Lapina of the Russian LGBT Network offered a statement on the horrific situation.
“Ismail and Salekh were already detained in the spring of 2020 for their opposition channel Osal Nakh 95. We have all seen what is happening with active critics of Kadyrov: the regime is doing everything to keep them silent,” she said.
Adding: “When the brothers were released from the Kadyrov police patrol service, they were warned that they were now informers and that they would need to turn in other oppositionists in the Republic.
“Salekh and Ismail left the Republic, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. Their abduction and a fabricated criminal case are nothing more than revenge for disobedience.”
— All Out (@AllOut) February 9, 2021
All Out is running an online campaign to draw attention to Magamadov and Isayev’s case. The organisation is sharing a petition calling on President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken to ensure the safety of both men.
Mathias Wasik, Director of Programs at All Out, issued a statement following the news of the men’s arrest.
“On the same day as U.S. President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum directing all US overseas diplomatic and foreign assistance programs to do more to protect the human rights of LGBT+ people, Salekh and Ismail two Chechen LGBT+ people, 20 and 17 years old respectively, have been arrested, handed back to Chechen authorities, and forcibly returned to their homeland,” Wasik said in a statement.
“This is an illegal arrest that puts these two young men in grave and immediate danger of further torture and even death. President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken must live up to their promise of protecting LGBT+ people and make an immediate demand to the Russian Government that Salekh and Ismail be released unharmed.”