Russia’s Chechnya Denies Report on Gay ‘Prison Camps’: Gay Chechens ‘Just Don’t Exist’

Police detain a gay rights activist during May Day demonstration in Saint Petersburg, Russ
Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“More than 100 men” confirmed or suspected of being homosexual in the overwhelmingly Muslim Republic of Chechnya, an autonomous province within the Russian Federation, have been sent to a “concentration camp” where they are being tortured and killed, report various news outlets, citing the independent Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta and LGBT community activists.

“In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” reports the independent Russian opposition newspaper.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, reportedly ordered the crackdown, a claim that his administration denies.

“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” Kadyrov spokesman Alvi Karimov told the Russian news agency Interfax.

“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” added the official from the administration of President Kadyrov, who introduced Islamic rule to Chechnya.

Novaya Gazeta notes that its report on the “mass detentions” of gay men in the Muslim-majority region has been confirmed by various sources, including officials from the autonomous region’s government and top law enforcement agency — the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to the newspaper, “more than 100” gay men in Chechnya have already been detained at several camps where the prisoners are tortured, killed, or forced to promise to leave the Russian province.

Torture involves homosexuals being beaten several times a day, electrocuted, and forced to sit on bottles, reports Novaya Gazeta.

At least three homosexuals have been killed, it also notes, adding, “Our sources say that there are many more victims.”

The age of the homosexual victims ranges from as young as 16 to men in their 50s.

Novaya Gazeta reveals that authorities are finding the gay men with the help of relatives and even real estate agents who are likely “forced to put cameras in apartments and in this way get dirt on the victims.”

It adds that “honor killings,” described as “a measure that allows family members to wash away shame by killing the culprit of this shame,” remains widespread in Chechnya as in many other predominantly Muslim areas.

Tanya Lokshina, an official from Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told Daily Mail, “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 ‘honor killings’ by their own relatives for tarnishing family honor.”

While some English-language new agencies report that the gay men are being sent to a “concentration camp,” Novaya Gazeta says they authorities are holding them in various prison camps.

“Chechnya has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler, where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death,” reports Daily Mail.

Some victims have managed to survive the brutal ordeal.

“Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether [sic], around 30 or 40,” declared Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network told Daily Mail. “They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”

Various pro-gay groups are reportedly trying to evacuate LGBT Chechens.

Human rights group Amnesty International has urged the Russia to investigate the allegations.

“Homosexuals in Chechnya are treated very harshly and prosecuted daily and they are afraid to talk about it,” Alexander Artemyev from Amnesty International in Russia told Daily Mail.

“They either have to hide or leave the republic,” also said Artemyev.

Consistent with the Islamic rules employed in many Muslim-majority countries, coming out as a homosexual is “tantamount to a death sentence” in the predominantly Muslim Republic of Chechnya, points out Novaya Gazeta.

Chechen President Kadyrov introduced Islamic rule in the region, notes Daily Mail.

Shariah law, the strict Islamic rules that govern all aspects of Muslim life, calls for the execution of people who engage in homosexual acts. The mandate is deeply ingrained in Shariah law and has been affirmed by various Muslim scholars. Shariah law draws on the Quran.

Out fear of being detained, some Chechen gay men shut down their social media accounts. Meanwhile, others took to the internet to warn other homosexuals about the threat despite the risk, notes Novaya Gazeta.

The New York Times reports that authorities use social media to lure gay men into dates and arrest them.

Chechen authorities have imprisoned gay men from all corners of the region’s society including “prominent, influential and [Muslim] religious leaders close to the head of the republic, as well as two well-known Chechen TV personalities,” reports Novaya Gazeta.


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