Authorities from the predominantly Muslim Republic of Chechnya, an autonomous province in Russia, have threatened parents of gay children, warning them, “Either you kill them, or we we will,” reports France24, citing testimony from one of the victims of alleged concentration camps for homosexuals operated by the local government.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, has allegedly vowed to eliminate the gay community by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 26.
“He has carried out other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his efforts at the LGBT community,” Sir Alan Duncan, the minister of state for Europe and the Americas at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, told members of parliament, according to Daily Mail.
“Sources have said that he wants the community eliminated by the start of Ramadan. Such comments, attitudes, and actions are absolutely beyond contemptible,” he continued.
Last month, the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta and LGBT activists revealed that “more than 100 men” confirmed or suspected of being gay had been sent to prison camps for homosexuals in Chechnya where they are tortured and killed.
Some have lived to tell their horrifying experience.
“They tell the parents to kill their child,” one of them told France24, adding, They say, “Either you do it, or we will.” They call it “cleaning your honor with blood.”
“They tortured a man for two weeks [then] they summoned his parents and brothers who all came,” he said later, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. The authorities said to them: “Your son is a homosexual – sort it out or we’ll do it ourselves.”
Echoing the victim’s testimony, another survivor told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that gays in Chechnya are not only in danger of persecution at the hands of authorities but are also at risk of falling prey to “honor killings” by relatives who accuse them of bringing shame to their family’s honor.
“If any of my relatives realize I’m gay, they won’t hesitate a minute before killing me,” a 28-year-old identified by the alias Nortcho told AFP. “And if they don’t do it, they will get killed themselves for failing to uphold the family honor.”
A different survivor, identified only Anzor, shared his ordeal with the Associated Press (AP), telling the news outlet how Chechen authorities had tortured him on one of the camps.
“It’s a feeling like they are breaking every bone of every joint in your body at the same time,” he revealed.
Anzor managed to escape to Moscow where he is hiding fearing for his life and that of his relatives.
The Moscow branch of the pro-gay NGO known as the Russian LGBT Network is helping gay people escape persecution by Chechen authorities.
Chechen President Kadyrov’s administration has denied the accusations that it has launched a brutal campaign against gays in the province.
“You cannot arrest or repress [gay] people who just don’t exist in the republic,” Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen leader Kadyrov, told the Interfax news agency.
Echoing human rights groups, the United States and other western governments groups have urged Russian authorities to investigate.
Consistent with the Islamic rules implemented in many Muslim-majority countries, coming out as a homosexual is “tantamount to a death sentence” in Chechnya, reported Novaya Gazeta.
The mandate is deeply ingrained in Shariah law, which draws on the Quran, and has been affirmed by various Muslim scholars.
“While casual homophobia is common in Russia, the problem is particularly acute in conservative [and Muslim-majority] Chechnya, where homosexuality is taboo and seen in many families as a moral failing that should be punished by death,” pointed out AFP.
Referring to the arrest of gay men in Chechnya, Sir Duncan said, “The actions in these reports are utterly barbaric. One of the most disgusting things I have seen is a Chechen security source stating that these arrests are part of what he called a preventative clean-up.”
“Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov,” he also said.