Homosexual Chechens are fleeing the region to escape hideous abuses at the hands of national security forces.
As Chechen officials deny the targeting of gay — and even merely suspected so — citizens, they continue to flee the area. In fact, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov does not see any problem at all. He maintains that there are simply no gay people in Chechnya in the first place.
An investigation by Chechen newspaper Novaya Gazeta, however, begs to differ. It found that, of course, not only do homosexual Chechens exist, they are regularly beaten and even tortured.
Kadyrov’s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, denied the accusations with ghoulish certainly. He declared that “even if such people existed in Chechnya, our law enforcement agencies would not need to bother with them, because their own relatives would simply send them to a place from which they would never return.”
But that was not the case for Marko, one of the many who have fled oppression. Her family did not kill her for her sexuality, but they did force her to undergo an exorcism to try and cure it. “He held my head and read verses from the Koran, and I knew I had to respond as a person possessed would,” she said. “I had seen enough YouTube videos to know what to do, and so I twisted about and shouted and said there were seven different demons inside me.”
Two hours later, she was pronounced cured of her lesbianism, to her family’s overwhelming approval. It was not until after her marriage was arranged that she was able to finally flee. She now lives with a girlfriend she was fortunate enough to encounter via social media and looks forward to a life away from the pain of her past.
Fortunately, many of those seeking refuge have found safety in Canada. But for those who remain, Kadyrov’s regime shows no sign of changing course. As a staunch ally of Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov remains comfortable in his power.