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Held captive or killed? Khalimat Taramova was forced into ‘conversion therapy’ at an unlicensed ‘clinic’ near Moscow. Now, no one knows if she’s dead or alive.

Source: Meduza

On August 11, the Telegram channel Baza reported that Khalimat Taramova had made another attempt to escape Chechnya. The 22-year-old fled to a women’s shelter in neighboring Dagestan back in June, but was forcibly returned to her family by Chechen police officers. Human rights activists don’t know where Khalimat Taramova is now and some fear that she may in fact be dead. Meduza learned that not long before her first attempt to flee Chechnya, Taramova’s parents sent her to an unlicensed “elite clinic” on the outskirts of Moscow, where alleged doctors spent several months trying to “cure” the young woman of her relationship with her partner, Anna Manylova. Here’s what Meduza found out about what happened to Khalimat Taramova before and after she fled Chechnya.

backstory

‘We begged not to be handed over to Chechnya’ After promising protection, police in Dagestan raid a domestic violence shelter to drag a woman back to Chechnya

backstory

‘We begged not to be handed over to Chechnya’ After promising protection, police in Dagestan raid a domestic violence shelter to drag a woman back to Chechnya

‘We dreamed about the future’

Khalimat Taramova was born into a wealthy Chechen family. According to media reports, her father, Ayub Taramov, is a close lieutenant of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2016, Taramova graduated from a Grozny private school and went on to study at Russian New University in Moscow. 

Almost immediately after she left school, Taramova’s parents married her off to Ilyas Dzamaluev, the director of the municipal sewage treatment plant in Grozny. A promotional video for the wedding agency “Golden Bride” (available on social media) includes footage from the wedding ceremony. However, Meduza was unable to find any evidence that the marriage was registered officially. All of Taramova’s official documents are under her maiden name, which she didn’t change after the wedding.

In 2021, Khalimat Taramova’s husband allegedly found messages on her phone that made him jealous — the correspondence was with a woman. The woman in question, Anna Manylova, told Meduza this herself. She and Khalimat Taramova met in a Telegram group chat a year earlier, when Taramova was living in Moscow. They began exchanging private messages almost immediately, and sometimes spoke on the phone. 

Anna Manylova and Khalimat Taramova
Anna Manylova’s personal archive

“She’s a very kind, cheerful, and outgoing girl. She’s very smart and well-read, she’s brave, driven. She doesn’t depend on anyone else’s opinion. When we talked, there wasn’t a single topic she wouldn’t get into. It always seemed to me that she knew absolutely everything,” Anna Manyolva told Meduza. “But most often we just dreamed about the future, made plans together. She wanted to be independent, to find a job, to live on her own.”

Khalimat — or Lima, as Anna calls her — told Manylova that she didn’t love her husband and wanted to divorce him, but couldn’t due to pressure from her family.

According to Manylova, at one point Taramova went offline for a long time. Later, Manylova learned that her husband had read their messages, beaten Taramova, and taken her back to her parents in Grozny. He sent Manylova threatening voice messages from Taramova’s phone. In February 2021, Manylova found out that Khalimat was in a private clinic on the outskirts of Moscow called Invia Elite. She decided to check herself in as a patient — to meet Khalimat in person for the first time.

A cottage in Kartmazovo

Anna Manylova contacted the clinic, saying that she was suffering from depression. As she told Meduza’s correspondent, they took her on as a patient without asking for any documents (this isn’t illegal in Russia due to a lack of regulations). “I paid part of it in cash and part by [money] transfer through Sberbank,” Anna explained to Meduza. “There was a contract, but without my passport information and without my real last name.” 

Manylova provided Meduza with a copy of the cheque confirming the transfer of funds to a bank account belonging to one Tatyana Nikolaevna K. According to Anna, her one-week stay at the clinic cost her 54,000 rubles ($727) per day.

Invia Elite is a self-described “premium-class clinic” that has several almost identical websites with different phone numbers, addresses, and information about its legal registration. But they all list the same phone number for WhatsApp and share a single Telegram account — @InviaPremium. 

Looking into Invia Elite’s website and web archive reveals that the clinic has been linked to at least four legal entities: Vdokhnovenie (“Inspiration”) LLC, Al Med LLC, Invia Premium LLC, and Invia Elite LLC. 

Vdokhnovenie and Al Med have medical licenses, but the former was dissolved in December 2019, and the latter is in the process of liquidation. Oleg Dementyev, who is listed as the head of Al Med, told Meduza that his company never ran a clinic under this name.

The Spark-Interfax database doesn’t provide any indication that Invia Premium and Invia Elite have medical licenses.

None of Invia Elite’s websites currently list a head doctor. Meduza’s correspondent called the clinic’s contact phone number and spoke to a woman named Elena who said that the head doctor is named “Vasily Valerievich.” When asked for the physician’s last name, Elena hung up the phone. Web archives show that one of the clinic’s sites — invia-premium.ru, created in September 2020 — used to list addictions specialist Nikolai Kurlovich as the head doctor (the webpage even included a photo). 

Nikolai Kurlovich’s Facebook page (where his first name is spelled Nicolay) says that he studied at Grodno State Medical University in Belarus. Archived versions of Invia Elite’s websites describe him as “an expert doctor with 15 years of experience,” who was involved in a UN drug addiction treatment program and multiple domestic and international conferences. 

Other social media posts name him as the head doctor at the Rehab Family addictions clinic in Moscow (as of 2017). According to the Spark-Interfax database, Nikolai Kurlovich was formerly the CEO and co-founder of the Rehab Family clinic’s parent company, “Reabilitasiya. Semya” LLC. 

Currently, various directories of doctors list Nikolai Kurlovich as available for appointments at the Invia Premium clinic, located at 46 Lyublinskaya Street in Moscow.

Anna Manylova told Meduza that she, Khalimat Taramova, and the clinic's other patients stayed in a cottage in Kartmazovo, a village on the outskirts of Moscow. Invia Elite’s various websites contain no mention of this place, but the address — 82 Moskovskaya Street, Kartmazovo — can be found via zoon.ru (a website similar to Yelp). 

This address in Kartmazovo is also listed as an inpatient facility for Premium Practice, another elite medical clinic and rehabilitation center based in and around Moscow. Anna Manylova recognized several members of Premium Pratice’s staff from photos on the clinic’s website, including the head doctor — who, as it turns out, is the same Nikolai Kurlovich.

According to the Premium Practice website, the center is owned by Premium Praktik LLC — a company registered in February 2021. However, the medical license number indicated on the website was issued to the defunct Vdokhnovenie LLC (one of four legal entities associated with the Invia Elite clinic. It was dissolved back in 2019). According to Russia’s Unified State Register of Legal Entities, the CEO of Premium Praktik is Nikolai Mikhailovich Kurlovich and the company’s founder is Tatyana Nikolaevna Kurlovich.

Nikolai Kurlovich refused to speak with Meduza’s correspondent, saying only that the information about his ties to Premium Practice “is probably some kind of mistake.”

Meduza’s correspondent contacted the Invia Elite clinic, posing as a mother looking for “treatment” for her lesbian daughter. A staff member told her that “this type of diagnosis” is now excluded from the list of illnesses the clinic treats, and that the facility specializes in addictions and psychiatric problems. Nevertheless, the clinic still invited the potential “patient” for a preliminary consultation for the price of 10,000 rubles ($135). The clinic’s employee also said that there was a discount on treatment available until the end of the summer: 44,000 rubles ($593) per day. 

According to Anna Manylova, the clinic patients were in fact mainly people struggling with alcohol and drug addictions. But Manylova also met a Russian-speaking young man from the United States, who was being “treated” there not only for drug addiction, but allegedly for homosexuality, as well.

Patients were confined to the cottage, which is surrounded by a high fence, and they were only allowed to make phone calls under the supervision of the staff. “They took away everyone’s phones, and all the new patients were told several times that there’s a Chechen woman [named] Lima who should under no circumstances be given a phone,” Manylova told Meduza. “From the first day they began treating me with some kind of powerful drugs, they didn’t tell me the name.”

According to Manylova, Khalimat Taramova was also given mystery medications and hooked up to an IV. But it was mainly a number of psychologists who worked with the two young women, replacing each other constantly.

Manylova managed to smuggle a cell phone into the cottage. She later posted a video and several photos on Instagram that were taken in Khalimat Taramova’s room. Manylova said that the clinic’s staff figured out their relationship almost immediately: they tried to spend all of their free time together. Manylova left the clinic after a week, but managed to get another cell phone to Taramova through a friend. “Lima doesn’t have any disorders, there was no diagnosis. To put it bluntly, they were curing her of me,” Anna said. 

Khalimat tried to pretend that she was “on the mend.” But after about a month and a half of “treatment,” her hearing suddenly deteriorated. As Manylova recalled, Khalimat was taken off medication temporarily and brought to a regular medical clinic for an MRI. Her hearing later partially returned, but she didn’t make a full recovery. 

In total, Khalimat Taramova spent nearly three months in the private clinic. “[Her] father said: you’ll be treated at the clinic until you forget about any ‘Annas’,” Manylova told Meduza. In the end, Anna said, Taramova’s parents realized that the doctors were simply draining their money and decided to bring their daughter back to Grozny.

‘One day they’ll kill me, and that will be it’

Back in Chechnya, Khalimat Taramova’s parents decided to try another “treatment” for their daughter: “religious medicine.” Anna Manylova recalled asking Taramova if her parents would try and make her undergo a kind of “exorcism.” “She said, ‘No, they’re not like that.’ But it turned out they were. Only Lima wasn’t beaten with sticks, they read the Koran and choked [her] by kneeling [on her],” Manylova said.

After this “ritual” Chechen law enforcement officers became involved. Khalimat told Anna that her father was summoned by the police, who showed him their messages and then took away her and Ayub Taramov’s passports. Khalimat also told Anna that she was forced to sign a document that forbade her from leaving Chechnya for the next six months. At this point, Khalimat reached out to human rights activists from the Russian LGBT Network for help.

According to David Isteev, the coordinator of the Russian LGBT Network’s emergency assistance program, Khalimat Taramova contacted the advocacy group on May 28, 2021. In a video published after Taramova was forcibly returned to Chechnya, the Russian LGBTQ Network shared a recording of her call to their hotline. “I’m afraid that one day they’ll kill me and that will be it. I’m very scared,” says the woman’s voice on the recording. 

A week later, Anna Manylova flew to Chechnya and checked into a hotel in Grozny. “We just planned to see each other and discuss what we were going to do in person,” Manylova explained to Meduza. Khalimat told her family she was going to the beauty salon, planning to see Anna on her way back. According to Manylova, the employees informed Khalimat’s family when she had left the salon; they began calling her phone constantly. At the hotel, Khalimat proposed to Anna and gave her a ring. That evening, the two women decided to flee Chechnya. 

Activists from the Russian LGBT Network helped Anna and Khalimat get to a women’s shelter in Makhachkala, the capital of the neighboring region, Dagestan. One week later, on June 10, Dagestani and Chechen law enforcement officers forced their way into the shelter in search of Taramova.

The raid on the women’s shelter created a lot of noise. As lawyer Olga Gnezdilova from the Justice Initiative pointed out at the time, the publicity was likely one of the only things that guaranteed Khalimat Taramova’s short-term safety. Three days later, Taramova appeared in a segment on Chechen state television that framed her attempted escape from the region as an alleged “kidnapping.” 

Where is Khalimat?

On June 14, the Russian LGBT Network appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over Khalimat Taramova’s case. The court turned down the claim, accepting Halimat’s appearance on Chechen state television as evidence that she wasn’t in danger. 

Four days later, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan wrote on Telegram that she had spoken to Khalimat over the phone — allegedly, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov put them in touch himself. According to Simonyan, the young woman said that she was fine and that she mainly wanted the media to stop writing about her.

In conversation with Meduza, Anna Manylova said that Khalimat managed to contact her shortly after the segment aired on Chechen state television. Allegedly, Khalimat apologized to her for not having the courage to tell the truth publicly. “She asked me to post our photos, to do everything so that she wouldn’t be forgotten.”

On August 11, the Telegram channel Baza reported that allegedly, Khalimat Taramova had attempted to run away for a second time, but was detained at the internal border between Chechnya and Dagestan (after being caught by surveillance cameras) and returned home once again. Baza claimed that this took place on July 31, but didn’t reveal their source. Baza editor-in-chief Nikita Mogutin told Meduza that they verified these reports. “We’re one hundred percent sure of this story,” he said.

Be that as it may, Khalimat Taramova’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Dagestani journalist and human rights activist Svetlana Anokhina — who was at the women’s shelter in Makhachkala when Khalimat was taken — has also raised questions about Baza’s story. “I called everyone who might know something about this. No, no one has any such information. And, to be honest, I doubt that Lima would have run away to Dagestan a second time and that she would have been caught on camera,” Anokhina wrote on Instagram. The human rights activist also speculated that the story could be disinformation aimed at covering Khalimat Taramova’s death. “When a story attracts too much attention and a person can’t be taken away and ‘go missing,’ you get rumors about them running away,” she said.

Following the news of Khalimat Taramova’s alleged unsuccessful escape, Twitter users, fearing for her life, launched a campaign to draw attention to her case under the hashtags “Freedom for Khalimat” (#свободухалимат) and “Where is Khalimat” (#гдехалимат). On August 15, activists conducted solitary pickets in St. Petersburg, taking to the streets with posters that read, “Where is Khalimat Taramova — held captive or killed?” and “Abductions will not go unnoticed.”

Konstantin Lenkov / ZAKS.Ru

Anna Manylova fears that Khalimat “may be kept on some type of medications,” as was the case at the clinic outside Moscow. She also believes that one of Taramova’s brothers is responding to messages on her social media accounts. Anna received a brief audio message from Khalimat on July 10, which she thinks she was forced to record. It said, “Anya, this is Lima.” This is the last time Anna heard her partner’s voice.

On August 15, a stranger sent Anna Manylova screenshots of messages from Khalimat’s sister, Fatima Taramova. In the correspondence, Fatima confirms that her sister is alive. Khalimat Taramova’s relatives ignored Meduza’s inquiries. 

State Duma lawmaker Oksana Pushkina planned to meet with Khalimat Taramova in June or July, but has been unable to do so as of yet. Pushkina told Meduza that she was also unable to obtain any new information about the young woman and that, on the whole, she has a “bad feeling.”

“I contacted lawmakers from Chechnya. They are busy with the [upcoming parliamentary] elections, but they assure me that the girl is fine. And her family is asking not to stir up the topic,” Pushkina told Meduza. “I think the situation will be cleared up only after the elections. No one needs a ‘toxic’ agenda right now.”

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Anna Vilisova

Edited by Alexey Kovalev

Translated and abridged by Eilish Hart

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