Chechen refugee Movsar Eskarkhanov, the man who spoke to Time magazine’s Simon Shuster this September about being gay in Chechnya, has apologized to the Chechen people and government for “shaming them,” according to the BBC’s Russian-language service. On November 13, the state-run television network Grozny reportedly published a video of Eskarkhanov’s apology.
Presented as a “front-page investigation,” the TV station describes Eskarkhanov as a “mentally ill person” who “invented” a story about being gay, which the Western press later “sensationalized.” “What aims did [these media outlets] actually pursue? Who profited from exposing him in an unfavorable light, blackening his honor and the honor of the entire Chechen people?” Grozny’s correspondent asks viewers.
According to the BBC, Grozny’s report accuses Western journalists of “framing” Eskarkhanov and “disgracing him before the Chechen people and Chechnya’s ruler.”
“Therefore I ask the forgiveness of Chechnya’s people, Chechnya’s leadership, and the Chechens living in the North Caucasus and in Europe,” Eskarkhanov told Grozny television, according to the BBC.
On Monday, November 14, the Chechen state-run TV network aired a promotion for its report on Eskarkhanov, where he claims that Time magazine intentionally disgraced the Chechen people with its September report about him. Eskarkhanov says he contacted the Western journalists himself for that story, and they supposedly agreed to help him obtain documents in Germany, but they later abandoned him, he says.
Time magazine’s report on Movsar Eskarkhanov, titled “They Tell Me a Demon Lives Inside Me,” was published in September 2017. In that text, he discusses being gay and said that he fears for his life. This was the first known case of a Chechen native openly calling himself gay.
In the Time story, Eskarkhanov said he’d been threatened and blackmailed in Chechnya. He sought asylum in Germany, but German authorities rejected his request. In a refugee camp in Germany, Eskarkhanov said he encountered other Chechens who at one point attacked him. Even in the camp, he told Time that he still receives regular threats.
According to the BBC, Chechen television aired a report about Eskarkhanov’s family in early November, saying that his mother “is ashamed to look people in the eyes.” That report accused Eskarkhanov of being “a psychopath.”
In April 2017, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on a mass crackdown in Chechnya by police against gay men. According to the newspaper, dozens of men have been beaten and tortured in “secret prisons,” where the authorities force detainees to name other suspected gay men. This fall, Omsk resident Maxim Lapunov was the first victim to come forward publicly, saying he spent 12 days in one of Chechnya’s secret prisons for gay men. Chechen officials have denied Novaya Gazeta’s allegations, insisting that gay people do not exist in Chechnya.