Activists increase efforts to help LGBTQ people escape Chechnya amid ongoing crisis
The Russian LGBT Network, which announced on January 14 that it had received word of a new wave of arrests and torture in the Russian republic of Chechnya, has begun facilitating the evacuation of those affected by the current crisis. The LGBT Network noted in a press release that new information about the anti-LGBTQ persecution has emerged as some victims have been able to escape Chechnya and reach the Network’s representatives.
While LGBT Network activists initially believed that the current wave of illegal arrests began in late December, they have now determined that new arrests were made as early as the beginning of that month. They have also discovered that LGBTQ people are no longer being imprisoned only in Argun, a town in the north of Chechnya where secret holding and torture cells for gay people have long been reported. Torture in law enforcement facilities has reportedly spread to the Chechen capital of Grozny as well.
Igor Kochetkov, the executive director of the Russian LGBT Network’s programs, wrote in a statement that “we know that there are a few places where people suspected of being homosexual are detained. One of them is the police office of Zavodskoy district of Grozny. Once again, it proves that all the detentions, tortures and murders are committed by the law enforcement officers.”
Warning: the following paragraph contains descriptions of torture and sexual violence.
The Network’s sources have also affirmed that current efforts to arrest and torture LGBTQ people in Chechnya mark an increase in cruelty and violence relative to those that were reported beginning in spring 2017. Those arrested, including both men and women, are reportedly raped using electric shock sticks and forced to go without food and water. Men are reportedly shaved and forced to wear women’s clothes and use women’s names. Sources had previously told Meduza that verified figures on the number of those arrested and killed may be even lower than the number of actual victims and that several people may have been killed and dozens arrested since December.
Like the previous wave of illegal arrests and killings, current anti-LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya has attracted international attention. The Russian LGBT Network noted that supporters in New York held a rally outside the Russian consulate there.