On April 1, The New York Times reported that Chechen authorities were arresting and killing gay men. According to leading Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, over 100 men between the ages of 16 and 50 had been detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such."
Authorities lured victims by posing “as men looking for dates” on social networking sites, and many gay men fled the region. Now, survivors of Chechnya's gay concentration camps are speaking out about the torture they endured.
A report published by the Russian LGBT Network includes testimonies from 33 gay men who are currently facing persecution. According to the report, it's likely that dozens of men have been murdered and, despite pressure on the Chechen government, detainment camps remain prevalent.
"One day, all my relatives were informed about the fact that I was detained. 'The Lord' came to us, the chairman of the parliament — Magomed Daudov. We were all set down before the Lord. The Lord approached us, took pictures on his phone, and asked if each of us was gay. We had to answer 'yes,' This all happened in front of our relatives," one victim said. "He talked to our relatives, saying that we brought disgrace to the nation and to our families. He told them that if they honour the traditions, they must kill us. And that if they did everything, they would not be punished for it."
Authorities told families that if they killed their gay relatives, they would not be prosecuted for the murders and many honor killings occurred as a result. One witness recounts the story of a young man who was killed by his father and uncle, then buried in the woods without a funeral.
The victim pool increased when captured gay men were threatened with death if they didn't share the names of other homosexuals.
"They threw me to the floor and beat me. They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor. One of them said: 'Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that,'" one survivor recalls. "They addressed me with female pronouns and demanded that I tell them the names of other gay people I knew. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t."
The Russian LGBT Network has moved 64 gay individuals to safer housing in central Russia, but the vast majority of endangered people remain trapped in Chechnya.
Click here to sign Amnesty International's petition urging the Russian and Chechen authorities to investigate these abductions and bring those responsible to justice.