What was supposed to be a night out with a friend for a young man called Maksim, pivoted into two weeks of torture. As The New York Times explained, “When Maksim arrived, however, he was greeted not by his friend, but by agents who beat him. Later, they strapped him to a chair, attached electrical wires to his hands and began an interrogation.”
According to The New York Times, Maksim has said in interviews that “when two gay men meet they don’t tell one another their true names. They met at cafes or at apartments rented for a night”.
Gay men have always had a hard life in Chechnya. After GayRussia, an LGBT rights organization based in Moscow, applied for permits for gay pride parades in the Caucasus region, the crackdown began, the collective punishment of alleged gays that began last month under the leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, taking a new turn in the region’s long history of abuses. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper well-known for its coverage of Russian political and social affairs, was the first to report the “mass cleansing”, Human Rights Watch corroborating the findings. Kadyrov’s press secretary went on to immediately describe the report as “absolute lies and misinformation”, adding coldly, “If there were such people in Chechnya, law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
As Human Rights Watch states, “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant. LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to honor killings by their own relatives for tarnishing family honor.”
The violence against LGBT people in Chechnya has been largely overlooked by many major media outlets, reports having been widely spread thanks to social media. As I was reading the news and finding out about the blood-curdling goings on described above, I was overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. So, I proceeded to look for ways in which I could help, even if just a little. I came across a petition, which you can sign here. It encourages people to write to Chairman of the Investigation Committee and Acting Head of the Investigation Committee for the Chechen Republic, demanding a full investigation of all facts and unlawful repressions in Chechnya.