On April 1, 2017, an article on Chechnya’s violence towards gay men surfaced. The article told the world that Chechnya had detained at least 100 homosexual males ranging from ages sixteen to fifty in secret prisons where they were subject to beatings, electrocution, and other forms of abuse. The arrests of gay Chechens supposedly began when GayRussia.ru, a local LGBTQ rights group, were denied a pride parade permit. Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow owned Russian opposition newspaper, referred to claims made by federal law enforcement officials that men were detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” Another article on Novaya Gazeta includes witness accounts of these malicious prisons.
Even with the eyewitness reports, Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, claimed this brutality towards gay men to be a complete lie. Karimov backed this up, saying “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” suggesting homosexuality doesn’t exist in Chechnya. This statement failed to invalidate the claims of abuse and arrests.
Chechnya has a rich history of violence. The territory has been involved in two wars with Russia which ended with falling under Russian rule. Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president, perpetuates this violence. For instance, when seven women were shot in the head, Kadyrov stated they deserved to die because of their “loose morals.” “If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” Kadyrov told journalists in the capital of this Russian republic. This pro-honor killing sentiment means that the gay men who aren’t imprisoned are still at risk of extreme persecution.
Along with the support of honor killings, Kadyrov is trying to impose strict Islamic values and increase traditions of Muslim Chechnya. Campaigns to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state violated the Russian Constitution, which grants equal rights to women and a separation of church and state. The president also encourages polygamy even though it is illegal in Russia.
Because of the corrupt and violent dictator, Chechnya is at risk of increased human rights violations. The gay prisons are so horrible, they have been compared to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Human rights groups such as Human Rights First and Human Rights Campaign are taking a stand against Chechnya’s violation of human rights by calling the US government to speak out against these violations. It is time for the rest of the world’s citizens to learn from our mistakes and take action to protect Chechens from these “concentration camps” and to extinguish the possibility of another Holocaust.