|Image by Theo McInnes, courtesy of Huck Magazine|
[Image description: photograph a sign from the London protest against LGBT+ abuse in Chechnya. Sign reads "LGBT+ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS" with a picture of Putin in make-up, rainbow background.]
Article by: Amelia A J Foy
In Chechnya, a federal subject (republic) of Russia, a dangerous homophobic campaign has been launched: reports have surfaced of at least 100 men being arrested by authorities on suspicions of being homosexual, with at least 3 killed. In addition, concentration-style camps have been located in Chechnya where gay men have reported being subjected to daily torture, such as beatings and electric shocks, in order for the authorities to gather names of other gay men.
Putin has denied these accusations. However, homophobia is something that has been government-endorsed before: Putin’s law banning “homosexual propaganda” and the subsequent rampant hate crimes LGBT+ individuals have faced in Russia exemplifies this. In Chechnya specifically, a deeply conservative area, authorities claimed gay Chechen men did not exist and so could not be prosecuted. However, LGBT+ citizens in this republic have been subjected to violence not just from society, but within their own families, even so far as honour killings. Furthermore, the authorities of Chechnya have a history of human rights violations in the forms of persecuting political dissidents, activists, and minorities, meaning the possibility of this crisis being completely made up is very slim despite the Kremlin’s and their denial.
Western governments need to place pressure on Russia to show accountability for the violent persecution of gay Chechens, especially given their dismissive history in regards to LGBT+ hate crimes; so far, organisations like the UN have demanded the release of those imprisoned. We, as people, need to also organise and fight for their safety.
A simple way to do so is through signing petitions: those by Amnesty, change.org, and PinkNews are right now the most widely circulated. For those of us in the financial situation to, donations to the Russian LGBT Network can be made here. You can also write to your representatives or MPs to let them know how pressing this issue is, and demand governments to take a stand against it. Furthermore, while it is important to make noise on social media, join or organise protests and take to the streets - for example, on April 12th, people rallied outside the Russian Embassy in London. Look up in your local area if there are any protests planned that you can join (an easy way to do this is by checking Facebook events!)