On January 14th, the Russian LGBT Network released a statement confirming a new wave of persecution of queer people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. As of January 15th, there have been reports of at least 40 people detained, and two confirmed dead from injuries sustained through torture. The recent resurgence of what some have called a “queer purge” is part of an ongoing crackdown of LGBTQ+ people that was initially reported in January 2017.
Much like in 2017, these purges are being carried out by state agents. Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, has denied his involvement in the purges as well as the existence of queer people in Chechnya entirely. In December 2017 he was listed under the US Magnitsky Act for supporting extrajudicial killings, which has allowed the US to impose sanctions.
Until now, the persecutions have targeted mostly gay and bisexual men. It appears this most recent crackdown has expanded to target women as well. In addition, recent reports have described authorities destroying victims’ passports and pieces of identification in an effort to prevent them from leaving the country.
Andrea Houston, Communications and Development Officer for Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto based organization that works directly with the Russian LGBT network in Chechnya told the Daily, “with this new wave of arrests, it’s not just the people themselves; it’s their entire families, their networks. They’re finding LGBTQ people on social media, they’re confiscating their cell phones and looking for people’s names. They’re torturing people until they give up the names of other community members. To top it off, many of them are being taken to their families where they are being told to kill them.”
While understanding the motivation for the purges is merely speculative, Andrea Houston suggests that “it’s an ongoing terror campaign and that seems to be the motivation: to instill terror and invoke fear in the LGBTQ population.”