The report “They said that I'm not a human, that I am nothing. That I should rather be a terrorist, than a fagot” is based on testimonies of 33 people from Chechnya who were persecuted, illegally detained, and tortured. In this report, the Russian LGBT Network reveals the factual timeline of this crime against humanity and disentangles the details of the LGBT persecution in Chechnya. Based on testimonial evidence, the report underscores the brutality of the tortures and the Chechen authorities’ involvement in criminal activities against LGBT people.
In her contribution to the report Elena Milashina, senior correspondent of the Novaya Gazeta, narrates the newest history of the Chechen Republic as she leads the reader through the two military campaigns and the events that followed Ramzan Kadyrov appointment as the Head of the Republic. She outlines the chain of social, political, and economic events that made mass persecution of LGBT people in the region possible.
The report confirms that gay purges in the region existed long before this mass outbreak of anti-LGBT actions in a form of blackmailing and racketeering. The shift happened, the report argues, in December 2016, when the state officials initiated mass detentions of gay men. The report confirms and expands the data presented in the previous reports, extensively discussing tortures that the victims were subjected to, in case they refused to out the gay men they knew. The Network reports that tortures included severe beatings and electrocutions. However, one of the victims discussed other brutal executions he faced while being detentained:
“I endured as much as I could [not to tell them names of other people], but I broke when they showed me a video of the tortures. They filmed it themselves. They caught a guy, he allegedly had contacts with terrorists. They brought in a hollow tube and a barbwire. They put a tube inside of him. In his anus. Then they put the barbed wire inside this tube. Then they took the tube out. Then they were slowly pulling the barbed wire out. When I saw that video and realized they had already brought the tube and the barbed wire I broke. I agreed to collaborate with them.”
Knowing that the public discourse and media coverage has had its major focus on the persecution of homosexual men, the Russian LGBT Network highlights the problematic position of women in Chechnya, focusing parts of its report on lesbian women and the complexities they face in their everyday life in the region. One of the women stated that she was forced to get married in order to hide her sexuality:
“I needed to hide the fact that I am a lesbian, so I married a man not to ruin the reputation of my family. I left the region soon, my mother renounced of me and everyone in the family knew that there was a sham marriage. Since then I was attacked with threats from my male relatives, who are seeking to punish me for a lie and my lifestyle.”
In the concluding remarks, the Russian LGBT Network finalizes the report and states that since February 2017, there are mass persecutions of men on suspicion of their homosexuality in Chechnya organized by the authorities. The Network has all the evidence to conclude that those persecutions fall under the category “crime against humanity”. The Russian Federation does not want or is not capable of initiating a criminal investigation of this crime. This situation can shift only if the political will of the highest officials change under the effective international pressure.
Over the last 4 months, the Russian LGBT Network used its best efforts to rescue those persecuted based on their (alleged) sexuality from the Chechen Republic. Since April 1, more than 130 people applied for help through the [email protected] emergency hotline. Activists evacuated more than 60 people from the region. According to the most recent updates from the Republic, detentions of people started again. Moreover, the Network has evidence that the authorities continue to threaten the victims and their families with criminal proceedings.
The Russian LGBT Network, an inter-regional social movement with its headquarters located in St. Petersburg, Russia, is an organization responsible for all of the emergency evacuation of the victims of the anti-LGBT purge in Chechnya. Its team has been working to help these people to flee the republic, to restore their feeling of safety and security, and to find sanctuary outside of Russia. It has been especially hard since both Russian and Chechen authorities have continued to deny that this crime against humanity is happening in the North Caucasus.