On the late evening of June 10th a shelter in Makhachkala - a sanctuary for domestic violence survivors organized by the ‘Marem’ project - became beleaguered by Dagestani policemen and Chechen enforcers, information that was first communicated to Russian LGBT Network by a Dagestani journalist and human rights defender Svetlana Anokhina who was present on the scene. Apart from Svetlana herself, there were six more people, including two of Marem’s volunteers and four of the people staying at the shelter, among whom — Anna Manylova and Khalimat Taramova. In retrospect, it can be assumed that it is the latter’s presence on the premises that was the reason behind the raid.
Khalimat Taramova is from Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, a region infamous for the practice of torture and ‘honor’ killings of LGBT+ people. Having found herself victim of continuous persecution and abuse motivated by her sexual orientation to the point of beatings at the hand of family members and threats, as well as spending the last six months virtually locked up in the house without means of contacting the outer world, in fear for her life Khalimat reached out to Russian LGBT Network on May 28th. The aforementioned Ms. Manylova flew out to Grozny on June 4th seeking to help Khalimat escape — the two young women were friends, and the former was well-informed of Khalimat’s perilous situation.
The head of the emergency assistance programme characterizes the women’s hastiness as a mistake: “Any case of a person’s extraction requires some serious preparation”, he commented, “after it became known to us that Anna had arrived in Grozny, we had no other choice but to extract them both. They left Chechnya on that very day and spent all that time, till the evening of June 10th, in the shelter”.
On June 6th Ms. Taramova recorded a video message which then was publicized through ‘Novaya Gazeta’, a media source with a large number of readers. Therein, she emphasized that she had left home on her own volition, and asked not to look for her. Nonetheless, she was reported missing, the very fact that was then used for justifying the visit to the shelter by Dagestani policemen on the evening in question. Consequently, letting at least one of them in could not have been avoided: policeman, having made sure of Khalimat’s well-being and having heard from the woman herself that it had been her own decision to run away, finally left. Or so it seemed.
During the conversation with the policeman Khalimat and Anna both showed their apprehension, voicing concern over the eventuality that, upon policeman's left, the apartment would be stormed by Chechen enforcers. Reportedly, policeman replied to that statement that such a turn of events would be unlawful and they would be within their right to call the police.
Yet, as witnessed by Svetlana Anokhina, a couple of hours after having said that Medzhidov himself broke into the apartment wearing military camouflage along with numerous Chechen enforcers. In the aftermath, people who were staying in the shelter were dragged out of the apartment with the use of excessive force and taken to the local police department afterward, where they were accused of resisting law enforcement agents. On top of that, they were not allowed to register the results of battering they had experienced during the arrest.
Meanwhile, Khalimat and Anna managed to run out to the balcony. As reported by witnesses, it is at that moment that Ayub Taramov, Khalimat’s father, entered the premises. Taramov is considered to have been an associate to Akhmad Kadyrov and seen as close to the current head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. He is also the ex-head of the Chechen municipal administration and the former deputy minister of the Chechen Housing and Public Utilities department. To avoid him approaching them, Khalimat and Anna threatened to jump (the apartment is situated on the fourth floor). According to Ms. Anokhina, Taramov then left, and instead of him came, as the man introduced himself, a ‘neighbor’ who promised the women to help get them out. Looking back, it is a safe assumption that said the neighbor was highly likely to have been in on the raid.
Afterward, Anna and Khalimat found themselves in the central office of the Department of Internal Affairs. Khalimat was being urged to write a report where she would state how she had to leave home because she had been ‘lured’ out, made to do so — she wrote a different one, where she was detailing her initial version of events. Policemen talked to Anna and Khalimat, at length explaining to them that ‘their lifestyle’ does not conform to traditions. Ms. Manylova remembers how they were trying to convince Khalimat to come back to her husband.
The young women’s hopes for salvation were in vain: in the end, they were tricked into leaving the building. At some point, policemen claimed that they were ready to guarantee their safety and would assist in their escape, but followed up by escorting them to the backdoor entrance and taking to a ‘bunch of Chechen people in Jeeps’, a recollection of Anna’s and a conclusion made by her on the basis of the noticed regional car numbers. Anna was being held by the hands while Khalimat was practically being shoved into a car.
Anna wanted to report what had happened but the police refused to take her statement.
Veronika Lapina, international advocacy consultant for Russian LGBT Network expressed her opinion on the matter in making a prognosis that Khalimat may be subject to ‘honor sentence’ for ‘airing family business in public’ when publicizing her cry for help.
To provide insight into the most current state of affairs, on June 13th lawyers representing Russian LGBT Network have already filed a report with the Chechen Republic Investigation Committee asking to look into the kidnapping of Khalimat Taramova.
Additionally, Russian LGBT Network is preparing to address the ECHR using the rule 39 application. The NGO’s defense team points out that, when a lawyer had contacted Khalimat’s father, he claimed that his daughter was already home, in Grozny, yet we have no way of proving those words to be true.
Ergo, Khalimat’s future and her very life is the cause for gravest concern in the present moment.