In times like these, we have to stand up for the safety and well-being of our brothers and sisters. There is little constructive concern in official United States reaction to the ongoing human rights violations in Chechnya.
The Chechen Republic in the North Caucasian District of the Russian Federation has been a hotbed of ultra-right-wing political activity ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ever since 2007, the Republic has been ruled by strongman Ramzan Kakyrov. Due to a cult of personality surrounding Kakyrov, he has been able to get away with a high level of corruption and an alarming number of human rights violations.
There has never been any pretence of tolerance for LGBT citizens in Chechnya. The present regime is the most homophobic one in recent history. Political actions against the LGBT community intensified earlier this year when the gay rights organization from Moscow, GayRussia.ru, applied for permits to hold rallies in the Muslim-majority North Caucasian District.
As expected the permits were denied. Unfortunately just the act of requesting permits triggered antigay demonstrations in Chechnya. Soon adult and teen males started to disappear.
Government leadership emboldened the disappearances by commanding a “prophylactic sweep” of the area. At that time reports surfaced about abductions, torture, and murders of gay men and incarceration of gay men and those perceived as gay in “concentration camps”.
After news of the round-ups made its way into the international media, a spokesman for Kadyrov claimed the reports were false because “there are no gay men in the republic. You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.” The spokesman went on to say, “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
Sadly, the LGBT community in Chechnya cannot expect any genuine help from Russian Federation officialdom. Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently expressed strong homophobic views about LGBT people and anyone who has a “nontraditional” sexual orientation. That said, Putin stated he will intervene over the Chechnya reports.
Any statements or reprimands from Putin will likely be as superficial as those made ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Those statements only came about after negative world reaction to so-called “gay propaganda” prohibitions coming from the Kremlin. There are no signs that Putin has changed his homophobic opinions about the Russian LGBT community.
The present culture of persecution and murder of gay men in Chechnya will probably continue and even grow more insidious as time goes on, due to the lack of genuine prohibitions coming out of the Kremlin. The expression of official Russian investigation came about only after German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned the negative reports when she visited Putin in Moscow earlier this month.
Since then, the foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden have communicated with their Russian counterpart to strongly denounce the persecution. Conspicuosly absent was any early formal statement from Washington.
With the news media being distracted by historical domestic developements in our own federal government, the purge of gay men in Chechnya will receive little, if any, mention in the mainstream media sources. Add to this the fact that the US is being governed by the most homophobic administration in decades, the Chechnyan LGBT community cannot realistically expect any help from the American government.
I write today of the need to keep the tragedy of Chechnya in the hearts and minds of my readers. I can only hope that other like-minded people who love freedom and human rights will join in the efforts to halt Chechnya human rights violations. I also want to salute the ongoing efforts of individuals in Europe and North America to provide refuge for gays and their families escaping from the evil horrors of Chechnya.
The silence of most of the world can only work to the benefit of the tyrants. The most vulnerable minorities, the LGBT community, will be subjected to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and murder. It is important that fair-minded people everywhere speak and act against these attrocities.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes British author George Eliot. “You should read history and look at ostracism, persecution, martyrdom, and that kind of thing. They always happen to the best men, you know.”