Chechnya’s Anti-LGBT Pogrom and Its Global Reverberations

October 17, 2017

One of the most disturbing and prominent human rights crises to come out of Europe in the past few months has been the anti-LGBT pogrom taking place in Chechnya since April.  Chechnya, a Russian republic, has a long and storied history of human rights abuses; particularly, these abuses often center on members of the LGBT community, for Chechnya is a region known for its ferocious and violent homophobia.  

This culture of fear and violence against LGBT people, though, finally came to a head when it was reported in April by Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, that nearly a hundred gay men in Chechnya were rounded up by law enforcement authorities acting under Ramzan Kadyrov.  Human Rights Watch later confirmed these reports, explaining that these men were then taken to secret detention centers where they were beaten, shocked, and brutalized for days, and even weeks, before being returned to their families. However, some victims never returned, as at least one reportedly died as a result of the injuries they sustained. Even those who did return faced further danger at home, as families were pressured to partake in “honor killings” of their gay family members; two additional men reportedly died in this manner.

Not only are these heinous acts of violence against one of Chechnya’s most vulnerable communities horrifying, but what is more disturbing is the response of Kadyrov, who claimed in an interview with HBO that Chechnya does not have “any gays,” and if they did they should be taken away to “purify” Chechen blood.  Such responses by Chechnyan officials, as well as Vladimir Putin’s refusal to address or resolve the crisis, has only made existing in Chechnya even more impossible for LGBT people.

As a result of such inaction, many of the victims of this pogrom have sought asylum in

other countries.  Human Rights Campaign, for instance, reported that in May, Lithuania became the first country to offer the persecuted asylum. In June, as The New York Times reports, Canada followed suit, and with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Rainbow Road has helped to

usher in nearly two dozen Chechen refugees.  

While such asylum is essential to the victims of this anti-gay pogrom, the only way to truly put an end to it is with the action of the international community.  Leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have confronted Putin directly regarding these human rights abuses.  However, President Trump, the leader of what is largely considered the most powerful country in the world, has not once addressed these horrific actions, despite having the opportunity to do so when he met with Putin in July.

Without pressure from the United States and a unified international community, these abuses will only continue and worsen. In fact, they have already, as Canada’s CBC News reported that a similar anti-LGBT pogrom began in Azerbaijan within the last few weeks.  Thus, it seems that this unchecked violence and homophobia in Chechnya has served as a catalyst for violence by other oppressively anti-LGBT regimes, putting LGBT people around the globe at further risk. And if the international community cannot come together now to put an end to it, who knows what heights these appalling abuses will reach.



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