U.S. Senate Condemns Gay Persecution in Chechnya

Senate condemns Chechnya
Nataliya Vasilyeva/AP

The United States Senate passed another bipartisan resolution condemning the abduction and torture of gay men in Chechnya on Wednesday.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in the semi-autonomous region of Russia first made headlines in April when the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Chechen authorities had abducted, detained and tortured at least 100 gay men at concentration camps, killing at least three in the process, but the response from U.S. officials has been spotty at best. The U.S. Department of State issued a statement one week after the story broke, in which it “categorically condemn[ed] the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation,” and after which it largely avoided the situation; neither Donald Trump nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have ever publicly addressed the topic.

Related | New Yorkers Marched to Demand Humanitarian Visas For Queer Chechens

The resolution passed in Senate on Wednesday, introduced by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), could perhaps be an effort to change that. "The Senate condemns the violence and persecution in Chechnya,” the resolution states, “and calls on Chechen officials to immediately cease the abduction, detention, and torture of individuals on the basis of their actual or suspected sexual orientation, and hold accountable all those involved in perpetrating such abuses.”

However, it’s unlikely that the resolution was meant to do anything more than keep Chechnya in the American conscience. An earlier bipartisan resolution passed unanimously in June states the same thing; in fact, the “new” resolution is merely an amended version of the original, indistinguishable save for slight changes in legal jargon and one additional clause.

Five months after the original resolution was passed, the Chechen government has resumed and intensified its anti-gay purge; the Russian government has done nothing to stop it; and the American government has actively impeded queer Chechens from reaching asylum by outright denying to issue humanitarian visas. While the Senate may have brought Chechnya back into the conversation, it remains true that neither the original nor the amended resolutions propose any concrete outlines for stopping the abduction, torture, and murder of queer Chechens or providing asylum for queer Chechen refugees.

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