A new report published by the Russian LGBT Network, which you can read in its entirety here, provides horrifying testimonies from 33 gay men currently being persecuted in Chechnya. The report speculates that dozens of victims have been killed, some tortured to death, and that despite international pressure on the Chechen government, detainment camps continue to exist.
The report identifies the people behind this persecution as Chechnya's Department of Internal Affairs, a sector of the General Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. Testimonies also condemn local police officers and the Russian government's internal military force, Rosgvardia, as responsible for the attacks.
Several testimonies target specific people as having participated in torture: Magomed Daudov (nicknamed "The Lord"), spokesperson of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic; also Aiub Kataev, head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in Argun, and Abuzaid Vismuradov (nicknamed "The Patriot), head of the Special Division of First Responders.
One victim testifies:
“One day, all my relatives were informed about the fact that I was detained. 'The Lord' came to us, the chairman of the parliament — Magomed Daudov. We were all set down before the Lord. The Lord approached us, took pictures on his phone, and asked if each of us was gay. We had to answer 'yes,' This all happened in front of our relatives. He talked to our relatives, saying that we brought disgrace to the nation and to our families. He told them that if they honour the traditions, they must kill us. And that if they did everything, they would not be punished for it.”
Families were told by authorities that they if they "decided to kill the gay/bisexual relative, they would not be prosecuted for this crime." Many honour killings resulted from this decree, such as this one, provided by witness testimony:
“X – a young man who was caught by militants in March. Was detained in Argun. His father and uncle came to him. The perpetrators showed them the recordings which exposed him as a homosexual. The relatives replied that they would punish the victim themselves. He was taken to the woods and buried there without a funeral."
Several testimonies also report that captured gay men were threatened with death if they didn't give the names of other known homosexuals, resulting in a major increase in the size of the victim pool. As one testimony reports:
“They threw me to the floor and beat me. They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor. One of them said: 'Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that.' They addressed me with female pronouns and demanded that I tell them the names of other gay people I knew. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t.”
While detained in prison, those arrested for their sexuality are being treated worse than those in jail for terrorism and drug offences. Another testimony says:
“We were forced to lie on the floor with our bottoms up, and each person in the cell would hit us with a pipe three times. As the week went by, there were already 18 LGBT people being detained and tortured. The youngest was around 17-years-old, and the oldest about 47. We were not allowed to wash. Some detainees developed open-cut wounds, and the cell smelled like rotten meat.”
Victims were also reportedly held for ransom, for sums of up to 1 million Rub (or around $17k) in order to be released.
The Russian LGBT Network has so far been able to move 64 gay people to safer housing in central Russia. Most of the people in danger, however, remain trapped in Chechnya.