Russian law enforcement authorities detained gay two men who had escaped torture and abuse in the Chechen Republic, then handed them over to Chechen officials for return to their home region. The Russian LGBT Network reported they helped Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev flee the ‘gay purge’ in June of last year. Chechen authorities had allegedly arrested and tortured the two men for their LGBTQ+ activism and running an opposition channel on Telegram. Prior to their escape, the pair were forced to record a deeply disturbing video apology at the hands of Chechen authorities. This week, Russian authorities detained them.
Witnesses reported men in black SWAT-type uniforms at the apartment of Magamadov and Isayev on Thursday. A call was placed from the residence to David Isteev, the emergency assistance coordinator at the Russian LGBT Network, who reported hearing screaming in the background. Their apartment showed signs of a scuffle when Alexander Nemov, the pair’s attorney, arrived at the residence 30 minutes later.
Police in their area initially denied any knowledge of the raid or detention. After Nemov submitted a formal claim, though, they admitted Magamadov and Isayev had been detained by local law enforcement officials, and then later handed over to Chechen police for return to Gudermes in the Chechen Republic.
The two men likely face further detention and abuse at the hands of Chechen authorities. The country is deeply conservative with little tolerance for what Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov described to reporters in 2017 as “non-traditional orientation.” Kadryov went so far as to deny the existence of LGBTQ+ Chechens, instead saying they are a plot by foreigners to “get a chance to end up in the West.”
"In Chechen society, there is no such thing as nontraditional orientation: our people have for millennia lived by different rules prescribed by God Almighty and dictated by the moral and ethical norms of inter-personal relations,” Kadyrov said at the time. “We have never had them among us Chechens.”
During their time in captivity at the hands of Chechen officials last year, the pair were forced to record a video apology. The man in the video appeared distraught and under extreme duress, with a voice making commands of the captive man as he was speaking.
Kadyrov and the Chechen Republic have a long history of abuse of the LGBTQ+ community in the region. A “gay purge” was launched by authorities in 2019 with arrests, detentions, abuse, and torture. The atrocities and realities of it were shown in David France's Welcome to Chechnya. The Russian LGBT Network estimated at least two people were killed and more than 40 queer Chechens were held by authorities. Kadyrov also reportedly said he wanted gays “eliminated” in time for Ramadan in 2017. Kadyrov was finally sanctioned for his actions by the United States last year. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “extensive credible information” showing Kadyrov was “responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings.”