A group of human rights activists in Daghestan have been working to help queer people in Chechnya, following reported mass detentions and killings of suspected queer men in the republic.
Around 10 people from Chechnya have already managed to escape the republic, some of which have now left Russia. The hotline of the Russian LGBT Network — a nationwide queer rights group — has been receiving dozens of messages a day since the purge began.
Novaya Gazeta first broke the story on 1 April of mass detentions and harassment of men in Chechnya based on suspicions about their sexual orientation. The author of the article, Elena Milashina, wrote that at least three were dead and hundreds had been arrested.
The Chechen authorities have called the accusations slander, claiming that ‘there are no gays in Chechnya’. Kheda Saratova, a member of Chechnya’s Human Rights Council, stated that persecution of queer people ‘wasn’t condemned’ in Chechen society and that homosexuality was ‘worse than war’. The authorities ‘wouldn’t even react’ to complaints about detentions and killings of gay people, she claimed, though she later admitted that she ‘regretted her phrasing’.
In response to the events in Chechnya, Daghestani human rights activists have reached out to queer people in Chechnya to offer their help. One activist, Rasul (not his real name), told OC Media that they are ready to provide shelter to those who need it.
‘It is important that gays in Chechnya know that people in Daghestan are ready to help them. If anyone needs to hide; to wait for a while; they can contact us’, Rasul said.
‘Of course, people are not really tolerant towards people of different sexual orientations in Daghestan either. Somehow everyone forgot that they are people too, not animals. No one has the right to kill a person because he or she is different’. He continued
A spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Network told OC Media that they have been receiving messages mostly from men.
‘We’ve received very few messages from girls. Most of the beneficiaries are men. Perhaps because right now men are under attack’, he told us.
The Russian LGBT Network can be contacted for help via their hotline or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The repression may be connected to a major backlash following an attempt to hold pride parades in several North Caucasus cities. Requests to hold events were submitted in March to local authorities in the cities of Cherkessk, Maykop, Nalchik, and Stavropol by queer rights activist Nikolay Alekseyev, head of the GayRussia.ru project, but were rejected. The requests provoked a major debate across the North Caucasus, in which queer rights activism was overwhelmingly condemned as ‘incompatible with North Caucasian traditions’.
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised in Russia in 1993. Queer couples in Russia have no legal recognition of their partnerships, and there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2013, a law was passed making it a punishable offense to distribute ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships’ among minors. The law was condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and by international human rights groups for its broad and ambiguous wording, which many critics characterised as being an effective ban on publicly promoting the rights and culture of the queer community.