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Armenia grants asylum to queer Chechen

31 January 2024
Salman Mukayev. Image via RFE/RL.

An Armenian court has granted asylum to a queer Chechen man, blocking his extradition to Russia. 

On Monday, Yerevan’s Administrative Court ruled in favour of granting 41-year-old Salman Mukayev, a Chechen native residing in Armenia, asylum. 

The court overruled the Migration Service’s decision to reject Mukayev’s 2021 asylum application on the grounds that his life would not be in danger in Russia outside of Chechnya.

Mukayev was reportedly detained by the Russian authorities in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay in 2020. NC SOS Crisis Group, a queer rights organisation operating in the North Caucasus, stated that Mukayev was tortured by the security forces who attempted to obtain a confession that he had had a sexual relationship with a male friend. 

[Read more: Chechen faces extradition to Russia from Armenia]

He fled to Armenia after being blackmailed by the Russian authorities in Chechnya and was charged with the illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or carrying of weapons and ammunition two weeks later.

In its ruling on Monday, the Court stated that despite not facing charges pertaining to his sexuality, Mukayev’s being queer posed a threat to his life in Russia.

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It added that it based its decision on ‘objective, up-to-date, and reliable information’ and that ‘it can be reasonably assumed that LGBT people may face imprisonment and ill-treatment because of their sexual orientation’.

They cited reports of discrimination against queer people in Russia as well as the country’s designation of the ‘international LGBT movement’ as an extremist organisation.

‘From the current, objective and reliable data on the situation of the representatives of the LGBT community in the Russian Federation and the North Caucasus (including Chechnya), it can be concluded that the threat to their freedom and personal integrity is not limited to the territory of Chechnya’, read the court’s verdict.

The court’s decision to grant Mukayev asylum will come into force in one month if the Migration Service does not appeal it.

‘I don’t know what would have happened if the opposite decision was made; I am very happy’, Mukayev told RFE/RL on Tuesday.

Systemic purges

NC SOS Crisis Group stated that after Mukayev was detained in Chechnya, the authorities released him on the condition that he helped identify other queer men in Chechnya.

Chechen security forces reportedly instructed Mukayev to contact men online and to invite them to a flat monitored by them.

Mukayev refused to comply and fled to Armenia instead, after which he was charged and placed on a federal wanted list.

In September 2021, Novaya Gazeta reported that Mukayev was barred from leaving Armenia for Europe by border place because he was wanted in Russia.

Activists in Armenia feared that Mukayev’s extradition to Russia would lead to his death.

Queer people face persecution in the North Caucasus and especially in Chechnya, where they are systematically abducted, tortured, abused, blackmailed, and killed.

In 2017, reports emerged of anti-gay purges organised by the Russian authorities in Chechnya, resulting in the detention of more than 100 people and the death of several others.

Those believed by activists to have been killed by the authorities included well-known Chechen singer Zelim Bakayev.

Chechens believed to be queer have not found safety in other regions of Russia.

In 2021, two siblings fleeing Chechnya, Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magomadov, were abducted by local police from a safe house in Central Russia and transferred back to Chechnya, where they were charged with transferring food to an illegal armed group.

In 2022, Ismail was sentenced to eight years in prison, and Salekh was sentenced to six.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.