Campaign for disappeared Chechen singer Zelim Bakayev draws thousands of supporters

15 January 2018
Zelimkhan (Zelim) Bakayev (YouTube)

International queer rights group All Out, together with the Russian LGBT Network, have launched an online campaign urging Russian authorities to investigate the disappearance of Chechen singer Zelimkhan Bakayev. #JusticeForZelim launched on 8 January — five months after his disappearance.

‘We demand a thorough investigation into Zelim's disappearance and that justice is delivered to him and all other men persecuted in Chechnya’, the petition reads.

The petition has already been signed by more than 28,000 people. The head of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, told OC Media there had been no news about Bakayev since autumn.

‘We know for certain that the law enforcement bodies of Chechnya know what’s going on, but they do not in any way inform the public about their actions to find the man. And this once again makes us think that the rule of law is completely absent in one part of Russia’, the group’s website quotes him as saying.

[Read also: Russia ‘not investing’ Chechen queer persecutions]

The 26 year old singer disappeared on 8 August in the Chechen capital Grozny, where he was attending the wedding of his sister. After the case gained media attention and human rights activists raised the alarm about the persecution of queer people in Chechnya, Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova flew to Grozny.

Almost immediately after her visit, a video was published online supposedly from Bakayev. In it, a man who looks like Bakayev addresses someone called Islam, inviting him to Germany, where he says he travelled in the middle of August.

(Still from the video) Online commentators noted a number of suspicious details, including an energy drink sold only in Russia.

The singer’s friends and family insist the video was staged, while the European Commission confirmed that Bakayev had not entered Europe.

[Read from oDR: ‘Brothers, be careful. Don’t meet up in Grozny’]

In September, Zelimkhan’s mother Malika Bakayev addressed Ramzan Kadyrov asking for help in finding her son.

On 9 January, a video was posted to YouTube in which a woman covering her face addresses Kadyrov, his mother Aymani Kadyrova, and the parents of other disappeared sons.  She called on the head of Chechnya to stop torturing people.

‘Give Zelimkhan back to his mother. You also have a mother. You don’t have a sense of shame or a conscience. You do not deserve to be the head of the republic. You could not be given even the job of a shepherd: you wouldn’t keep the herd together until the evening’, she says.

The video was deleted a day later.

[Read on OC Media: ‘It would be better if you died’: queer Daghestanis on coming out]

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