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Chechnya: No criminal charges in homophobic exorcism case 

24 September 2020
Illustration via Russian LGBT Network.

The Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs has refused to open a criminal case into allegations by a woman that her relatives attempted violent exorcisms to change her sexual orientation.

Aminat Lorsanova, 22, has said that while she was institutionalised in two separate treatment centres in 2018, family members forcibly sedated and beat her repeatedly as a form of gay conversion therapy. 

Veronika Lapina, a member of the Russian LGBT Network who is representing Lorsanova, told OC Media that the LGBT network received the decision of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) at the end of August.

In January, Lorsanova reported the beatings to the Investigative Committee of Russia in Moscow. This statement was then sent to the Main Investigation Department for the North Caucasus Federal District, which instructed Chechnya’s MIA to investigate.

In her statement, Lorsanova said that she was repeatedly beaten in while held at the Boyev Clinic for Borderline States, a private treatment centre, as well as at the state-run drug addiction treatment clinic in Grozny in 2018. 

She had been placed in these institutions by her parents who had hoped to rid her of ‘possession by a djinn’ that they believed caused her non-heterosexual orientation, Veronika Lapina told OC Media.

Lorsanova spent about five months in the institutions, where, she said, during family visitation her father would forcibly inject her with a tranquiliser after which his acquaintance would perform an exorcism to ‘expel the djinn’, which consisted of beating her with a stick while reading the Koran.

Lorsanova asked the Investigative Committee to initiate a criminal case against her parents, the man who beat her, and the doctors working at the Boyev Clinic for Borderline States.

‘Nobody interviewed the victim herself or her representatives’

According to Lapina, the investigation was not handled properly — the investigators never even spoke Lorsanova or with her legal representatives. She also pointed out that the document in which the case was denied was dated to February, despite the fact that the case was brought to the Ministry of Internal Affairs only in March, a full month later. 

The LGBT Network will seek a new investigation, Lapina said.

According to Veronika Lapina, the practice of ‘driving out the djinns’ is widespread in Chechen families who seek to alter the behaviour of queer people and those whose behaviour does not correspond to what is perceived as traditional or proper morality.

‘The expulsion of djinns in Chechnya is used not only in the form of alternative medicine but also through quasi-medical centres, such as the Clinic of Borderline States’, the Russian LGBT Network quotes Lapina as saying.

According to her, more than 30 queer women with whom the LGBT network works have suffered from this practice.

Aminat Lorsanova left Russia earlier this year on a humanitarian visa issued as part of the evacuation of LGBT people from Chechnya.

[For more on anti-queer repression in Chechnya read: Mass detentions and killing of queer men reported in Chechnya]

Persecution of queer people in Chechnya

Apart from being ‘cured’ through exorcism by their families, queer people are regularly persecuted by the Chechen authorities, with recurrent waves of repression in 2018, 2017, and 2016. 

Hundreds of men have reportedly been detained, and dozens killed. 

In their 2018 Nations in Transit report, American rights group Freedom House said there was ‘credible evidence of at least 31 deaths of Chechen men who were suspected of being gay’.

[Read more on OC Media: Witnesses detail continuing anti-queer purge in Chechnya]

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