A closeted world: Gay men in Chechnya tortured for their sexuality


Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya in a meeting. Courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia, has been hit with a recent spike in police violence against the gay community, with over a hundred men captured in early April. The men are sent away to secret facilities where they are mistreated and tortured for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied this, and told Interfax News Agency that gay men and those within the LGBTQ+ community aren’t really Chechens, and that gay people simply don’t exist. Kadyrov stated, “Chechen society does not have this phenomenon called non-traditional sexual orientation. For thousands of years, the people have lived by other rules, prescribed by God.” Many in Chechnya fear coming out to their families, because they could be sent away to a place that they would never return from, such as those facilities. Being a part of the queer community in Chechnya is considered foreign and not normal by government officials. They are much more conservative and less open-minded than those in the U.S.

Prisoners are being held in a detention center 13 miles away from Grozny, a major city in Chechnya, and are put into small cells with up to thirty people. They are tortured with electric shock and by physical beatings. Natalia Poplevskaya, member of the Russian LGBTQ Network, telling BBC news that “All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay.”

Groups of LGBTQ+ activists who often try to hold rallies and protests in support of the queer community become the targets of hate crimes when anti-gay protesters attackers attempted to beat those who protested. Many escaped unharmed, however ten were detained during May Day march in St. Petersburg.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. even stated that the acts of Kadyrov in Chechnya were similar to the horrific acts Hitler committed under the Nazi rule. During the Holocaust in the 1940s, many members of the LGBTQ+ community were taken to concentration camps where they were tortured and murdered. Unlike the hundreds of members in the LGBTQ+ community that were murdered in the Holocaust, however, only three of the one hundred gay men detained in Chechnya have been confirmed dead.

On May 10th, it was announced that 40 men were rescued from these facilities and are being evacuated from Chechnya. There has since been an email hotline set up with LGBTQ+ members feeling unsafe or in danger.