According to representatives from the Russian LGBT Network and reports that appeared this week in the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, over 100 homosexual men in the Chechen Republic have been rounded up and taken to prison camps, and at least three of the prisoners have been killed.
The Network’s Svetlana Zakharova told MailOnline and the BBC that some of the prisoners had escaped and reported that they had all been kept in the same room with between 30 and 40 other men, some of whom were beaten, given electrical shocks or even killed, though some of them have been released to their families with the expectation that they will be subjected to honor killing.
In a statement to the Interfax news agency, Alvi Karimov, spokesperson for the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied the claims but did so on the grounds that there were no homosexuals in Chechnya: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic[.] If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
Chechnya does not admit many foreign journalists, and Ekaterina Sokirianskaia of the International Crisis Group admits that clear information has been scarce, saying there were yet to be any “confirmed cases.” This may be due to the extreme secrecy surrounding homosexuality in Chechnya, where most gay men remain closeted. “It’s next to impossible to get information from the victims or their families,” she told The Guardian, “but the number of signals I’m receiving from different people makes it hard not to believe detentions and violence are indeed happening.”
The Russian LGBT Network has set up a hotline for more information and appealed to Russia’s Federal Investigation Commission but Zakharova says that, so far, “there is still no reaction at all.”
Though officially part of Russia, Chechnya can legally act as an independent country in some capacities.