Reports of "mass detentions" were first seen in Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta on April 1. Citing that story, a New York Times story quickly followed. Chillingly, President Ramzan Kadyrov's regime denied the reports of the "world's first concentration camp for homosexuals," calling them "absolute lies and disinformation" and explaining: "You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic."
A spokesperson for the regime added, "If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return."
As for what's happening in Chechnya, the New York Times reports that officials there find and arrest closeted gay men "partly by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites." The men are closeted because being out in the Caucasus region "is equal to a death sentence.”
From New York Times:
“I got numerous, numerous signals,” about the sweep of gay men, said Ekaterina L. Sokiryanskaya, Russia project coordinator for the International Crisis Group, and an authority on the North Caucasus. “It came from too many sources not to be true.”
Gay men have begun deleting online accounts, or fleeing the region. One user of Vkontakte, a Russian social networking site, wrote that a 16-year-old boy had been detained in a village in Chechnya. He returned days later, according to the post, “all beaten, just a sack with bones.”
Novaya Gazeta has continued to publish more stories about this.
As the Daily Mail explains in an article published today:
Chechyna has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler, where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death.
It comes after it was claimed 100 gay men had been detained and three killed in Chechnya last week.
A report by Novoya Gazeta said authorities had set up several camps where homosexuals are killed or forced to promise to leave the republic.
One of the camps is reportedly at the former military headquarters in the town of Argun.
According to the Irish Independent, one of Chechnya's human rights officials told a Russian radio station, "I haven’t had a single request on this issue, but if I did, I wouldn’t even consider it."
The official added, "In our Chechen society, any person who respects our traditions and culture will hunt down this kind of person without any help from authorities, and do everything to make sure that this kind of person does not exist in our society."
An editorial in the Washington Post yesterday explains:
Ramzan Kadyrov is unlike any other provincial leader in Russia. He rules the republic of Chechnya with brute force and enjoys the indulgence of President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Mr. Kadyrov keeps order in Chechnya, and Mr. Putin keeps out of his way. Now this deal has apparently led to barbaric treatment of gay men in the traditionally conservative Muslim society.
A piece in the Huffington Post today, "Gay Crisis in Chechnya," offers broader context:
Chechnya is a hotbed of Islamic honor killings, usually of young women, but of gay men as well. When gay Chechens who’ve somehow remained alive get out of jail, they are often taken by their male relatives to remote places to be killed and buried. No one even searches for them.
What makes the situation in Chechnya even more egregious is that there is not the slightest accountability on the part of those perpetrating the horrors. When the government of Egypt arrested at least 150 gay men in 2014, many were put on public trial, and due to international outrage and pressure, 26 were actually acquitted the following year. There is nothing even remotely similar in Chechnya, where gays are thrown in special jails, no charges are brought, no trials are conducted, and extrajudicial killings are the norm.
Here is an image circling on social media allegedly depicting one such concentration camp:
And Amnesty International is circulating this petition:
Call for an immediate stop to abduction, torture and killing of gay men in Chechnya. Sign our petition and share: https://t.co/Wni6Ux37fO pic.twitter.com/OZoRGc8rku
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) April 10, 2017