‘Any day you can be taken’: Inside what it’s like to be gay in Chechnya. (Part 1)

LGBT people in Chechnya fear brutal persecution at the hands of government: Part 1.

Ricky said he had known the man who betrayed him for 10 years.

He was 19 and for most of his life he had lived a relatively sheltered life near Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, the autonomous republic in southern Russia. Ricky– a pseudonym– had known he was gay since his early teens but had almost never dated. His relationships were mostly restricted to a tiny circle of friends who had discovered their sexuality together as they grew up. He was careful, he would normally only meet people 3 or 4 times a-year.

Then one day the police arrived at his work.

“The first day they took me and locked me in the cell in our city police station,” Ricky said. “Then they took me to another place.” After that, the torture began.

“At first, they were just beating me. They punched me and then they hit me with electric shock. They did waterboarding, which was the worst,” Ricky told ABC News in a recent interview.

The police had discovered Ricky because of one his friends. They confronted him with a video passed to them by the friend that showed them together, discussing LGBT issues.

“I gave up then. I really thought they were going to kill me,” Ricky said. “They said it would be better if I was a terrorist than gay.”

Ricky’s ordeal was in mid-2018 and it was a familiar story.

In early 2017, the world had became aware of reports that Chechen authorities were rounding up and torturing dozens of men they suspected of being gay, in what came to be known as a “gay purge”. Over 100 men were reported by rights groups to have been swept up by the security services and taken to police stations and secret prisons. From there, many accounts emerged describing beatings with plastic rods, electrocution, waterboarding. Rights groups have since reported several suspected deaths.

The international outcry to the alleged abuse of the LGBT community in Chechnya was huge — protests were held in cities around the world and Western governments condemned the reports. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on top Chechen officials for their role in the persecution.

Three years later, however, little has changed and no one has been held accountable. Instead, reporting by ABC News and others shows that– while not on the same scale– the detention and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya never really stopped. Nor did it begin in 2017.

In January 2018 Russian LGBT activists reported a fresh wave of detentions, this time also involving gay women. Although far smaller than in 2017, it underlined a grim reality, that the so-called “purges” are in fact more like spikes in what is a routine practice in Chechnya– the detention and torture of men suspected by police of being gay.

ABC News’ James Longman toured a prison with Apti Alaudinov, the head of police in Chechnya, a Russian republic that has allegedly purged LGBTQ people over the last two years.

For almost a year, ABC News has recorded the stories of LGBT men and women persecuted in Chechnya and the surrounding region, or living in terror of exposure there. The names of most of those interviewed have been changed at their request out of concern the Chechen authorities or their families might harm them.

Their accounts paint a picture of a place where there is now virtually no space to be gay, where dating carries potentially lethal consequences and the suppression of their identity is obligatory for LGBT people.

“Any day in Chechnya you can be taken,” Ricky said. “There is no life.”

‘It’s a dictatorship’.

Chechnya is a republic traumatized by violence. Located on Russia’s southwestern edge in the mountains of the North Caucasus, the area was devastated in two wars between the mid-1990s and later 2000s with Russia. Russian federal troops, crushing a separatist rebellion and then an Islamic insurgency, devastated the republic. Grozny was levelled and hundreds of thousands were killed.

Since 2007, Chechnya has lived under the rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to subdue Chechnya. He has done that, using allegedly savage methods, and in the process Kadyrov has remodelled Chechnya around himself, erecting a police state and a cult of personality built around an obsessive machismo centered on sport, particularly martial arts.

In the majority-Muslim region, with a deeply conservative culture, being gay was never accepted. But under Kadyrov, the suffocating strictures defining Chechen identity have narrowed even further and are sometimes brutally enforced.

“It is a dictatorship,” said Harlem, who fled Chechnya several years ago and now runs LGBT World Beside, an NGO that tries to help gay people leave the Caucasus. “Everything is decided for you. Everyone should live the same way — have a family and be a good example.”

In 2017, that conservative hostility to homosexuality seemed to convert into organised terror, part of a broader conservative campaign that has also targeted drug and alcohol users.

Amin Dzhabrailov, 27, only the second man to come forward publicly about his detention in 2017, told ABC News that armed police took him from the hair salon where he was working. For 14 days, he said, he was held in a basement with several other gay men, taken out for torture sessions, where he was electrocuted and subjected to a mock execution.

Amin Dzhabrailov tells ABC News” James Longman the torture and interrogation he says he endured at the hands of Chechen police.

“They put me on the wall, put bag on my head,” he remembered. “That guy charged his gun and put [it] right here, on my head. And I started painting the wall with my blood. And he said that it’s my last seconds.”

Almost all the people who have spoken to ABC News said the men who took them were members of Chechnya’s police. They described active attempts to hunt down gay men using informants and surveillance. They said the people who tortured them would demand they names other gay men.

‘For us, it’s crazy that someone among us might be gay’.

Chechen authorities have dismissed the allegations as invented. Kadyrov and other officials have famously said gay men don’t exist in Chechnya.

In reality, Kadyrov’s inner circle have been accused of playing key roles in the 2017 “purge.” Magomed Daudov, Chechnya’s speaker of parliament, known by his nom de guerre, “Lord,” was alleged by Human Rights Watch to have “persuaded the Chechen leadership” to set it in motion. Some victims have told HRW and ABC News that Daudov was personally present in while they were tortured.

When ABC reporters encountered Daudov by chance in their hotel in Grozny, he dismissed the allegations and told said he was “proud” of U.S. sanctions against him (he was sanctioned in 2013 for his alleged role in the kidnapping and torture of a Chechen politician.)

But he and others officials made no attempt to conceal their hostility to LGBT people.

“For us it’s crazy that someone among us might be gay,” Apti Aluadinov, Chechnya’s deputy interior minister and a top commander of its police forces, told ABC News in September. “Ask any Chechen if there is a gay in his family, he will punch you in the face,” Aluadinov said.

Aluadinov, who was also sanctioned in 2013 by the United States over the same case as Daudov, claimed the gay men alleging torture were simply seeking asylum in the West or that they themselves were likely not Chechens. Over several hours he took ABC reporters to a regional police base just outside Grozny, driving them there himself. When the reporters arrived at the base, a 58-man strong garrison was drawn up on the parade ground in full-battle gear. Inside, Aluadinov showed the reporters the empty cells, which were clean and looked rarely used, as though mostly display.

He insisted he couldn’t conceive how a Chechen man could be gay and said it was not him but Chechen society that will not tolerate gay men.

“He is not afraid of me. He is afraid of his own family,” Aluadinov said.

‘I asked them to throw me out the window’.

For LGBT people in Chechnya, a double life is obligatory. The fear is not only of the state but also of their own families and local communities, where homosexuality is perceived as bringing shame. Victims have repeatedly described being handed back over to their families with a suggestion that they kill them themselves and many of speaking anonymously said they feared their relatives would harm them if they found out.

In such circumstances, discussing homosexuality, let alone coming out is impossible. Many LGBT men and woman marry members of the opposite sex, under pressure from their families.

“If men stand out, even with their clothes, it is already a problem,” said Omar, 24.

Omar was still living in Chechnya when ABC News interviewed him (meeting outside the republic to protect his safety). He described a daily sapping fear, where every interaction with the police could carried potentially catastrophic circumstances.

Then during the new wave of arrests last winter, Omar’s mother inadvertently discovered he was gay. She threatened to hand him over to relatives in the security services, he said. For months, Omar he lived in fear he might be about to killed. He eventually sought asylum in Europe.

Ruslan, a bisexual man living in the neighboring republic of Dagestan, where attitudes are very similar to Chechnya, had a wife and a 1-year-old baby when he said his life was destroyed.

Five men lured him to an apartment where they beat him and forced him to admit he was gay on camera. The men demanded a few thousand dollars. When Ruslan couldn’t pay, they posted it on YouTube the next day.

“I asked them to throw me out the window. I asked them just to kill me. But no, they wanted money,” Ruslan said.

‘It’s harder for women because they can’t leave’.

Many LGBT Chechens link the eruption of more systematic violence in the past few years to a worsening atmosphere of homophobia in Russia, signaled by the passing of the notorious so-called “anti-gay propaganda” law in 2013.

That law, which effectively banned public displays of homosexuality, has been criticized by rights groups as green-lighting discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

All over Russia, gay people reported increased hostility. But in Chechnya it seemed to encourage and may have later given cover to extreme violence by the security services.

Before 2016, there was still a tiny but still active underground gay scene in Chechnya.

Tabitha, a young woman who fled that year, told ABC News she would rent apartments in Chechnya to party in. She would gather groups to drive to clubs in nearby regions.

“From around 2009 till around 2014, there were clubs where lesbians could get together, dance, talk,” said Tabitha. “But they have closed now. In fact, all clubs have closed there, really.”

“People are afraid now,” she said. “The police have ears everywhere — in hotels, there are cameras, microphones,” she said. Most lesbian’s romantic lives are reduced to talking on online messenger services, she said, or meeting in cafe.

In some ways life in Chechnya, where women are already face restrictions, is even harder for gay women.

“Men have more freedom, but they have more threats. It’s harder for women spiritually,” said Tabitha. “It’s harder for women because they can’t leave, they can’t go anywhere.”

‘I’m proud’.
Despite the international outcry, Russia has mostly turned away criticism of the Chechen government. No high-level Russian official has ever condemned the reported detentions and Russian authorities have argued they cannot investigate because the victims are anonymous.

But in late 2017, Maksim Lapunov came forward publicly describing how he was kidnapped off the street in Grozny and tortured. He filed the first and so far only criminal complaint over his torture.

Lapunov’s public allegations, amid intense international pressure, compelled Russia’s Investigative Committee to open a probe into his case. But after less than a year, a court in Lapunov’s hometown of Stavropol ordered it closed, citing lack of evidence. Lapunov, receiving death threats, fled for his life, and now lives in Europe where he has asylum.

The Russian investigation, as Lapunov’s lawyer and rights groups pointed out, ignored key information. In particular, Lapunov has said he had his phone on him, allowing him to prove that during his disappearance he had been in a building in the heart of Chechnya’s security district.

Chechen officials, like Aluadinnov, though have seized on the investigation to assert Lapunov’s accusations are baseless. And despite the growing body of evidence.

ABC News’ James Longman spoke with Apti Alaudinov, the head of police in Chechnya, a Russian republic that has allegedly purged LGBTQ people over the last two years.

Still insecure here.
Since the first “purge,” some Chechens have fled the region, helped most often by LGBT organizations.

The Russian LGBT Network, a St. Petersburg-based nongovernmental organization that provides safe houses in Russian cities, said it has helped over 150 people leave since 2017.

But fleeing Chechnya does not mean an automatic end to hardship. LGBT Network cannot provide people with shelter indefinitely and some who fear being kidnapped have said they have been unable to receive asylum.

Some who had left told ABC News they felt they face a grim Catch-22 — they need asylum to avoid torture, but cannot prove it until they already have been.

Rights groups say there are mechanisms in place to prevent this situation for asylum seekers. But some men ABC News has met with have found themselves semi-homeless after fleeing to Moscow.

In Europe, the situation is also often not easy. In asylum centers, many of the residents are from conservative countries who are also intolerant of homosexuality.

Most frightening for some is the large Chechen diaspora in Europe. Chechen refugees have described receiving threatening messages on the chat service Whatsapp from a group of men saying they have taken it on themselves to police behavior among Chechens abroad, including threats against asylum seekers for dressing inappropriately. Police also warn the Chechen authorities can use the diaspora to strike at those speaking against it.

“We still feel insecure even here,” said Harlem.

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Copyright www.abcnews.go.com

St. Petersburg murder victim was ‘well-known LGBT rights activist’.

Yelena Grigoryeva protesting over LGBT rights. Photograph: Dinar Idrisov/Facebook

Yelena Grigoryeva received threats before she was stabbed to death, say campaigners.

Russian campaigners have said that a woman found murdered with multiple stab wounds in the city of Saint Petersburg was a well-known activist who had received threats over her protests for LGBT rights and opposition causes.

Authorities said they had found the body of a 41-year-old woman with multiple knife wounds in St Petersburg on Sunday, but did not identify her.

Activists and media reports in the city named the victim as local campaigner Yelena Grigoryeva, who was a regular participant in rallies supporting a range of unpopular causes in modern Russia, including LGBT rights and freedom for Ukrainian political prisoners.

“An activist of democratic, anti-war and LGBT movements Yelena Grigoryeva was brutally murdered near her house” on Friday night, opposition campaigner Dinar Idrisov wrote on Facebook. He said she had recently reported threats of violence to the police, but they took no action.

Acquaintances said Grigoryeva’s name was on a list of LGBT activists published by a recently blocked Russian website that called on people to take vigilante action against them. Russia’s internet watchdog banned the website last week.

In recent days, activists at an LGBT resource centre in the city of Ekaterinburg said they had received a threatening letter, signed by “a liquidator of gays”, warning that if they did not close down the centre “something very bad and very sad” could happen.

Photographs posted to Grigoryeva’s Facebook page in recent months showed her holding placards at various rallies and protests. One called for “A Russia which people will not be scared of, but be inspired by”. Another read: “In Russia there are more than 5 million gay people. Because of backwardness and hatred, they have to live secretly.”

Idrisov wrote that her views had changed over time, from nationalist to liberal, and said he did not know if the attack was related to her work. He said, however, that she had recently received threats and had even asked a friend to look after her cat in the event that anything happened to her.

The Saint Petersburg online newspaper Fontanka said Grigoryeva was found with knife injuries to her back and face and had apparently been strangled. A suspect had been arrested, it reported.

Copyright www.theguardian.com

September 5.

International Day of Charity.

The purpose of the Day is to attract public attention to the activities of charitable organizations and individuals in overcoming poverty and acute humanitarian crises, and, of course, encouraging their work and mobilizing people, public organizations and interested parties in the world to participate in volunteer and charity activities.

По мнению ООН, благотворительность, которая помогает искоренению нищеты во всех странах мира, и выражение солидарности с обездоленными способствуют установлению диалога между людьми разных культур, религий и цивилизаций.

The Hungarian government came up with the initiative to establish this Day, and the date is dedicated to the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997). A well-known missionary and a Catholic nun – for half a century she served the poor, sick and orphans, engaged in charity work, first in India, and then in other countries. Mother Teresa received worldwide recognition for her noble work, and in 1979 she became a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize “For activities to help a suffering person.”

Even today, in the modern technological and constantly evolving world, poverty, as a result of social, economic and technological disasters, continues to persist in all countries, regardless of their level of economic, social and cultural development.

Charity helps to overcome the consequences of these severe crises, complements the activities of the state in the field of health care, education, housing and public protection. It also promotes the development of culture, science, sports and provides nature conservation.

Charity, in fact, is voluntary and impersonal in nature, focused on socially significant tasks and does not involve profit. Moreover, both financial and material resources, as well as people’s abilities and energy, act as resources. Indeed, charity is aimed not only at helping those in need, but also at helping to restore historical monuments and temples, equipping educational and medical institutions, and much more.

Charity, like volunteering and philanthropy, is one of the important needs of mankind. It unites people, contributes to the creation of an inclusive and more sustainable society, and to the protection of representatives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of the population. And today, when the need for humanitarian aid is great and when the number of refugees and displaced persons has reached a record high since the end of World War II, charity plays an increasingly important role. So, International Charity Day is called upon to affirm the principle of mercy in society. After all, it is not known to whom and when support will be needed.

Charity organizations of various directions work in the world – some help children, adults, disabled people, the elderly, people who for various reasons find themselves in a difficult situation, others help dogs, domestic cats, Amur tigers, birds and turtles. Still others are monuments of architecture and culture that are threatened by something … These are large and small organizations that work with different resources. There are many options for help – you can donate money, regardless of size, give things or blood, help put out fires, or you can give your time.

The main thing to understand is that helping others is not a heavy duty or burden, but happiness. If we are generous, we are more sympathetic and attentive to people, we understand them. This creates strong bonds between us, helps to value life and feel useful and in demand.

Therefore, on International Charity Day, the UN invites all Member States, organizations of the UN system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to celebrate International Charity Day in an appropriate manner, promoting charity, including through educational and outreach activities.

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.

Antwerp Pride, Belgium 2019!

The large parade of Antwerp Pride, the annual gay festival in Antwerp, attracted at least 90,000 participants this year. The police confirm this to VTM NEWS. Last year around 75,000 people attended.
The Antwerp Pride Parade attracts tens of thousands of spectators every year. This year the participants gathered on Sint-Jansplein in Antwerp-North, to step to the Paardenmarkt and then to the quays via the Brouwersvliet. The end point is the Gedempte Zuiderdokken, where the Love United Festival erupt.

“Antwerp may not have the largest Pride Parade in the world, but now it is one of the bravest because of where it starts,” says ships Meeuws. “I am very fond of Sint-Jansplein, it is my own neighborhood, but let’s face it: it is a difficult neighborhood where not everyone is waiting for the Pride and where not all people are involved with the rights that were fought for and that are universal. This is based on an unlikely pedagogical power, this is a unique opportunity to explain the neighborhood that the Pride really stands for.”

LGBT activist left Russia after commenting on Chechen minister.

Activist from Mordovia Karolina Kanaeva, speaking in defense of Chechen gays, left Russia after threats from opponents of LGBT people. They followed Kanaev’s appeal to Ramzan Kadyrov and a comment on behalf of Chechen Minister Dzhambulat Umarov.

Karolina Kanaeva lived in Saransk and actively supports the rights of LGBT people, participated in a flashmob against the persecution of gays in Chechnya “saveLGBTinRussia”. She published an analysis of the report on mass violations of human rights in Chechnya and the inaction of the federal authorities in her public newspaper VKontakte, the girl herself told the ” Caucasian Knot ” correspondent .

The activist noted that she had never been to Chechnya, but a few months ago she turned over Instagram to the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Kanaeva asked him a few questions about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya. After some time, an Instagram user with the nickname djambox responded to Kanayeva’s comment. This channel is conducted on behalf of the Minister of Chechnya on the national policy of Dzhambulat Umarov. Djambox said that “in normal families of Muslims and Caucasians this is [the presence of homosexuals] nonsense.”

Some time later, the comment was deleted, but Karolina Kanaeva managed to make a screenshot, it is available to the “Caucasian Knot”. The activist suggested that the comment could be removed by the administration of the social network, and not by Umarov himself. According to Kanaeva, the response of the Chechen minister first surprised her and then frightened — soon after the comment on behalf of Umarov, threats from other users of social networks began to come to her. Under one of the posts of the girl “VKontakte” comments appeared: “I hope she will be slaughtered in the doorway”, “Better to be burned”, “Go kill yourself.”

Chechnya’s minister for national policy, Dzhambulat Umarov, claims that he did not have any contact with Karolina Kanaeva on Instagram Kanaeva.

“I do not know this woman, I have no idea who she is, I didn’t write anything like that to anyone on Instagram. This is complete nonsense, ”the minister quoted the Minister’s edition on July 27 as the Caucasus. Realities.

Copyright www.parniplus.com