While in India, homosexuality was decriminalised earlier this month, it continues to be illegal in 71 other countries—Chechnya, officially the Chechen Republic, is one of them. In recent times, however, the country has reportedly reintroduced concentration camps for the LGBTQ community for the first time since the Hitler era in the 1930s.
According to a report in Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, queer people continue to be subjected to torture with electric shocks and are even beaten to death in concentration camps. Reportedly, around 100 gay men were put away in concentration camps—some of whom were well-known television personalities and religious figures—and three of them were killed last week.
The report also added that detainees were also tortured to reveal the names of other members from the community.
The move was reportedly initiated by President Ramzan Kadyrov, a known ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has also alluded to honour killings of gay men in the past. However, Kadyrov also denied reports of a gay purge, describing them as “absolute lies and disinformation”. According to Kadyrov, members of the LGBTQ community are killed by their own families instead. Incidentally, some people are released earlier from prison only to enable murder by their relatives.
Describing his experience at a torture camp in Chechnya, Maxim Lapunov told BBC that he was “grabbed and dragged into a car”. He added that he was detained in a blood-soaked cell, where he was “beaten with sticks, threatened and humiliated by police”. Lapunov only managed to escape after his relatives started looking for him and put up missing posters.
Speaking to MailOnline, Svetlana Zakharova from the Russian LGBT Network said, “Gay people have been detained and rounded up and we are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region.” Zakharova added, “Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”
Human Rights Watch-Moscow member Tanya Lokshina says that members of the LGBTQ community are afraid to speak to human rights monitors and journalists even anonymously as they have been “largely intimidated into silence”. Lokshina told MailOnline, “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant. LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to “honour killings” by their own relatives for tarnishing family honour.”