The United States has rejected visa application to gay Chechens trying to escape threats to their lives. BuzzFeed News first reported that a group of 40 Chechens are currently in hiding after their attempts to leave were denied by the State Department.
According to the organization Russia LGBT Network, “we were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.”
Over the last few weeks, news has trickled out of the semi-autonomous Russian region about a state-led campaign of violence against gay citizens. Reports have indicated that gays are being rounded into concentration camps and subjected torture and abuse.
The Chechen government, which has been accused of human rights abuses, has denied the reports of kidnappings. In fact, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied the existence of gays in Chechnya entirely.
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” the spokesperson, Alvi Karimov, told Interfax.
“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,” Mr. Karimov said, referring to the “honor killings” of gays.