Chechnya Denies Gays Exist While Imprisoning Them

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In an interview with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov rejected reports of an anti-gay purge while simultaneously encouraging violence against LGBTQ people in the country.   

“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov scoffed when asked about the allegations. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada.”

“Praise be to god,” he continued. “Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

The news that hundreds of gay and bisexual men were being held and tortured was first reported by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and then confirmed independently by The New York Times and other outlets.

Since reporting on violence, Novaya Gazeta has received numerous threats. Elena Milashina, one of the journalists who originally broke the story, told WorldViews that she has since gone into hiding out of concerns for her safety.

In his first public comments since the accusations emerged, Kadyrov paralleled statements made by his spokesperson in April.

“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.

After reports first surfaced, activists across the world responded by protesting and calling on elected representatives to take action. Officials from the United States including the Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and the State Department issued statements of condemnation.

“We are deeply disturbed by recent public statements by Chechen authorities that condone and incite violence against LGBTI persons,” a State Department statement read. “We urge Russian federal authorities to speak out against such practices, take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained, conduct an independent and credible investigation into these reports and hold any perpetrators responsible.”

Donald Trump and the White House have not spoken out on the crisis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not raise the matter in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last month.

Even MTV has launched an effort to put additional pressure on the White House. Along with the hashtag #EyesOnChechnya, MTV released a video on Twitter showing celebrities like Tituss Burgess of Kimmy Schmidt and Jussie Smollett of Empire speaking out on the issue. The music network has even created a website, Chechnya.mtv.com, to educate and encourage action.

The international backlash seemed to have an effect, but only temporarily.

Last week, the activist group Russian LGBT Network reported that Chechnya has resumed detention of gay men, according to Buzzfeed News.

About The Author

Samuel Braslow is the managing editor at FourTwoNine Magazine, and covers current events and politics for the website.

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