Electric shocks and beatings with wooden sticks or metal rods are among the forms of torture being inflicted on gay men in Chechnya, survivors have told London newspaper The Guardian.
In the past few months, “over a hundred and possibly several hundred men” have been arrested, detained, and tortured by government security personnel in the Russian republic, The Guardian reports. At least three are believed to have been killed.
One man, identified by the pseudonym of Adam, was given electric shocks by his captors at least once a day, he told the newspaper. If this was not enough to make him scream, he was beaten with sticks or rods. While this was going on, his tormentors lobbed insults at him and demanded names of other gay men.
“Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves,” Adam told the paper of the ordeal he went through a month ago. After several days in a makeshift detention facility, where he and other captives had to sleep on concrete floors, he was released to his family.
But the authorities told his parents, “Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him.” Even though Adam would not admit to his family that he is gay, his father threatened him with physical violence. One night shortly after his release, he left his home and escaped Chechnya, and he now has no contact with his family.
The security personnel captured Adam when he went to an arranged meeting with a friend; it turned out they had read Adam’s text messages and found out he was gay. The authorities have confiscated many mobile phones to track down gay men, and some of the men they have detained were outed by friends or lovers who made deals to avoid arrest or outing to their families.
Most gay men in Chechnya are deeply closeted. In the Chechen culture, “based on strong codes of family and clan allegiance as well as Islamic faith, having a gay relative is seen as a stain on the entire extended family,” The Guardian notes.
Chechen authorities deny that there are any gay people in the republic, and Russian officials have claimed ignorance of the persecution of gay Chechens. Human rights groups have called on U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who visited Russia this week — to address the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Russia is unlikely to take action, according to The Guardian. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov “pledges allegiance to Vladimir Putin and a love for Russia, and in return the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses,” the paper reports.