Antigay Purge Flares Up in Chechnya, Activists Say

Protesters

There has been a new round of detentions of people suspected to be gay in Chcchnya, activists told the Associated Press Friday.

A crackdown has been going on for the past two years in which more than 100 LGBTQ people, especially gay and bisexual men, have been arrested and put in what amount to concentration camps, where they are tortured. Some have been released to the custody of their families, where they likely face further violence. Some have fled the country. And some have died.

There has been a surge in detentions of both men and women beginning in December, activist Igor Kochetkov told the AP. He declined to provide numbers but said he and his associates are preparing a report to be released Monday.

News of the gay purge began to surface early in 2017. The Chechen government, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied there is any such purge or even that there are gay people in Chechnya, which is a semiautonomous republic within Russia. The Russian government has made the same claims. But an international investigation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that “several waves of violations of human rights and abuses of persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in 2017 could be confirmed,” as the OSCE said in a report released in December.

The OSCE called on Russia to open “an inquiry into the actions of the government of the Chechen Republic towards [LGBTQ] persons in general, as well as a criminal case on the alleged violations of the human rights of [Maksim] Lapunov in particular.” Lapunov, who says he was detained and beaten by Chechen police for being gay, is the only victim of the antigay purge who has been willing to reveal his name. Chechen authorities have resisted opening an investigation and have been backed up by courts.

The Human Rights Campaign released a statement on the latest news. "Nearly two years after reports first surfaced of anti-LGBTQ violence and killings in Chechnya, we are once again hearing disturbing accounts of state-sanctioned detentions and abuse," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "We have repeatedly called on the Trump-Pence White House to speak out and help bring an end to this persecution, but instead the White House has largely ignored the actions of the Russian-backed regime in Chechnya. Human rights violators in Chechnya must be held accountable and be brought to justice. Lives are hanging in the balance."

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