Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women in Chechnya are being raped with “electric shock sticks” in the prisons where victims of the republic’s anti-LGBTQ purge are housed, according to Russian activists.
Reports about the purge, which first surfaced in early 2017, have mostly concerned persecution of gay and bi men. But the Russian LGBT Network now says Chechen authorities are committing sexual violence against women, PinkNews reports.
Chechen police and other officials have reportedly rounded up more than 100 LGBTQ people and subjected them to torture since the purge began, and several have died in custody. Those who have been released to their families face further threats of violence, as police urge families to kill LGBTQ members. Some have managed to flee Chechnya, which is a semiautonomous republic within Russia. The persecution escalated anew in December, with about 40 people detained and two killed, Russian activists said.
“Now we know that there are a few places where people suspected of being homosexual are detained. One of them is the police office of Zavodskoy district of Grozny,” Igor Kochetkov, program director for the Russian LGBT Network, said in a statement on the group’s website, as translated by PinkNews. “Once again, it proves that all the detentions, tortures and murders are committed by the law enforcement officers.”
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has denied that LGBTQ people are being persecuted — indeed, he has said there are no LGBTQ people in the republic. He has also called LGBTQ people devils. Dzhambulat Umarov, the Chechen minister of national policy, recently blamed reports of the crackdown on gay people’s “sick imagination.”
The government of Russia, which supports Kadyrov, has claimed there is no evidence of the purge. But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international body that includes the U.S., issued a report in December that found ample evidence. The U.S. State Department this month called for an investigation into the renewed purge.