The man leading the horrific anti-gay purges in Chechnya, president Ramzan Kadyrov, has reportedly been flown to the Russian capital of Moscow where he is currently hospitalized for what’s believed to be complications from COVID-19.
Kadyrov had undermined the seriousness of the pandemic until late April, when he sealed off the region’s borders and enacted a strict curfew with harsh punishments for violators.
Of course, Kadyrov’s corruption and abuse of power is evident. Reports first surfaced in April 2017 about daily missions sanctioned by Kadyrov to abduct, imprison, torture, and in some cases kill innocent LGBTQ+ people.
Details of such assaults first came to light in December 2016, when the Russian LGBT Network began receiving tips from persecuted LGBTQ+ Chechens. After internal investigations from the network, Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta published one of the first stories outlining the gruesome details in April 2017.
Research revealed that Chechen authorities had opened concentration camp-like prisons for queer people, 100 of whom were abducted in an initial wave of state-sanctioned kidnappings. In early 2019, it was reported that authorities launched another wave, detaining around 40 LGBTQ+ people.
Kadyrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin have denied such purges are taking place. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ people in the outer regions have been arrested and detained over the years for daring to protest the atrocities.
Countries including Germany, France, and Canada have quietly granted asylum to refugees. The U.S. has yet to grant asylum to LGBTQ+ people desparate to flee Chechnya.
These anti-LGBTQ+ purges are the focal point of director David France’s HBO documentary Welcome to Chechnya, debuting June 30, which chronicles the brave activists risking their lives by orchestrating secret missions to rescue queer people within Chechnya and bring them to safety.
“[Chechnya] is a closed society, like North Korea," France told The Advocate last month. "People don’t come and go. It is an entirely monitored life, so there is no pushback against the Chechen authorities, nor could there be.”
There’s also another network at play, one led by Kadyrov with the aim of persecuting queer Chechens who managed to escape.
“This campaign is a ‘blood cleansing’ campaign. They're being hunted around the globe,” France added. “For example, if it becomes known that there is a gay Chechen who got away and is in L.A. — which is a farce because the U.S. government won't allow anyone in the country — then the Chechen leadership puts pressure on the family members to bring that person back; or to go and get that person and liquidate that person wherever he or she is.”
“What the activists wanted and why they invited me to join them on this journey,” he added, “was for the world to put pressure on their own government, to demand an end to this campaign, and to open up special humanitarian parole visa channels for people fleeing Russia."
Watch the trailer for Welcome to Chechnya below: