To the Ministers of Foreign of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, France, Germany, UK & USA,
Last month, the Russian LGBT Network and myself revealed that there is a new gay purge going on in Chechnya. There are tens of testimonials of torture and even murder. Only in December, 40 homosexuals were detained and tortured – two of them even died.
I also collected two detailed testimonials of LGBTI-people who experienced the gay purge in Chechnya. One of them was able to flee to an asylum center in Western Europe. Nonetheless, he still fears to get killed from the moment the other Chechens at the asylum center discover the real reason for his fleeing.
The international community was already assuming for over a year that the prosecution of homosexuals stopped in the autonomous member state of the Russian Federation. This assumption was obviously wrong. From the testimonials, we have learned that the Chechen authorities tried everything to make sure that the purge was staying under the radar. For instance – the victims I interviewed were both detained under the false accusation of being a drug user.
Since the word is out, I also received more intelligence from inside Chechnya that a real witch-hunt is happening now. In the city of Argun, policemen were going from door to door to find evidence of homosexuals last month. This more and more starts to look like an attempt to genocide.
Chechnya is an autonomous region within the Russian Federation, but in the end Moscow is still responsible for what is happening within their territory. Moreover we know that the relations between the Kremlin and and the authorities in Grozny are quite good the last few years. The funny pictures of Vladimir Putin’ and Ramzan Kadyrov’s bromance is evidence for that. That means that it is criminal of the Russian authorities to not use their power on Chechnya to stop the prosecution of LGBTI-people.
But what did we expect from a country that basically outlawed their LGBTI-community with the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law? In 2014 and 2015 the extremist group Occupy Pedophilia lured young gays via dating-apps like Grindr to deserted areas to beat them up or even murder them in some cases. The Russian authorities did simply not respond to the news. The Equal Rights Trust examined in 2016 200 cases of homophobic violence reported to the Russian authorities. None of them led to prosecution.
Yesterday a group of UN-experts signed a letter to the Russian authorities to ask them to fully investigate the Chechen gay purge. Earlier a group of 16 countries started the Moscow Procedure of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Several institutions of the Council of Europe also condemned the gay purge and Russia’s reaction to it.
Calling Russia to act in a friendly way does not work. The Kremlin simply ignores it. After the reports of a gay purge in Chechnya in 2017, Russia declared that there was no credible evidence for the accusations. During an interview, the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov even said that it is impossible to have a gay purge in his state – since “no gay people live in Chechnya”. Notwithstanding tens of detailed and – according to independent experts – credible testimonials gathered by the Russian LGBT Network.
Belgium, France, Germany, the UK and the USA must use their membership of the United Nations Security Council to set the issue on the agenda of the world leaders. It is the only place where we can really force Russia to answer our questions. Therefore, dear ministers, we need to ask our diplomates to work together to the full extend to put the gay purge in Chechnya on the agenda of the Security Council. We owe it to ourselves – as pioneers in the worldwide LGBTI-equality movement.