Raiders target Chechen LGBT activist
A campaigner helping lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Chechens escape persecution has received death threats from a gang that broke into his St Petersburg home.
Seven people broke into the flat of the volunteer at the Russian LGBT Network last month, the organisation reported.
The man was interrogated and threatened with violence. “We will take you to the police office and will break all your bones,” a member of the gang reportedly said.
They were said to be looking for a young Chechen woman who escaped from Russian republic and the network emergency coordinator David Isteev.
“They told me to tell David Isteev that they were going to find and kill him,” the volunteer told the media.
Four of the intruders suggested they were Chechen police officers but refused to produce ID.
“The Russian LGBT Network has been a vital resource for gay men escaping the brutality of the Chechnya purge,” said Graeme Reid of the LGBT programme at the NGO Human Rights Watch. “The Russian government, which has dragged its feet on investigating what’s going on in Chechnya, needs to put a stop to attacks on people who are providing life-saving services to the victims.
“The abhorrent impunity for Chechnya’s anti-gay purges should not be repeated elsewhere in Russia,” Reid said. “Activists like those with Russian LGBT Network who are conducting life-saving work should be protected from threats and attacks.”
Since April 2017, the Russian LGBT Network has helped around 150 people leave Chechnya, with most then settling outside Russia.
Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov began his “gay purge” in 2017 when kidnappings, torture and murders began in the autonomous region.
Under torture, suspects were forced to hand over information about other men who might be gay.
The authorities in the largely Muslim republic returned most of the men to their families, revealing their sexual orientation and encouraging relatives to carry out “honour killings”.
Kadyrov has also denied the existence of homosexuality in the republic.
Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network said a new wave of arrests had begun, despite international criticism and Russia’s repeated promises to investigate the state violence since 2017.
In January a YouTube video with explicit threats against Kochetkov began circulating. It showed Ali Baskhanov, a leader of a pro-government group in Chechnya, calling Kochetkov a “son of the devil” and a “beast”, adding that he should stay away from Chechnya or it would be his “final stop”.
Chechnya refuses to accept LGBT rights or even the concept of homosexuality. Picture credit: Wikimedia