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Chechnyan authorities detain gay men, violate human rights

Beachgoers+form+a+pink+triangle+at+the+Hilton+Beach+to+show+their+support+for+the+gay+men+in+Chechnya.++The+pink+triangle+was+first+used+by+Hitler+to+identify+gay+men+during+the+Holocaust.+
Beachgoers form a pink triangle at the Hilton Beach to show their support for the gay men in Chechnya.  The pink triangle was first used by Hitler to identify gay men during the Holocaust.

Beachgoers form a pink triangle at the Hilton Beach to show their support for the gay men in Chechnya. The pink triangle was first used by Hitler to identify gay men during the Holocaust.

Photo via Google Creative Commons

Photo via Google Creative Commons

Beachgoers form a pink triangle at the Hilton Beach to show their support for the gay men in Chechnya. The pink triangle was first used by Hitler to identify gay men during the Holocaust.

Brynn MacDougall, Op-Ed Editor

In late March and early April, Chechnya, a federal republic of Russia in located in southeastern Europe, opened concentration camps for gay men. The first reports of the camps came from the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta which said that gay men had been “illegally detained, beaten, tortured with electric shocks.”

As of April 13 at least 100 had been reportedly detained and three killed.

Russian LGBT Network received several reports from gay men and their friends about being detained. One man from Gronzy, Russia told the Russian LGBT Network that his friend had been detained and “they beat him with a hose and tortured with electricity. He reported that about 30 people were locked in the same room together with him.”

An anonymous source contacted the network and reported that he had been detained and witnessed the mass torture of people suspected of being gay. It reportedly happened on Feb. 28 near the city of Argun.

The same anonymous source said that “fifteen people were locked in the same hut with him” and that they were also beaten and tortured with electricity.

Reports of the camps’ existence was verified by Human Rights Watch.

On May 1  protesters gathered near Anichkov Bridge to express their anger at the government’s actions and the treatment of gay people in Russia in general. During the protests, 10 people were detained and one was taken to the hospital from fainting.

“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told the news agency Interfax through a spokesperson.

“If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

The very idea that gay people are being rounded up and placed in concentration camps is absolutely terrifying. For many, it calls to mind the Holocaust or the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War Two.

While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Vice President Joe Biden, and  German chancellor Angela Merkel have spoken out against the homophobic abuses and France has started receiving refugees from Chechnya, most other politicians have failed to acknowledge what is going on. Silence will only prolong the suffering of the gay community.

The denial of the existence of gay men is almost as bad. If Kadyrov and others truly believe that gay men do not exist then there is little that can be done to pressure the government into freeing its prisoners.

If anything is to change for the detainees in Chechnya, international law must be strictly enforced and actions to free the gay men imprisoned must be taken immediately. Prolonging this crisis will lead to more deaths and arrests.

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Chechnyan authorities detain gay men, violate human rights