More than 100 suspected gay men have been detained in Chechnya, with at least three killed, according to the Guardian.
The report comes via the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which alleges that many of the detained are well-known TV and religious figures. The Russian report also notes that, alongside the three men killed by authorities, others might be returned to their families, who may in turn perform honor killings.
Allegedly, the roundup began after an LGBTQ organization requested a gay pride parade permit in a nearby area outside of Chechnya. The organization was planning to collect evidence to bring to the European Court of Human Rights on LGBTQ oppression. Since then, the situation has spiraled, with Pink News alleging that Russian president Vladimir Putin gave local leaders an order to carry out a “prophylactic sweep” to round up gay men.
The Chechen government is denying the claims, with a spokesperson for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov calling the Novaya Gazeta report “absolute lies and disinformation.”
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” spokesperson Alvi Karimov said, according to the Guardian. “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.”
As the Guardian reports, Chechnya’s society and culture is “strictly conservative,” with many families disowning relatives that come out as LGBTQ. While a St. Petersburg LGBTQ rights group has created a hotline for gay Chechens who want to escape from the region, living conditions for gays in Chechnya are so dire, practically no LGBTQ activists can operate in the area due to bigotry and threats.
Those social justice activists who do work in Chechnya aren’t exactly LGBTQ-friendly, either. Kheda Saratova, who serves on the human rights council in Kadyrov, has said he would pass on helping gay Chechens.
“I haven’t had a single request on [LGBTQ oppression], but if I did, I wouldn’t even consider it,” Saratova said to a Russian radio station. “In our Chechen society, any person who respects our traditions and culture will hunt down this kind of person without any help from authorities, and do everything to make sure that this kind of person does not exist in our society.”