The Russian journalist who broke the news of Chechnya’s homophobic purge has been forced into hiding after the region’s largest mosque declared jihad.
Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta broke the news earlier this month that more than 100 gay men have been detained in Chechnya “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation”.
The disturbing reports, since corroborated by human rights groups, also alleged that the men are being held in secret concentration camp-style prisons where they face torture and abuse.
Chechnya is part of Russia but has substantial autonomy.
Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina, who authored the reports, revealed that she has been forced into hiding in the wake of the story.
Ms Milashina, who is usually based in Moscow, is currently in an undisclosed location.
She said: “They reacted [to the story] in a terrifying manner… on April 3, in the biggest mosque in Grozny, 15,000 people came together and declared a Jihad on us… not just me personally, but all journalists at Novaya Gazeta.
“They said the people at the newspaper who raised this question have damaged the honour of Chechen nation and should be prosecuted.”
She explained: “We know about four secret prisons. Two of them in the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, one of them in Argun – this is the first secret prison we discovered where LGBT people were detained, beaten, tortured and killed.
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“We got this information [a few] weeks ago and began to prove it. It’s pretty hard in Checnya, especially to rescue LGBT people, because they’re a very closed network. The region is very hard on those people and they have to hide.
“The Chechen government denied [the allegations], although they don’t deny that if they found this kind of people in Chechnya they would be killed.
“They don’t deny this, but they deny the secret camps and they have denied that they detained more than 100 people and killed some of them.”
Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov
UK Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay has called on Russia to investigate the mass detention of gay men in Chechnya and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.
In a statement to PinkNews, Baroness Anelay said: “The detention and ill-treatment of over 100 gay men in Chechnya is extremely concerning. Reports have also suggested that at least three of these men have been killed.
“The statement by the regional Government, implying that such treatment towards LGBT people is acceptable, is particularly abhorrent. We condemn any and all persecution, and call on the authorities to promptly investigate and ensure that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice.
“The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we continue to voice our serious concern with Russian authorities at all levels.
“Russia’s international human rights obligations require them to protect citizens who may be at risk of persecution. We expect the Russian government to fulfil its obligations to this end, and to uphold the rule of law.”