Gay and bi Chechens denied US visas while trying to flee ‘gay genocide’
Gay and bisexual Chechens are being denied visas to flee to the US amid an anti-LGBT “purge”.
More than 100 people have been detained, tortured and, in at least three cases, killed during the ongoing purge of gay people in Chechnya.
Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he would cooperate with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s investigation into reports of gay men being abducted, tortured and killed in the republic.
According to the Russian LGBT Network, around 40 gay and bi Chechens have taken to hiding in other areas in Russia as they are unable to secure visas to exit the country.
BuzzFeed News reports that the organisation’s spokesperson Svetlana Zakharova, none of the 40 fleeing persecution have been able to secure a visa to leave.
Zakharova told BuzzFeed that just two fleeing persecution have been able to secure visas to safe countries.
Some have left the country without visas.
A US State Department spokesperson said they could not comment on the issue “As visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we are unable to discuss individual cases.”
Earlier this week LGBT rights groups pleaded for the situation in Chechnya to be investigated.
Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov has told Russian publication Interfax that after conducting an investigation, he had found reports of a gay purge were “baseless and frivolous”.
He called the reports by Novaya Gazeta, whose journalist Elena Milashina was forced into hiding following the exposé, “hype inflated by individual … Chechen people”.
Alkhanov called Milashina’s reporting “provocative and intended to discredit the Chechen Republic in the public eye.”
He also signposted the ministry’s intention to sue Novaya Gazeta for its allegations, which have been verified by multiple human rights organisations.
Alkhanov’s leader, Kadyrov, said earlier this month that there had never been any gay men to persecute in the region, calling them “fake” Chechens
A Russian diplomatic official has previously claimed reports of a gay purge have been used as “a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world”.
Following the initial reports, it was revealed that Chechnya authorities are forcing gay men into concentration camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT and human rights activists across the world.
A number of stories from the region have been shared, including reports of parents of gay people who were issued a warning to kill their children before police killed them in torture camps.
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Tanya Lokshina, from the Human Rights Watch, said that Chechen authorities had been conducting “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel and degrading treatment” over the span of the last two decades.
Kadyrov has also pledged to “eliminate” the gay community in Chechnya by the start of Ramadan, according to British Foreign Officials.
Russia enforces a 2014 ‘gay propaganda’ law, which outlaws “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors.
The law also bans people sharing “distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships”.
Authorities across Russia have exploited their powers to censor LGBT content online in the past, as well as in the media.