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A VICE journalist has gained access to Chechnya’s prisons for gay men

June 21, 2017
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Chechnya

The first foreign journalist has gained access to Chechnya’s ‘concentration camps’ for gay men.

Months of reports have claimed that as many as 100 gay men have been rounded up and put in prisons in the nation.

Now a journalist has been given guided access inside the prison – with authorities staunchly denying allegations.

In April 2017, an article in Novaya Gazeta brought the attacks on gay men in Chechnya to international attention, reporting that over 100 men had been rounded up by police, with three being killed.

These reports were later backed up the US State Department and the International Crisis Group

Now Hind Hassan, a journalist from VICE Media and HBO, was shown around the prison in the town of Argun in Chechnya.

She was closely guided through the prison – described merely as a “warehouse” – by prison warden Ayub Kataev.

Katev stands accused of personally torturing men in the prison.

In a harrowing interview, the prison boss appears to toe the same line as Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, claiming he knows of no gay men.

“Imagine if there are gays,” he says.

“Would we, the Chechens, communicate with them at all?” Kataev asks her.

“My officers would not even want to touch such people — if they exist—let alone beating or torturing them.”

Human rights adviser to President Ramzan Kadyrov, Kheda Saratove, says she has never heard a report of a gay person.

She claims that, if she had, the government would help them.

The ‘concentration camps’ were reportedly set up in February 2017, with gay men being abducted, held prisoner and tortured there.

It’s said that police found contact information for several gay men on the phone of a Chechen man who had been stopped for an alleged drugs offence.

Kadyrov’s press secretary Alvi Karimov, dismissed the report as “absolute lies”, but followed that up with a bizarre claim that there are no gay people in Chechnya and added the chilling message: “If there were such people in Chechnya, law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

An activist stands naked, wrapped in a rainbow flag, in a mock cage
An activist stands naked wrapped in a rainbow flag (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

It later emerged that some families were doing just that – killing the gay members of their families themselves. In one shocking report, a teenager was pushed to his death from a ninth-floor balcony by an uncle after he was outed.

State Duma Deputy of Chechnya Magomed Selimkhanov added: “In Chechnya, there are no gays, so there is no attitude toward them. Personally, I think that they belong two metres under the ground.”

Two camps were initially reported on, based in the villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt, but further investigations revealed a further four jails for gay people, bringing the total number believed to be in the Chechen Republic up to six.

One was later destroyed and moved to a new location.

Related topics: Chechnya, concentration camps, Gay, LGBT, prison, putin, Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia, Vice, vladimir

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