31 gay and bi men rescued from Chechnya
A charity has helped 31 gay and bisexual men escape from Chechnya amid a purge on LGBT+ people.
Chechen leader President Ramzan Kadyrov has this year overseen a ‘gay purge’ while calling victims “devils” and “not people.”
But some charities are helping people to escape Chechnya and Russia and flee to countries to avoid persecution,
Rainbow Railroad on Friday issued a statement saying it had helped 31 people escape Chechnya.
It assisted them by arranging emergency visas for Canada and arranging travel arrangements.
The organisation’s Director Kimahli Powell travelled to Chechnya to greet the refugees while arrangements were made.
“We were able to quickly intervene and receive a response from the Canadian government because we are one of the few — if only — major international organizations focused on moving LGBTQ people out of immediate danger to safety,” Powell said in a statment.
But he added that those who escaped Chechnya are afraid to speak out about their oppression, fearing for their lives.
“However, some are willing to speak because they want the world to better understand just how horrific and dire the situation is in Chechnya.”
70 people have so far escaped to Russian safe houses from Chechnya and Rainbow Railroad, working with the Russian LGBT Network, has said it has been in contact with 140 people in the country.
“Seeking asylum is not a way of jumping the queue,” Powell added.
“It’s about responding when a person’s right to protection is removed by the state or anyone else, as is the case in Chechnya for LGBTQ people right now.”
Earlier this month, Kadyrov urged divorced couples to remarry, and 1,000 complied, some entering into polygamous unions.
The leader does not see anything wrong with homophobia, to the extent that he has the blood of gay men on his hands – with more than 100 kidnapped, tortured and killed – but polygamy is apparently fine.
Rasul Uspanov, secretary of the Grozny City Headquarters for the Harmonisation of Marriage and Family Relations, said it was fine if this resulted in men having multiple wives.
He told the BBC that if after the divorce, “the husband married a second time and after the work of our commission returned his first wife, now he lives with two wives, because according to Islam a man has the right to marry four times.
Uspanov added that “thanks to this commission, he now has not one spouse, but two.”
On local news station Grozny TV, Rustam Abazov, the director of Chechnya’s Department for Relations With Religious and Social Organisations, said the programme had been a success.
He explained that this was down to the people’s “love and respect for our national leader, because Mr Kadyrov always lives up to his word.”
Kadyrov words include his vow to eliminate the region’s gay community by the start of Ramadan, which was in May.
Abazov added that 948 couples have remarried in the month and a half since Kadyrov issued the order, according to Meduza, a news outlet based in Latvia.
Meduza is made up of renegade reporters who left Russian media in order to report on what the site winkingly calls: “The real Russia, today.”
This seems to be a nod at state-funded news channel RT, previously called Russia Today, which has been accused of being a propaganda tool of President Vladimir Putin’s government.
An anonymous Chechen told the BBC: “I have been divorced for 12 years.
“The commission has not yet approached me, but if this happens, I will refuse.”
They called the order “violence against people,” asking: “Why do they have to cling to the past when they can have a future?”
Abazov denied that the remarriages were forced, but Zarema, a woman in Grozny, said that “if you refuse, you’re not only going against tradition and religious expectations, but also against Kadyrov’s wishes.
“It’s a form of intimidation. Clearly, when everybody is pressuring you from all sides, you have to agree,” she told Russian site Caucasian Knot.
Kadyrov uses a cult of personality and has lent on football as one of his publicity methods, posing with Brazilian footballing legend Ronaldinho last month to distract from the kidnappings, torture and murder of gay men in the region.
It’s not the first time that Kadyrov denied that gay men lived in the region, claiming previously that gay people are “fake Chechens”.
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Initial reports of gay men being detained in the region, which is an autonomous region of Russia, were revealed by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta earlier this year.
Journalists who exposed the purge have been forced into hiding as they have received numerous threats from the largest mosque in the region, which has declared jihad against the newspaper.
Following the initial exposure, it was revealed that authorities were forcing gay men into camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT and human rights activists across the world.
A number of heart breaking stories from the region have been shared, including stories of parents of gay people who were issued a warning to kill their children before police killed them in torture camps.
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.
Novaya Gazeta recently confirmed the names of 27 men who were killed on one night in the region.