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Journalist comes out to police chief in Chechnya who oversees the ‘gay purge’

Lily Wakefield October 26, 2019
Chechnya gay purge

James Longman came out to the man overseeing Chechnya's "gay purge". (ABC)

A journalist came out as gay to a police chief in Chechnya, who is allegedly responsible for the torture and murder of LGBT+ people and oversees the country’s “gay purge”.

Reporter James Longman, who works for ABC’s Nightline, had been investigating the “gay purge” in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous republic in Russia, for over a year.

Chechnya first made headlines for its “gay purge” in 2017 when it was reported that police rounded up and tortured dozens of men they suspected of being gay.

In January this year reports of a renewed purge began emerging. Chechen officials initially denied it and blamed people’s “sick imagination”, but the accounts of torture and abuse have continued.

Longman spoke to many victims of the abuse at the hands of the government, but also managed to interview General Apti Alaudinov, head of the Chechen police, who is in charge of the republic’s 10,000 police officers.

Alaudinov denied all reports of the horrific abuses against LGBT+ people in the country, claiming that they could not be true because there are no gay people in Chechnya.

He said: “For us it’s completely crazy that one of us could be gay.

“Seriously! Ask any Chechen: ‘Do you have any gays in your family?’ He will punch you. Why? Because to him it is an insult.”

The reporter and his film crew were eventually taken to a police station where they were met by 50 armed officers. Longman decided that at this point he would come out to Alaudinov.

The general eventually said: “There is no problem. Nobody has any issues with you. You are a guest. Come here as a guest and leave from here as a guest… I am not interested to know it. It’s your life and you should live however you want.

“But at the same time, don’t teach us how we have to live.”

Writing about the experience afterwards, Longman said: “I’ve definitely had some awkward coming out moments in my life. But I don’t think any can compare to telling a man who is the head of a police force accused of torturing hundreds of LGBTQ people that I’m gay.”

Longman continued: “I think for Alaudinov, it really didn’t matter to him that I was gay.

“In fact, I think that perhaps it reaffirmed his own values to him: that Chechnya has a superior culture, and that the West has allowed homosexuality to weaken ours.

“I told him my sexuality because perhaps on some level I thought that I could shift something in his mind and challenge his perceptions about gay people.”

He said that he told the police chief before they parted ways: “You’ve been very welcoming, you’ve shown us around. Do you think I am less of a man than you?”

Alaudinov responded: “I will tell you honestly, I wouldn’t like you to be my friend.”

More: Chechnya, coming out, gay purge, murder, Russia, torture

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