On May 26, 2016 Human Rights Watch reported:
My life is ruined. I cannot go back. And it’s not safe here either. They have long arms and they can find me and the others anywhere in Russia, just give them time…
− “Magomed,” victim of the anti-gay purge in Chechnya currently in hiding in an
In February 2017, Chechnya’s law enforcement and security officials launched an anti-gay purge. They rounded up dozens of men on suspicion of being gay, held them in unofficial detention facilities for days, humiliated, starved, and tortured them. They forcibly disappeared some of the men. Others were returned to their families barely alive from beatings. Their captors exposed them to their families as gay and encouraged their relatives to carry out honor killings. Although Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the round-ups, the information presented in this report shows that top-level local authorities in Chechnya sanctioned them. Russia’s federal government has pledged to investigate, but intense and well-founded fear of official retaliation and honor killings, and overwhelming stigma will prevent many victims from coming forward.
This report documents the violent purge and the local and federal government’s response. It is based on interviews with men who had been rounded up, as well as with journalists who documented the round-ups and with representatives of a Russian LGBT organization who have helped these men and documented their ordeals.
The wave of punitive detentions continued at least through the first week of April 2017, with a lull in mid-March, and apparently affected over 100 people. Once they captured their victims, police would scour their cell phones looking for contacts of other men who might be gay, torture the men into naming other gay men, and capture those named. Hence the numbers of victims grew. Several individuals allegedly died as a result of the purge.
At time of writing, no new abductions have been reported but several of the men apparently still remain in detention. Many of those who have been released have fled Chechnya, but they still face the double risk of being hunted down and harmed by both Chechen security forces and their own families as long as they remain in Russia’s territory. Some gay and bisexual men chose to flee Chechnya despite not being directly affected by the purge because they fear information about them was found in victims’ cell phones or revealed by victims under torture.
Police abducted and detained their victims unlawfully. Security officials kept the men in several unofficial facilities, which Chechen authorities have been maintaining for years to hold and torture individuals suspected of some form of dissent or sabotage. The men interviewed by Human Rights Watch were held in unofficial detention facilities in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, and Argun. They told Human Rights Watch that Chechen officials, including two high-level ones, visited these detention facilities and humiliated the detainees.
Chechnya is a highly conservative, traditional Muslim society; homophobia is intense and rampant, and homosexuality is generally viewed as a stain on family honor. People still carry out, or threaten to carry out, “honor killings” to “cleanse” perceived stains to their family’s honor, including against young women suspected of promiscuity and family members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). High-level Chechen officials, including Ramzan Kadyrov, have repeatedly condoned honor killings.