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Anti-Gay Crackdown In Chechnya

July 5, 2017

This week’s edition of The New Yorker has one of those must-reads for those who wish to know more about the world–specifically how Chechnya tortures gay people and Russia condones it.  The larger facts are not new as this story has been reported many times in news outlets worldwide.  But the sobering way the writer tells the story of the anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya makes this situation all the more real.  And demanding more international attention and reaction.

Under torture, the man reportedly gave up the names of others, and the police began arresting them. Some media reports have claimed that Chechnya has confined gay men to “concentration camps,” but survivors’ testimony points to the existence of half a dozen detention facilities, where men are held for as long as a couple of weeks. In many cases, they are tortured. Some have been released, but others have been handed over to their relatives, who, according to survivors, are expected to kill gay family members. Following media reports of the purges, the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, declared that gay Chechens did not exist. Kremlin spokespeople have for the most part dismissed or laughed off questions about the violence. One spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested to a Finnish journalist that Kadyrov might organize a tour so that he could see for himself whether gays existed in Chechnya—an offer that sounded like a threat.

Chechnya is one of the eighty-five constituent regions of the Russian Federation, and is ostensibly a secular state. In reality, it is a state within a state, run by Kadyrov, who is supported by Vladimir Putin. Kadyrov’s Chechnya is a more extreme version of Russia: a mafia state that uses religious rhetoric to enforce control over its citizens. Putin draws some of his authority from a close relationship to the Russian Orthodox Church; Kadyrov relies on a crude homespun version of Islam. Behavior including drinking (which is technically legal), drug use (which is not), women dressing immodestly, women smoking, contact of any sort between unmarried women and men, and open sexual expression is policed by law enforcement and by extended families.

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