CHECHNYA’S TIMELINE OF TERROR
2016, December: Radio Liberty reports that at least one secret prison for gay men in Chechnya is being operating in the village of Tsotsi-Yurt by leaders of district police departments.
2017, February 20: Members of Chechen securit y forces detain a man they suspect of being under the influence of drugs. When they check his phone, they find explicit gay photos and videos and the contact details of other gay men who they begin to entrap and detain. These men are also pressed to reveal their contacts, trapping more and more people in the web.
March 9: Unaware of this, Russian LGBTI activists from outside the region apply to hold public events in four cities across the Caucasus as part of a wider campaign to challenge the ban on holding gay events across Russia. The applications are refused and in the following days, videos circulate on social media calling for homosexuals in the region to be killed. With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching, a command allegedly goes out for a “preventative cleansing” of homosexuals from Chechnya. March 29: The Russian LGBT Network establishes an emergency hotline for victims of homophobic and transphobic violence in the North Caucasus region due to the up-swell of anti-gay hatred.
April 1: Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports under the headline “Honour Killings” that a group of as many as 100 gay men are being held in secret prisons in Chechnya and that three may have already been killed. Chechen authorities dismiss the report as an April Fool’s Day prank, claiming there are no homosexuals in Chechnya. “If there were any… they would have been dealt with by their own relatives,” government spokesman Alvi Karimov says.
April 3: A meeting of Islamic leaders is held to denounce the reports in the central mosque of Grozny and broadcast on television. At the meeting, President Ramzan Kadyrov’s representative Adam Shakhidov labels the staff of Novaya Gaze ta“the enemies of our faith and our homeland ”. At the end of the meeting the leaders endorsed a religious edict threatening the newspaper and its >>
>> journalists, promising “r etribution will over t ake [t hem] wherever… t hey are, without a st atute of limit ations.”
April 5: Novaya Gazeta releases an in- depth repor t about the tor ture and conditions in the secret prisons, publishing several eyewitness accounts from gay men who managed to get out. They also publish photographs of the injuries they sustained from their captors and a satellite photo of a former militar y building in Argun they allege is one of the secret prisons.
In the same report, the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, Magomed Daudov is identified in a photograph dated March 7 at the Argun building with Chechen police. It is alleged that he was present for the handing over of a number of detainees to their families. He is also alleged to have visited the prison in February.
The Council Of Europe’s General Rapporteur on the rights of LGBT persons, Jonas Gunnarsson demands Russia investigate: “We call on the authorities immediately to launch an investigation that is effective and fully in line with all the requirements of the European Convention On Human Rights. In this respect, reports that the Chechen authorities’ response so far has been to deny or trivialise the allegations, or even to imply that they condone such acts, are also of particularly grave concern,” Gunnarsson says.
“The authorities have a duty to protect all individuals against hate crimes. They must furthermore ensure that individuals targeted by or who complain of such offences are protected from retaliation, including so-called ‘honour killings’.”
April 7: The US Department Of State issues a statement expressing its concern: “We are increasingly concerned about the situation in the Republic Of Chechnya, where there have been numerous credible reports indicating the detention of at least 100 men on the basis of their sexual orientation,” acting spokesperson Mark C Toner said in an official statement,
“Some reports indicate many of those arrested have been tortured, in some cases leading to death. We categorically condemn the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis. We are deeply disturbed by recent public statements by Chechen authorities that condone and incite violence against LGBTI persons. We urge Russian federal authorities to speak out against such practices, take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained, conduct an independent and credible investigation into these reports and hold any perpetrators responsible.” >>
>> April 12: US Secretary Of State, Rex Tillerson meets with Vladimir Putin in Russia. He is urged to raise the Chechen issue by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign but their calls fall on deaf ears. Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina, now in hiding, tells the BBC that they are aware of four secret prisons – another two in Grozny in addition to the one in Argun. April 13: Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop confirms to Fair f ax newspapers t hat Australia has r eached out to Moscow via diplomatic channels over t he mass arrest of gays in Chechnya, t elling t hem, “We have r aised our concerns directly with t he Russian government.”
Novaya Gazeta’s website is hit with a DDoS cyber-attack. April 17: The Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation begins investigating threats against Novaya Gazeta and its staff. However, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, fail to adopt a resolution regarding the reports of mistreatment of gays in Chechnya.
The Russian LGBT Network announces that it has been contacted by about 60 gay Chechens, with 30 of those already assisted in fleeing the country. Chechnya’s prosecutor’s office says it will “look into” the allegations. April 18: A group of more than 60 Russian media professionals, including prominent writers, issue a statement of solidarity with Novaya Gazeta over the threats against it and announce their intention to establish a new organisation to fight for freedom of speech in Russia.
April 19: A suspicious white powder is mailed to the offices of Novaya Gazeta from Chechnya. The substance is harmless. Another powder-filled envelope from Grozny arrives the next day.
Putin meets Kadyrov who addresses the accusation, telling Putin, “I want to tell you about those provocative articles they write about the Chechen Republic, about the people… that we allegedly have in detention,” in a televised discussion broadcast by TV Rain. “In news reports, people write that we have a republic… in which people are detained and killed. In terms of security, our republic is in good standing. We do not have street crime, we do not have serious terrorist threats. The republic is confidently moving forward.” April 21: A former inmate of one of the camps speaks to the BBC from a safehouse in Moscow. He says he was held and tor tured for a week. He is one of 60 gay men
that the Russian LGBT Network has rescued from Chechnya.
April 22: UK Minister Of State For Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan tells the British Parliament he has been told that the Chechen government wants the country rid of homosexuals in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
April 23: An unrepentant Kadyrov calls for the staff of Novaya Gazeta to grovel before the Chechen people over their reporting on the gay camps. “You, the journalists, should ask those corrupted devils to apologise to the Chechen people and kneel at their feet, since they insulted, humiliated, and accused them. They themselves invented that, they announced that and claimed that,” he says, according to Russia’s Ros Business Consulting news agency.
April 25: Novaya Gazeta report that they have learned of two more prisons being used for the detention of gay men, bringing the total to six.
The newspaper also delivers the details of 26 people to the Russian Investigative Committee, who were unlawfully detained in Chechnya and killed extra-judicially – including people who are alleged to have been killed on suspicion of being homosexual.
Over 300,000 people have signed a Change. org petition targeting the Prosecutor General of Russia, demanding an end to the mass repression and killings of LGBT people in Chechnya. Another 1.5 million sign a petition on Avaaz.org.
May 3: The Argun detention site has been closed. A journalist for state-aligned media is given access to the building, now cleared and abandoned. A local official claims no-one has been inside the building in over a year.
May 4: Putin pledges support for forming an inter-departmental working group to examine the alleged abuses in Chechnya.
“I will talk with the Prosecutor General and the Minister For The Interior… so that we can determine what is happening in the North Caucasus with people of unconventional sexual orientation,” Putin tells Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova.
May 5: Reports sur face that a 17-year- old Chechen boy has been killed by his family af ter he was outed as gay. His uncle, allegedly, pushed him from the 9th floor window of a building. On the same day, a sur vivor of the detention centres tells Russian magazine, Snob that the bodies of those killed in the camps were dumped in the yards of their families.