DNA Magazine - - NEWS FEATURE -

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

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.

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