DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #209 - An­drew Creagh Found­ing Editor

Imag­ine you re­ceive a text from a friend sug­gest­ing you meet for a cof­fee. You turn up at t he café, but your f riend isn’t t here. In­stead, po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rest you and take you to a se­cret de­ten­tion camp where you are kept for weeks without charge. Dur­ing t hat t ime, you are tor­tured un­til t he po­lice are sat­is­fied t hat you have given t hem t he names of all t he other gay peo­ple you know.

You re­alise this is how they en­trapped you and that the same fate awaits your friends.

Af­ter weeks in prison you are fi­nally re­leased – but not be­fore you are pre­sented to your fam­ily and forced to con­fess to the crime of be­ing gay. The po­lice then shame your fam­ily for not hav­ing “dealt” with you ear­lier and in­struct them that they can re­deem their fam­ily hon­our if they kill you.

This is not t he plot of some weird dystopian movie. This is hap­pen­ing to gay men in Chech­nya to­day.

Try this one: you and your part­ner are at home one night in your bed. Sud­denly, a group of your neigh­bours break down your front door and en­ter your house. They pull you from your bed, beat you with clubs, shine bright torches on you and film you on their phones. They drag you out of your house to a lo­cal religious author­ity who ac­cuses you of im­moral be­hav­iour. Later, you and your part­ner are sen­tenced to 80 lashes.

This has just hap­pened to a gay cou­ple in Banda Aceh, a prov­ince of In­done­sia.

In­creas­ingly, gay peo­ple all over the world are be­ing tar­geted for vic­tim­i­sa­tion. It’s hap­pen­ing in Africa, The Caribbean, The Mid­dle East and, of course, across Rus­sia and its var­i­ous fed­er­ated states like Chech­nya. Hate crimes against the LGBTI com­mu­nity, and in­sti­tu­tion­alised ho­mo­pho­bia are on the rise in non-West­ern coun­tries and that presents a chal­lenge for those of us in the West.

We see our­selves as so­cially pro­gres­sive, welle­d­u­cated and well-off com­pared to coun­tries like Chech­nya or In­done­sia, which we gen­er­ally re­gard as so­cially back­wards, poorly ed­u­cated, im­pov­er­ished and overly religious. It’s a case of us and them, and I think that de­sen­si­tises us to the plight of gay peo­ple in those coun­tries.

We’ve all seen the head­lines about Chech­nya’s con­cen­tra­tion camps for gay men, but un­til we imag­ine our­selves in that night­mar­ish sce­nario it can all seem a bit dis­tant and re­moved.

I de­tect an em­pa­thy de­fi­cient. I’m sur­prised at how lit­tle ou­trage we are ex­press­ing at – let me say it again – con­cen­tra­tion camps for gay men in Europe. Yes, we all think it’s ter­ri­ble, but hope some­one else will do some­thing about it. Some­one else will or­gan­ise a rally, some­one else will cre­ate an on­line pe­ti­tion, some­one else will be out­raged on my be­half.

How long un­til some­one else is or­gan­is­ing the can­dle-light vigil for all those who were lost?

This month we cover the cri­sis in Chech­nya (page 64). It’s not a fun read, but I hope you stick with it. Thank you.

This is not the plot of some weird dystopian movie. This is hap­pen­ing to gay men in Chech­nya to­day.

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