FROM THE EDITOR
COULD WE CARE LESS ABOUT CHECHNYA?
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.