Chechnya: Brutal homophobia raises its head

By Andrew Farley

In recent months, horrific reports have come to light revealing the imprisonment and torture of over 100 gay men in concentration camps in Chechnya. At least four men are thought to have been murdered, while others have been released to their families for ‘honour killings’. Those who have escaped report that they were detained in a room with around 30 to 40 others and subjected to interrogations, electric shocks, and heavy beatings. Prisoners have also had their mobile phones seized so that their contacts can be targeted, putting many more at risk.

The leader of the region, which is a semi-autonomous federal subject of Russia, responded to reports by claiming, “We have never had gay men”. However, it is believed that in a recent broadcast to local Russian language media, President Kadyrov threatened to eliminate the gay community in Chechnya by the end of May this year.

On Thursday 11th May, five activists were arrested and detained by police in Moscow as they attempted to deliver a petition of 2 million signatures urging the Russian government to investigate the torture camps. The reason given for their arrest was that they violated a law prohibiting unauthorised public gatherings. Despite international pressure, it seems unlikely that President Vladimir Putin will allow a proper inquiry to take place, considering the deteriorating situation for LGBT people in Russia over the last number of years.

Today, due to the ‘gay propaganda law’, it is effectively illegal to be openly gay in Russia. This is starkly contrasted with the situation 100 years ago when, after the Russian Revolution which saw the working class come to power under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, homosexuality was decriminalised and openly gay people served in government. Presently, many countries still fail to live up to this standard of social progress. The struggle for LGBT equality must be connected to a struggle against the capitalist system which breeds division, barbarism and inequality.