Category: Blog

LGBTQI Violations Part of Larger Context of Chechen Genocide, Jerika L.H.,

LGBTQI Violations Part of Larger Context of Chechen Genocide

by Jerika L.H., reporting from Europe, 14th April at The Davis Vanguard

 
“The small region of Chechnya has been under global examination as people around the world have recoiled in horror amidst emerging news that gay men have been rounded up and imprisoned in labor camps. As the horrendous details continue to emerge, it is important to note that human rights violations have been part of an ongoing campaign to quell Chechen dissent.

Chechnya is said to be home to around one-million people, made up of two main religious groups: Russian Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims. Situated in the Caucus mountain region in south-western Russia, Chechnya borders the country of Georgia and has its own distinct cultural identity, with both the Chechen and Russian language in use.

In a historical nutshell, Chechnya has been embroiled in war for several centuries. The region was overtaken by the USSR in 1921 and endured a cruel deculturization regime. In 1944, Stalin ordered the total deportation of the entire Chechen ethnic community, who were moved to gulags in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Surviving members returned 13 years later to reclaim the region as their ethnic homeland. After the disbanding of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechen leaders announced their demands for independence and an end to Russian oppression. The Chechen-Ingush ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) was then divided into two parts: the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic, which has been continuously fighting for independence. After First Chechen War with Russia in 1996, Chechnya gained de facto independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. However, Russia once again gained control of the region after the Second Chechen War. Since the destructive era of the 1990’s, war-torn Chechnya has been on a slow path to rebuilding their infrastructure, although the fight for independence still rages on as separatist movements are still strong amidst Chechen patriots. Russia has sent troops to invade Chechnya multiple times in violent military missions deemed “anti-terrorist operations.” Russian powers have proven to be no match for Chechen guerrillas, who have mastered the Caucus mountain terrain. Many groups still remain in the mountains where they are continuing their counterattacks against Russian occupiers. Russia announced an end to their “anti-terrorist operations” in April of 2009 after increasing pressure from human rights organizations. Information about the atrocities committed by Russian troops are still coming to light. In 2001, a mass grave filled with countless mutilated bodies was found. This invoked a larger investigation from human rights group into countless murder cover-ups which forced many fleeing Chechen people to Europe to escape.

Although the exact number is unknown, a conservative figure states that at least 200,000 Chechens have lost their lives amidst ongoing post-war conflict, in addition to over 140,000 displaced by violence. The constant threat of death and physical destruction of the country has also made life hell on Earth for those still living in the region. In retaliation against a 1999 Chechen rebel bombing attack, Russia captured and demolished the capital city of Grozny, which still remains in partial ruins. Suicide bombers continue to launch attacks against Russia in an attempt to demand freedom for Chechnya as well as bring global attention to the Russian occupation and genocide of the Chechen people.

Ramzan Kadyrov was appointed as the Head of the Chechen Republic, much to the discontent of many Chechen people, some of whom have called him a Russian sympathizer. As Russian born human rights activist Yulia Gorbunova states “With the Kremlin’s blessing, Ramzan Kadyrov has been running Chechnya for close to a decade as his own fiefdom, eradicating all forms of dissent. Abduction-style detentions, enforced disappearances and torture are rampant. Russian law and human rights protections exist only on paper; Kadyrov’s orders determine the rules applicable to Chechnya’s daily life.”

Kadyrov has faces countless accusations of torture and murder, as people who opposed his appointment have been found mysteriously disappeared or murdered, including a number of Chechens living abroad. Several people within his regime have also testified that Kadyrov has crafted a “Murder List”, with over 300 names of those who have challenged his authority. The Chechen people are watched with the utmost scrutiny, as officials document the names of those participating in public critique of Kadyrov. Kadyrov’s spokeperson Alvi Karimov shocked the world earlier this week when he called the reports of LGBTQ torture an April Fools Joke – “absolute lies and disinformation.” Alvi went on to deny that non-heterosexual people even existed in Chechnya. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic. If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

As the plight of the gay Chechens has galvanized the call for an intervention in the area, many Chechen people state that this form of brutality is nothing new, nor are they the actions of the true Chechen community. Malissa Holland expands on this sentiment

“I wholeheartedly believe that such actions do not reflect traditional Chechen culture or the views of our people. Innocent people have been persecuted, tortured and killed under the Kadyrov/Putin regime in Chechnya for many years now, and Kadyrov’s crimes against humanity and the atrocities he commits in order to maintain his dictatorship in Chechnya are very well documented. He has shown that he will use any means to stifle any dissent within Chechnya, and he has always been fully supported in his actions by Putin and the Russian government. The reported atrocities committed against homosexuals are only the tip of the iceberg when considering the behaviour that Kadyrov and Putin’s regime has been allowed to get away with.”

Holland was born into a community of Chechens in Jordan, but now lives in the UK. She remarks that traditional Chechen culture is based on a clan system with an elders’ rule. In regard to the lack of religious freedom, Holland states that fear is a huge factor which has kept people quiet about their oppression for so long.

“[Certain groups of] Chechens are traditionally very moderate Muslims, having only adopted Islam in the past couple of hundred years or so. Our previous pagan beliefs and traditions are still evident in our language and some of our customs. In recent years, Kadyrov’s regime has enforced a much more conservative form of Islam, and has introduced strong elements of Sharia law in Chechnya. This is not popular with the Chechen people, but people are too afraid to speak or act out against it.”

The Chechen diaspora has recently taken to social media in an attempt to remind people that the emerging stories of anti-gay violence in Chechnya is not just an LGBTQI issue, but part of a larger operation of genocide which has been implemented since the early 20th century. One commenter states “Please, don’t be so naïve to think that the only problem in Chechnya is anti-gay sentiment. This is only a small stroke on the larger canvas of Chechen inhalation. The Chechen people are not only forbidden to love who they want, but not even given the right to live freely, to speak their opinions, or to participate in their government. A Chechen life is seen as lesser, so people live with constant fear that they could be killed in an instant with no justice or reparation. If you want an end to gay rights violations, it must come alongside an end to the longstanding cruelties endured by the Chechen people for centuries. In order to achieve this, Chechnya must be free.”

Another Chechen woman writes: “I’m so angry that the media has dubbed these abuses as an act of the Chechen people, when it’s really part of an ongoing campaign headed by Putin to trick the world into thinking that we are terrorists and criminals. It is not Chechen people behind this! We just want peace for once!” ”

(http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/04/lgbtqi-violations-part-larger-context-chechen-genocide/)

Chechyna has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler, Daily Mail, 10 April 2017 /

“Chechnya opens world’s first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler’s in the 1930s where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death
  • Chechyna has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler
  • Prisoners reportedly tortured with electric shocks and some beaten to death 
  • One of those who fled said prisoners were beaten to force them to reveal other members of the gay community 
  • Comes after 100 gay men were detained and three killed in Chechnya last week 

Chechyna has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler, where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death.

It comes after it was claimed 100 gay men had been detained and three killed in Chechnya last week.

A report by Novoya Gazeta said authorities had set up several camps where homosexuals are killed or forced to promise to leave the republic.

One of the camps is reportedly at the former military headquarters in the town of Argun.

Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, told MailOnline: ‘Gay people have been detained and rounded up and we are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region.

‘Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.’

One of those who escaped told Novoya Gazeta that prisoners were beaten to force them to reveal other members of the gay community.

Another prisoner who fled said that before being incarcerated in one of the camps, he had been forced to pay bribes to Chechen police of thousands of rubles every month in order to survive.

Now the regime had taken another step against gays by creating these camps, the survivor said.  

Alexander Artemyev, from Amnesty International in Russia, told MailOnline: ‘We can only call on the Russian authorities to investigate the allegations. Homosexuals in Chechyna are treated very harshly and prosecuted daily and they are afraid to talk about it.

‘They either have to hide or leave the republic. We are keeping in touch with the LGBT network that helps people in Russia to find shelter. The problem is people there cannot talk about it as it puts their lives and those they speak to, in danger. This is the main issue we are facing in Russia and the main challenge.’

Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, told MailOnline: ‘The story is very much developing…victims are escaping.’

Tanya Lokshina, from Human Rights Watch in Moscow, said: ‘For several weeks now, a brutal campaign against LGBT people has been sweeping through Chechnya.

‘These days, very few people in Chechnya dare speak to human rights monitors or journalists even anonymously because the climate of fear is overwhelming and people have been largely intimidated into silence.

‘Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable.

‘It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant. LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to “honour killings” by their own relatives for tarnishing family honour.’

Last week Novoya Gazeta said Chechen police had rounded up more than 100 men suspected of being gay and killed three.

It claimed that among those detained were well-known local television personalities and religious figures.

President Razman Kadyrov, who is a key ally of Vladimir Putin, allegedly ordered the clampdown, although officially his regime denied the arrests claiming ‘it is impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic’.

Kadyrov, who introduced Islamic rule in the Muslim-majority region, has been accused of earlier human rights violations.

He described the allegations as ‘absolute lies and disinformation’.

Kadyrov’s spokesman Alvi Karimov told the Interfax News Agency: ‘You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.

‘If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.’

Chechen society is strictly conservative, meaning that unlike other cases where relatives or rights activists may put pressure on authorities when a homosexual relative disappears, those suspected are likely to be disowned by their own families.

According to the New York Times, gay men on the region have been deleting their social media profiles after it was reported authorities tried to lure gay men into dates and arrested them.

The reports from Russia claim those arrested range from just 15 to 50.

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“Chechen police ‘have rounded up more than 100 suspected gay men’

Russian newspaper says it has evidence that at least three men have been killed in ‘prophylactic sweep’ in Chechnya

 in Moscow

Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have launched an anti-gay campaign that has led to authorities rounding up dozens of men suspected of being homosexual, according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and human rights activists.

The newspaper’s report, by an author regarded as a leading authority on Chechnya, claimed that more than 100 people had been detained and three men killed in the roundup. It claimed that among those detained were well-known local television personalities and religious figures.

Alvi Karimov, spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, described the report as “absolute lies and disinformation”, basing his denial on the claim that there were no gay people in Chechnya. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he told Interfax news agency.

“If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

A spokesman for the region’s interior ministry told the Russian newspaper RBC that the report was “an April fool’s joke”.

However, Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, told the Guardian she had been receiving worrying information about the issue from various sources over the past 10 days. “I have heard about it happening in Grozny [the Chechen capital], outside Grozny, and among people of very different ages and professions,” she said.

The extreme taboo nature of the subject meant that much of the information was arriving second or third hand, and as yet there are no fully verifiable cases, she added. “It’s next to impossible to get information from the victims or their families, but the number of signals I’m receiving from different people makes it hard not to believe detentions and violence are indeed happening.”

Chechnya is formally part of Russia, but functions as a quasi-independent state in which the word of Kadyrov often seems to transcend Russian laws. He has overseen the rebuilding of the republic with Moscow’s money, after two devastating wars. Kadyrov has at various times endorsed polygamy, compulsory wearing of the hijab for women in public places, and collective punishment for the relatives of those involved in the Islamist underground.

Chechen society is strictly conservative, meaning that unlike other cases where relatives or rights activists may put pressure on authorities when a homosexual relative disappears, those suspected are likely to be disowned by their own families. Locals say that if a family was known to have a gay member, other relatives would find it difficult to marry due to the “shame”.

Attitudes to LGBT rights are mixed in Russia, with an infamous law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” on the books. But Moscow and other big cities have a thriving gay scene, even if much of it remains underground. In Chechnya and the other Muslim republics of the North Caucasus, there is no discussion of the issue, and gay men do not even tell their closest friends of their orientation.

The Novaya Gazeta article claimed that three people had been killed, and suggested others could have been handed to their families with the expectation that the family would perform an honour killing.

An LGBT rights organisation in St Petersburg has set up an anonymous hotline for gay people in Chechnya to seek help with evacuation from the republic. After years of threats and repression, almost no independent journalists or rights activists are able to work in the region, and those who do work on human rights in the republic dismissed the newspaper report.

“I haven’t had a single request on this issue, but if I did, I wouldn’t even consider it,” Kheda Saratova, a Chechen activist who is on Kadyrov’s human rights council, told a Russian radio station. “In our Chechen society, any person who respects our traditions and culture will hunt down this kind of person without any help from authorities, and do everything to make sure that this kind of person does not exist in our society.”

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Russia: End persecution of activists in Chechnya, Amnesty International, 15 December 2014

“Russia: End persecution of activists in Chechnya

15 December 2014
Russian authorities should act to end a campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders in Chechnya, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today after the office of a local human rights group was burned down. They should also offer genuine protection to all activists threatened for doing their work.

In the evening of December 13 the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) a human rights organization that works with non-governmental organizations from other Russian regions, was destroyed in a fire in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in a suspected arson attack.

“These acts of intimidation are part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the region. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appears to be waging a personal campaign against the Joint Mobile Group and its leader Igor Kalyapin,” said Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International

Earlier on December 13, 2014, at a demonstration against armed groups operating in the area, banners appeared labelling the NGO as “supporters of terrorism”. On the same day, members of the group were followed by armed masked men in a car believed to belong to Chechen law enforcement officials.

On December 14, police entered the apartment rented by JMG in Grozny and, without providing any explanation or a search warrant to the two JMG staff members present, ransacked the building, confiscated mobile phones, several photo cameras, lap-top computers, and other electronic equipment. They also conducted body searches of the two JMG staff members and a search of their car. The two members, Sergei Babinets and Dmitry Dimitriev, were held by police for several hours before being released without charge.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on the Russian authorities to investigate the suspected arson, ensure protection is provided to JMG staff and honor Russia’s commitment to foster a normal working climate for human rights defenders.

“This is not the first time the Chechen authorities have unleashed a campaign of harassment against those working to protect human rights in Chechnya,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These latest acts against human rights defenders suggest they are taking it to a new level of abuse.”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged Russian authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the attacks and threats and hold accountable those responsible.

Background 

On 4 December, 11 members of an armed group launched an attack against law enforcement officials in central Grozny. In the ensuing fighting, all were killed, along with 14 law enforcement officers and at least one civilian. The following day the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said the families of the armed group members would be expelled from Chechnya and their houses demolished. Within days, at least nine houses in five different towns were set on fire by unknown men and burnt down. There has been no attempt to investigate these incidents.

On 9 December, Kalyapin, head of the JMG, called on Russian authorities to investigate whether Kadyrov’s call to expel insurgents’ families and destroy their houses would constitute a criminal offence under Article 286 of the Russian Criminal Code “Abuse of authority”. The following day, through his social media account, Kadyrov claimed that “a certain Kalyapin” was assisting insurgents in Chechnya, including by providing them with money.

On 11 December, several prominent human rights defenders held a joint press conference in Moscow to highlight the unlawful practice of collective punishment in Chechnya. Kalyapin, one of the speakers, was attacked during the press conference by several men, who shouted abuse and pelted him with eggs. For several days since, Kalyapin has been receiving threatening phone calls and text messages. ”

(in https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/12/russia-end-persecution-human-rights-activists-chechnya/)

Chechens deported from Norway tortured to death, 18 December 2015


Chechens deported from Norway tortured to death

Two Chechen men who were denied asylum in Norway on the grounds that their “fears of prosecution were unfounded” were tortured to death on their return.
Apti Nazjujev, part of the resistance against Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, sought political asylum in Norway in 200, but Norwegian authorities expelled him to Chechnya in 2011.
Nazjujev was in 2013 found dead in a river,  with his teeth and nails pulled out, his knee caps shattered, broken skull and deep lacerations on his body, according to an autopsy report examined by Norwegian magazine Ny Tid.
Umar Bilemkhanov, another Chechen dissident, was deported to Russia in 2011 after appealing his case to Norway’s High Court.
The court found that Bilemkhanov’s life would be in danger if he was deported to Chechnya, but not to Russia.
On arrival in Moscow, Bilemkhanov was questioned by Russian service FSB and then forcibly returned to Chechnya, where he was tortured with electrical cables.
He was later found dead in 2012, in what Chechen authorities claimed was a car accident.
Several organisations including the Helsinki committee and Russian Human Rights organisation Memorial warned Norway the two men would be in grave danger if they were returned to Chechnya or Russia, but their pleas were ignored.
“It is proven that Norway has sent people back to torture,” Lene Wetteland of the Helsinki Committee told Ny Tid. “These two came to Norway for protection, and they were sent back to torture. Norway cannot do this according to several conventions.”
“I am angry that Norwegian authorities don’t listen to us. It is really upsetting that you cannot get through to them.”
Norway’s Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) this week maintained that the decisions they took in the two cases had been correct.
“We think that the decisions taken were correct. One case was tried in court by three different bodies, and they all agreed with UNE,” Torgeir Tofte Jørgensen of UNE told Ny Tid.
“The other was sent to Moscow because we thought it would be dangerous for him in Chechnya. He travelled to Chechnya on his own. The other person was in Chechnya for a year and a half before something is claimed to happened.”

(in https://www.thelocal.no/20151218/chechens-deported-from-norway-were-killed)