Last week, 100 gay men were targeted by police in Chechnya, a republic of Russia. Three were killed, sparking international outrage. This week, it has been reported that gay men have been placed in concentration camps—the first since the Holocaust.
LGBT rights activists and groups are now trying to expose the camps, where gay men are being allegedly tortured and killed. “It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant,” wrote Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch. “LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to ‘honor killings’ by their own relatives for tarnishing family honor.”
President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, stated last week that the Kremlin was previously not aware of the situation, but that law enforcement authorities would look into these media reports. Chechen officials denied the initial reports of police violence against gay men in the region, claiming that they were based in “lies and disinformation” because there are no gay people in Chechnya.
“If there were such people in Chechnya, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them,” said Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, in a statement, “because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
Kheda Saratova, the Chechen Commissioner for Human Rights, has apologized for a statement in which she said she would disregard any reports because she did not believe there were gay men in Chechnya. “I know there are homosexuals in the world, of course, but I have never heard that they exist in our society,” she said. “All this shocked me.”
Meliss Arteaga is an editorial intern at Ms. She studied at California State University Northridge and has a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minor in gender and women studies.