Chechnya has reportedly opened up its first concentration camp for gay people since Nazi Germany.
The news comes after reports that claimed that more than 100 men suspected of being gay were rounded up by the Chechen police on account of their “non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” It was also said the police gave them electrical shocks and beat three of them to death, according Russian newspaper Novoya Gazeta.
Based on testimonies of survivors, it is said that a secret prison has been set up in the town of Argun, the site of a former military headquarters — and that the prisoners were living a nightmare.
One man, who was lucky enough to escape, said detainees were brutally beaten to force them to reveal the names of other members of the gay community. Another man said he was subjected to “violent interrogations” at the camps to force disclosing the locations of more gay men. They also seized his mobile phone and searched through his contacts, regardless of whether they were gay.
Yet another said he was forced to pay thousands of rubles in bribe to the police so that they may let him live.
It is said the men range from 15 to 50 years.
“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,” Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, told the Daily Mail. “'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.”
“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,” Alexander Artemyev, from Amnesty International in Russia, said. “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.”
“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,” Tanya Lokshina, from Human Rights Watch in Moscow, said. “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 'honor killings' by their own relatives for tarnishing family honor.”
Now, British campaigners have arranged a protest outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation in London. Backed by organizer Steve Taylor, who said, “London fails if it does not challenge this inhumanity. We must stand up to this.”
However, President Ramzan Kadyrov denied ordering the crackdown stating, “It is impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic.”
Kadyrov, who has an extensive anti-human rights record, described the accusations as “absolute lies and disinformation.”
Kadyrov's spokesman Alvi Karimov said, “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.”
The country of Chechnya is very conservative and people who are suspected to be gay are, more often than not, disowned by their own families. Gay men have also been reportedly deleting their social media accounts after it was found police tried to lure them into dates and arrest them.