Gay men are being detained and tortured in concentration camp-like prisons in the Russian region of Chechnya, according to reports. The news comes after reports last week suggested more than 100 suspected gay men were detained and three killed by Chechen police.
Several camps have been set up by the authorities where gay men are being tortured and others killed, according to independent local newspaper Novoya Gazeta. Activists claim the detainees face electric shocks and violent beatings, with some being forced to promise to leave the republic.
Prisoners are also beaten to force them to reveal fellow members of the gay community, one escapee told Novoya Gazeta. While another said he was forced to pay bribes to Chechen police every month to survive, and the creation of the camps is the next step in the region’s anti-gay campaign, reported MailOnline.
Human rights activists from all over the world have reacted in horror and spoken out against the shocking news. Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, said the organisation is working to evacuate detainees from the camps and some people have left Chechnya.
“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,” she told MailOnline.
Amnesty International in Russia is calling on the Russian authorities to investigate the claims. “Homosexuals in Chechyna are treated very harshly and prosecuted daily and they are afraid to talk about it,” Alexander Artemyev, from the organisation, told MailOnline.
“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,” he added. “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.”
Tanya Lokshina, from Human Rights Watch in Moscow, wrote last week that “a brutal campaign against LGBT people has been sweeping through Chechnya” for several weeks. “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.”
She added: “Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable.”
LGBT people are extremely vulnerable in Chechnya, Lokshina continued, as “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.”
The anti-gay campaign was allegedly ordered by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the MailOnline reported. However, his regime denied the arrests by claiming there were no gay people in the region: “It is impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic.”
Gay people in Chechnya are likely to be disowned by their families if their sexuality is made public, due to the strictly conservative attitudes that dominate society. Gay men in the region have also been deleting their social media profiles since the New York Times reported that many were being lured into dates and then arrested.