Russian LGBT activists call for support

21 April 2017

PA

Group demonstration: protesters stand outside the Russian Embassy in London, after reports of the torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya

Group demonstration: protesters stand outside the Russian Embassy in London, after reports of the torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya

LGBT activists in Russia have called on people of all faiths and none to speak out against anti-gay persecution in the country — but said that they did not expect a reaction from the “homophobic” Russian Orthodox Church. It came after more than 100 gay men reportedly were detained, in prisons that have been compared to Nazi concentration camps, and three were killed, in Chechnya, last week.

A spokeswoman for the Russian LGBT Network, made up of 11 LGBT activist groups, Svetlana Zakharova, said on Tuesday: “We truly believe that when it all is about kidnappings, tortures, and killings, every person, regardless of their beliefs, should have something to say. However, we don’t expect any reaction from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has proved to be very homophobic.”

Russian media reported that police in the predominantly Muslim republic had abducted more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality, who were then detained, tortured, beaten, and even killed, last month. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has called for the immediate release of the survivors.

“The Russian Federation must officially state that it does not tolerate any form of incitement to violence, social stigmatisation of homosexuality, or hate speech, and does not condone discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” a statement from the UNHRC read.

“We call on Russia to take urgent measures to protect the life, liberty, and security of gay and bisexual people in Chechnya, and to investigate, prosecute, and punish acts of violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.”

But the press secretary for the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, called the reports “lies”, and said that there were no gay people in Chechnya. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, told journalists on Friday: “We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area.”

The Russian LGBT Network said in a statement on Monday that it continues to work on evacuating the persecuted men, and that about 60 people of those in jeopardy in Chechnya have contacted them. “We know that people and organisations all over the world are collecting money to support our work in evacuating people from the region, and we are greatly appreciative.

“This money will go towards transportation, accommodation, basic goods, medical and psychological support, as well as the preparation of necessary documents. It is dangerous for most of the survivors to stay in Russia; therefore, we are preparing for their evacuation from the country.”

Ms Zakharova later said that the network believed that “at some point” the Russian authorities would conduct a proper investigation of the situation.

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