A blatant disregard for human rights has run rampant in Chechen society. Homophobia is deeply embedded in Chechnya’s culture. To be gay in Chechnya is dangerous. These people fear for their lives, living in secrecy, having no safe haven. When someone is outed, they are sometimes murdered by their friends and family. This hatred runs so powerfully, leaving many hopeless, finding that their only option is to escape.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has made the claim that no gay people exist in Chechnya so there is no need for government intervention. He seeks to make gay people invisible, forcing them to live a lie out of fear or to escape. An investigation done by Novoya Gazeta newspaper uncovered the dark truth about Chechen government: gay people have been tortured, even killed due to who they are. Kadyrov’s spokesperson commented that, “Even if such people existed in Chechnya, our law enforcement agencies would not need to bother with them, because their own relatives would simply send them to a place from which they would never return.” Whether this is death, imprisonment, or being forced to leave the country is unclear. That could be the most terrifying aspect of this regime: the fate of queer people is unknown.
Lately, things have taken a terrifying turn for the worse. Novoya Gazeta has also claimed that detention camps have been set up for gay men. In these camps, they are either killed or forced to leave the country.
It’s easy to forget about the suffering of those in Chechnya. Chechens live in such a vastly different society that it makes it hard for us to identify with them. We live in a world so cruel to queer people that sometimes, we need to disconnect from that suffering. It’s a heavy burden to carry all the time. But I think it’s times like these where we need to recognize our privilege and our role in bringing change. The US has denied about 40 visas of gay chechens living in hiding. There has been little media coverage on the topic. Once again, the suffering of queer people is being swept under the rug.
I wish I had a potential solution or was able to offer hope but I do not. I am one person and I feel powerless. However, I know something needs to be done and this story needs to be heard. We can’t keep living in a world that treats the LGBTQ community like we are invisible.