by Lucy Auger
This week, Norwich Pride held an emergency demonstration outside City Hall to protest a new wave of abductions, imprisonment, and killing of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. Over 50 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to hear speeches from local activists, and to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. These acts of solidarity are vital, and it has been encouraging to see similar displays across the country, but our actions must go beyond this.
Solidarity is extremely important at a time when the very existence of LGBTQ+ people is being denied by Chechnya’s leadership, and when our own government has been unforgivably, but unsurprisingly, silent in the face of this brutal oppression. However, if we truly want to help – and we must – our solidarity must be material.
if we truly want to help – and we must – our solidarity must be material.
Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov has orchestrated the imprisonment of over 100 men by Kadyrov’s own private militia. In an ‘anti-gay crackdown’, reportedly sparked by attempts by Gay Russia to hold pride marches in the surrounding area, gay and bisexual men are being imprisoned and tortured; and if they are released they are now at risk of honour killings from their own families since being outed. Many of these arrests have been facilitated by investigators making fake dating profiles as a method of ambushing and then detaining LGBTQ+ people.
The disgraceful silence in response to this news, both from our own government and from the Chechen leadership has been stark. Theresa May’s failure to speak out against the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya is shameful, but more surprising than this is Ramzan Kadyrov’s refusal to even acknowledge their existence, as though as queerness is geographic or a form of cultural expression. In response to accusations of human rights abuses, a spokesperson for Kadyrov stated ‘you can’t detain and repress people who simply don’t exist in the republic’. LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya are not only being imprisoned and tortured, they are being erased entirely.
When we talk about the erasure of LGBTQ+ people in our own media or history, it’s not out of narcissism: our existence relies on representation. When we see ourselves represented, it means our history has not been erased. As LGBTQ+ people, we already know we exist, but these atrocities will continue whilst there are people who can’t attach the concept of being queer to themselves. When a straight person cannot connect themselves with queerness though their family, friends, or even a favourite TV character, that’s when we are othered.
Going forward we must continue to call out these atrocities to combat the erasure of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya, but more than that we must call on our own government to speak out. Below is a list of ways in which you can support the LGBTQ+ Chechnan community, including tips on how to lobby the Russian Embassy and your United Nations Ambassador.
our existence relies on representation
SIGN THIS PETITION
Sign and share this Change.org petition of Igor Yasin, an LGBTQ+ activist in Russia, who is asking the Prosecutor General of Russia to immediately investigate mass abductions and torture of gay men in the Chechen Republic. Signing this petition will also help you stay up to date about the situation and further actions Igor will be organising on the ground.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Tweet to Prosecutor General at @Genproc and the Investigatory Committee of Russia at @sledcom_rf demanding to start an investigation into mass torture and murder of LGBTQ+ people in the Chechen Republic.
SUPPORT A HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Join Amnesty International’s global campaign to stop abductions and torture of gay men in Chechnya.
PUT PRESSURE ON THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY
Email the Russian embassy in your country with a personal appeal to start an investigation. Feel free to copy the text of Igor Yasin’s petition in your appeal.
OFFER YOUR HELP TO LGBTQ+ MOVEMENTS IN RUSSIA
Reach out to the Russian LGBTQ+ Network via their hotline email address to see if there is any help needed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT YOUR UNITED NATIONS AMBASSADOR
Contact UN Ambassador Nikki Haley if you are in the US asking her to condemn Chechen attacks on LGBTQ+ men and investigate reports. Or if you are in the UK, contact Matthew Rycroft.
LOBBY LGBTQ+ DATING APPS
Call on Grindr and Hornet to send an automated message to Russian users in the area warning them of potential risks to their personal safety.
KEEP UP MOMENTUM
Reach out to LGBTQ+ organisations in your country to see what they are doing on the ground on this issue and attend upcoming protests.
List of actions taken from here.
All images © Katy Jon Went