The west is being slow to respond to the establishment of concentration camps for gay men in Chechnya, but make no mistake, it’s a warning to us all, says Rob Buchanan.
The warning signs have been looming on the horizon for years. The slippery slope of silencing, disenfranchising and demonising gays in Russia and Caucasia has now moved from rhetoric and legislation to horrific action. The rise of radical Islam and the ever cheapening price of lives overall in Chechnya has reached its logical conclusion. It was only a matter of time before some despot, appealing to populist sentiment or appeasing local religious zealots, decided to practice what he preached and started liquidating the gays. It’s estimated that over 100 homosexual men have been rounded up in Chechnya and sent to specifically designed concentration camps. Many have already been killed in extrajudicial executions.
In the concentration camps these men are being tortured and forced to ‘confess’, exposing others in the LGBT community. Perhaps the most ominous detail of all was Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s (pictured above) reply when confronted with these disgusting crimes. He denied the allegations because, as he told Interfax news agency:
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic. If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
A Final Solution
This demonstrates his clear motive: a final solution, if you will. Chechnya wants to liquidate all gays in the region, or anyone in opposition who can conveniently be labeled as such. This is the type of rhetoric taken straight from the textbook of genocides and pogroms. But why gays, you may ask? Well, as Mr Putin before Mr Kadyrov understood, homosexual men are a fantastic choice of scapegoat for a nation’s ills. Gays are already a taboo and self-disguised minority in a dangerous and impoverished area. They are easily intimidated in to silence, risking careers as well as personal safety, not to mention ostracism from family and neighbourhood.
In Chechnya, as in Russia, the idea of paedophilia and other despicable sexual deviances are regularly coupled with the idea of homosexuality, a slur that is encouraged by mainstream media and the influential conservative religious and political powers in the region. Meanwhile, the establishment of concentration camps for gays also has an obvious chilling effect on any other protestors or campaigners for human rights in the unstable nation.
A victim who managed to escape from one of these camps, situated in a former military headquarters, talked about some of the horrors he had witnessed. Violent, often deadly beatings and electric shock torture. Anyone who might come from a wealthier family may be lucky enough to be held ransom, with at least a hope that the family might pay the price of their release (when they are far more likely to disown their “criminal” son). Social media and dating apps are being used to track down gays in the area, but are also being used to arrest and interrogate anyone the authorities feel might be harbouring gays, or even friendly with gay people. These in turn are tortured to reveal more “guilty” people, and the cycle continues again. It’s a very efficient engine of control and terror.
Who Can Save These Men?
So can the LGBT community in Chechnya expect any help from their Civil Rights officials there? Chechnya’s human rights official Kheda Saratova told a Russian radio station: “I haven’t had a single request on this issue, but if I did, I wouldn’t even consider it. In our Chechen society, any person who respects our traditions and culture will hunt down this kind of person without any help from authorities, and do everything to make sure that this kind of person does not exist in our society.”
So who is answerable for these sickening crimes and who can save these men and prevent further escalation? It’s hard to know. The Chechen Republic is a federal subject of Russia, however it’s predominantly Muslim and has its own government and judiciary. Russia appears to have no interest in the matter and considering the situation in Ukraine/Crimea, the eyes of the West are being slow to respond to this potential holocaust.
We all know where this type of road leads. The erosion of civil rights by gradually dehumanising and criminalising people creates an environment where previously good and tolerant citizens become terrified to stand up and defend their brothers and neighbours, for fear that they will face the same. Make no mistake, if gay men can be rounded up and murdered wholesale by a legitimate government so near the EU, then all of our freedom is in peril.
Sign All Out’s petition to the Russian Federal Authorities for justice for the Chechen 100 here.