As Clinton criticises Trump for not speaking out on the gay progrom in Chechnya, our leaders should be alarmed, says Brian Finnegan.
In GCN this month, I hoped to carry a piece in this issue by Elena Milashina, the Russian journalist who on April 1 broke the story about gay men being detained, tortured and murdered as part of a homosexual purge in Chechnya. But Elena has now been forced to flee Russia amid death threats.
The reports sparked across the world by her investigation, which she did with colleague, Irina Gordienko, for Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, used the words ‘concentration camps’, unleashing all sorts of horrific images in the global consciousness. On one level the use of those words when reporting the story is beneficial, in that people may be galvanised to take action to stop history repeating itself, but on another their incendiary power is something human rights defenders are reluctant to take on. No one wants holocaust survivor organisations coming out against the use of the words. The focus has to be solely on the people at risk in Chechnya.
Of course, gay men aren’t the only ones at risk in the Russian republic, whose leader Ramzan Kadyrovsince, since the publication of GCN, has promised to get rid of all homosexuals by May 26. The rounding up and brutalising of one minority in any country suggests the use of fear to control a population. Brutal regimes have historically relied on the people themselves to rat each other out, to self-police in an effort to get on or avoid persecution. And how do you prove or disprove that someone is gay? If someone is denounced, or a name is given under torture, it doesn’t matter whether that person is gay or not, his life is at risk. According to Elena Milashina, waves of repression against the Chechen people have become more and more open over the past two years, and more aggressive. “There are a lot of people who are under repression, being detained, tortured and killed,” she told the Washington Post.
A Frightening Prospect For Us All
It’s a frightening prospect for us all, not just those who live in Chechnya, and the response of Chechen authorities to Milashina’s reports underline why. Using a version of the Trump’s ‘fake news’ rhetoric, Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, said the atrocities reported in Novaya Gazeta weren’t based in fact, because “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”
Then with another Trumpian flourish, Kadyrov’s regime went up against the media. Chechen state television promised to produce a tell-all investigation into reports on the torture of gay men in the Russian republic — not into the question of torture itself, but into how the story came to be reported. It said the existence of gays in Chechnya was “invented by opposition media.”
Russia is unlike America in the way its governing regime takes on media agencies and journalists that report facts it doesn’t like. Anna Politkovskaya, a star reporter with Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that notoriously crusades against corruption and injustice in Russia, was found shot dead in her apartment building in 2006. It has never been confirmed who ordered her murder, but in the current Chechen climate, threats against the staff of the newspaper have been given religious underpinning. On April 3, 15,000 people gathered in a mosque in the Chechan capital of Grozny and announced a jihad against the staff at Novaya Gazeta. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has shown little willingness to investigate the newspaper’s claims further.
Inciting Hatred In The Mob
Since his election, the new President of the United States and his regime have consistently undermined the media for reporting stories they don’t like, calling into question the veracity of facts and creating facts of their own. Donald Trump’s election was based not only on pandering to the mob, but inciting hatred in the mob for a targeted minority, a group to blame for all of society’s ills, something that dictatorial regimes have done since time immemorial. It’s not a huge jump between denouncing the media in front of that mob, and the mob taking ‘justice’ into its own hands and going after members of the media, therefore it’s not a far cry from what’s happening in Chechnya today to what could happen America tomorrow.
While Hillary Clinton is criticising Donald Trump for not speaking out on Chechnya, the Irish government has yet to make any statement condemning the torture and detainment of gay men there. Apart from the fact that the world should be decrying the systematic and brutal persecution of gay men in Chechnya, our leaders should be sitting up and watching what’s happening there with alarm. We might think Chechnya is far away, that such atrocities could never come our way, but it’s not. The world is currently on a faultline, and amid stories of nuclear stand-offs between America and North Korea, the powers that be who are on the side of humanity should be doing everything they can to stop organised atrocities, orchestrated by a regime that is using current American political rhetoric to achieve its ends.
Mother: Babooshka, Tunes for Chechnya, Saturday April 29, The Hub, 11 til late, €10, will raise urgently needed funds for the Russian LGBT Network, which is evacuating gay men from Chechnya
Watch Hillary Clinton’s speech below.