Chechnya gay camp cannot be tolerated in 2017



By Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Disturbing reports have surfaced that approximately 100 men in Chechnya, Russia, who are suspected of being gay are being imprisoned in a torture concentration camp in Argun, according to an April 3 article from The Independent and several national media outlets. 

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta was the first to report on the camp after members of a local gay rights group,, were arrested after being denied gay pride parade permits. The prisoners have been subjected to barbaric practices such as being beaten several times a day,  having their hands electrocuted and being forced to sit on bottles, according to survivor accounts told to The Guardian April 13

Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, said the report was a lie, denying the camp’s existence. 

“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” Karimov told Interfax news agency, absurdly claiming there are no LGBTQ Chechen people. He also denied any human rights’ violations despite reports of violent harassment of Human Rights Watch representatives and journalists who uncovered the story.

Unlike Moscow and St. Petersburg, which are more westernized and have vibrant gay communities, Chechnya hosts a different ethnic makeup that is predominantly Sunni Muslim and has a highly conservative government. The global media has rightly brought the camp to light and is reporting on the pain and injustice, but nothing can change if the government does not renounce and rectify its archaic and unjust treatment of minority groups and LGBTQ community.

Kadyrov should admit his wrongdoing and a commission should investigate how this happened. This is necessary to right these wrongs and quell the prejudice that plagues Chechnya. While President Vladimir Putin has said victims of the alleged assaults should file official complaints and take them to court, he has given no indication of protecting the LBGTQ community, which has been treated unfairly for too long in Chechnya. 

The world needs to hold the Chechen government accountable for the reported torturing of gay men. People cannot be held, tortured or killed based on who they are. It is up to the citizens, allies and human rights lawyers—who are rightfully and quickly becoming involved to help—to turn against Kadyrov and his close friend Putin.

These leaders must see that LGBTQ people do exist in Chechnya and are only making our world a more accepting, diverse and stronger place.