Novaya Gazeta on Saturday reported more than 100 men in the semi-autonomous Russian republic have been arrested. At least three of these arrests have reportedly resulted in murder.
“What is happening to gay men in Chechnya is a horrific violation of human rights and the rule of law,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord in a statement.
He added Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should “publicly condemn these actions.”
“The United States cannot stand idly by while innocent people are being rounded up, detained, and murdered by authorities,” said Gaylord.
The Washington Blade has reached out to the State Department for comment.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Russian government, said “the Kremlin knows” about the situation, but “it is a question of law enforcement agencies.”
“It is not the Kremlin’s agenda,” he said.
The Chechen government appears to have taken a similar stance on the situation.
“It’s impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic,” said Ali Karimov, a spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in a statement to RIA Novosti, a Russian government news agency.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” added Karimov, referring to the ancient custom of honor killing.
“Usually, people under arrest will bring shame on the family, so [their families] have to kill them,” Viacheslav Revin, a U.S.-based LGBT activist for Rusa LGBT, told the Blade as he spoke about the dangers of getting arrested in Chechnya.
“Unfortunately, people can be killed [or disappear] because someone doesn’t like the color of their shoes,” he continued.
Nikolai Alexeyev, the head of the Gayrussia.ru project, believes any official investigation “will prove nothing is going on in this region.”
“It will end up with big media coverage, [but] it will end up with nothing as the police will tell them there are no facts,” Alexeyev told the Blade.
“No one can identify these people, and no one can help them because if they wanted help they would be gone,” continued Alexeyev, referring to the hotline the Russian LGBT Network has set up for people who want to leave Chechnya. “No one will ever call this, because they will identify who is calling and where he is calling from.”
Alexeyev nevertheless feels there is an attitude of “don’t provoke, be silent.”
The founder of Moscow Pride told the Blade “society will never be ready if you don’t do anything.” Alexeyev said he has applied to 78 of Russia’s 85 regions to host public LGBT gatherings.
“Our campaign is purely legal, not contradicting Russian law,” said Alexeyev. “[We will take] the cases to the European Court of Human Rights if we lose.”
Novaya Gazeta, however, reported Alexeyev’s actions may have resulted in “calls for the killing of people with different sexual orientations.”
“In the Caucasus this news has caused mass protests, where the speakers demonstrated a high level of aggression,” said the newspaper in the article that first broke the story.
“We have never applied for any LGBT public assemblies in this region,” said Alexeyev. “It used a reaction to applying in another region as why it is happening in [Chechnya].”
He added there are “different explanations” for why this is happening.
“We will see in the next couple of months who needs this,” Alexeyev told the Blade.
Revin, who has received asylum in the U.S., told the Blade he is “not surprised” by what is happening in Chechnya. He added the arrests may be politically motivated.
“[There will be a] new election soon; they need some agenda,” said Revin.