October 21, 2017 at 6:00 am EST | by Helen Parshall
Situation for LGBT Chechens remains perilous

Chechnya, gay news, Washington Blade

The situation remains perilous for LGBT Chechens nearly six months after an LGBT-crackdown began. (Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Advocates say that the situation in Chechnya remains dire roughly six months after initial reports of arrests, torture and killings of LGBT Chechens emerged.

“It should not be like this. We are all people. We all have rights,” Maxim Laponov said in a press conference on Monday outside the Moscow offices of Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper that broke the story of the crackdown. “If those rights can be violated [in Chechnya], it could happen in any region. And no one knows whose son or daughter will be next.”

Lapunov is the first of the victims of the Chechen “gay purge,” as it is commonly called, to come forward formally with his story.

“The only charge they made was that I was gay,” Lapunov said at the press conference. “I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me, I was preparing for that.”

He spoke about his 12 days in captivity, telling reporters how he was thrown in a “blood-soaked” cell and could hear the screaming and groans of other captives receiving brutal beatings as officers interrogated him.

“They beat me with a stick for a long time: In the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on,” Lapunov said. “Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how.”

Advocates from the Russian LGBT Network praised Lapunov’s courage in coming forward publicly.

“It is a very big step,” said a Russian LGBT Network spokesperson, speaking anonymously to the Washington Blade because of security concerns. “I believe and I hope that his courage will help us get justice for all these people, to make it impossible for the Russian authorities to ignore the situation in Chechnya.”

The Russian LGBT Network has helped to settle nearly 80 victims escaping the violence in Chechnya around the world, and said that it continues to receive reports out of Chechnya of ongoing detentions and torture.

Novaya Gazeta, one of the only independent media outlets in Russia, broke the story of the brutal torture of LGBT Chechens in April. When asked directly about the allegations, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has insisted that “we don’t have any gays” in the semi-autonomous Russian republic.

While the Russian authorities have claimed that they have begun to investigate the situation on the ground in Chechnya, advocates are not confident that any action will be taken and have seen no signs of progress.

“We are working on this issue for the last half a year, and even living in Russia, it is incomprehensible what is happening,” the Russian LGBT Network spokesperson told the Blade. “The worst thing is that it’s not about criminals. It is all sponsored by local Chechen authorities, people in power.”

The Russian LGBT Network stressed the risk to LGBT Chechens also comes from their families as much as other Chechens in the diaspora if they make it out of the country.

“We know about some cases where people were at least threatened with violence after they left Russia,” said the spokesperson. “The security of those people is our main priority, and it is hard to estimate just how many people are still affected because all the data is outdated.”

The Russian LGBT Network said that in Chechen society, homosexuality is widely considered to be a shame and a stain on honor. For many people, then, “there is only one way to wash away this shame and that is to kill the person.”

“It is the direct responsibility of Russian federal authorities to conduct a proper investigation,” continued the Russian LGBT Network. “It is just unbelievable that they don’t do anything. They have stated there is an investigation, but it is not transparent. There are still no results and the people involved are still not punished.”

Helen Parshall is an avid writer pursuing a master’s degree in multi-platform journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Latin American studies in 2014.

  • DenisLeBlanc

    Out of the nearly 80 victims escaping the violence in Chechnya, 31 wanted to leave Russia. In collaboration with the Russian LGBT Network, with the assistance of Canada’s Rainbow Railroad and active participation of the Government of Canada, these 31 were all rescued covertly and received by Canada as Convention refugees. They are all settling into their new lives as landed immigrants in Canada and will be eligible for citizenship in 3 years.

    • Kemwit Tall Tree

      A happy ending to a sad story. Thank God we live in countries like the Canada and the USA where we are free and happy!

      • lnm3921

        No thanks to the like of you who support those that hate GLBT and work to enact laws and legal rulings against us!

        No thanks to the Fake POTUS who won’t offer these gay Chechnya victims any help!

        The only true happy ending is when the Fake POTUS is ousted and liberals fix all the mess you losers have created!

        • Kemwit Tall Tree

          You’ll have a long wait! So-called liberalism has been hijacked by collectivists such as yourself and it is being wholly rejected by Americans!!

          The individual rules here in the USA, not the collective group!
          You are just a dinosaur with ideas from the past!

          • lnm3921

            Trump is the dinosaur and you are delusional to think people like someone that is mean, spiteful, obnoxious and divides the nation like your Fake POTUS. Of course, right-wing conservatives will have no integrity so they would support the devil if he pushed their agenda, and Trump isn’t far from it! I’d say you’d sell your souls for political gain but you have none!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            What politician, right wing, left wing or centrist isn’t in it all for themselves? Foolish to think otherwise!

      • DenisLeBlanc

        None of the refugees went to the USA. The situation in Chechnya remains perilous so there is not yet any happy ending.

        • Kemwit Tall Tree

          There is a happy ending for those who got out. Canada is usually the gateway into to the US for immigrants, since few want to stay there. It doesn’t have a lot of opportunity.

          Otherwise, being that Chechnya is an Islamic region inside Russia, the best that can happen is for gay men to get out of there.

          At the very least they can be hidden from honor killings from family members or being pressured into becoming a suicide bomber by the local imam to redeem their soul.

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