It has been a rumor for weeks but now a leading Russian opposition newspaper has actually confirmed the news and written about it, declaring that authorities in Chechnya are rounding up and killing gay men. More than 100 gay men have been detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” according to the New York Times, which cites the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The Russian newspaper says it confirmed the news with government officials and an analyst of the region also confirmed the news to the Times with her own sources.
Three men are known to have been murdered, although the real number is likely to be higher. The newspaper claims authorities have been specifically seeking out closeted gay men by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites. There is so much anti-gay hatred in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucus region that family members of those killed or detained are unlikely to ask questions or demand an investigation.
This latest sweep appears to have been motivated by an organized effort by a gay rights group to request permits to stage gay pride parades in cities across the country. The group was well aware the permits were going to be denied, but it filed the request with the goal of then going to the European Court of Human Rights. Although it didn’t file any permit applications in Chechnya, the mere request for the permits in other areas sparked a huge backlash in the region.
The spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the report with a curious argument: Gay men couldn’t have been rounded up in Chechnya because there are no gay men in Chechnya because their families would have killed them anyway. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” the spokesman said. “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.”