Under-reported tragedy in Chechnya: LGBT rights are ripped away in southern European Russia

Arianna Erdman, Managing Editor

     With all the horrible things happening with Syria and the rest of the Middle East right now, one would hope that there was some sort of light at the end of the dark tunnel of global political catastrophe. Sadly, this article won’t be that light. Instead, it’s an article giving coverage to something that has been grossly underreported in recent days, but a subject which needs urgent attention as more information and reports are being revealed. In Chechnya, a republic in the North Caucasus region of southern European Russia, multiple reports have come to light that the Chechen government and police have begun rounding up gay men and sending them concentration-like camps, where they are being systematically tortured and killed. The Russian government has done nothing to stop this violence in an area known for insurrection, terrorism and violence, and major American news networks thus far have run nothing on this major human rights crisis.

     The Chechen government is attempting to silence the reports by claiming that there is no such thing as gays in Chechnya, echoing the sentiments of other extremist leaders of nations where homosexuality is not just a sin, but a crime. Supposing that gays are not, in fact, unicorns full of rainbows and glitter, and that they are indeed human beings, then not only are the gay men of Chechnya facing a real threat, but the world must find ways to condemn these actions and the Chechen government must face the consequences of such decisions. Men are being abducted and imprisoned in concentration camps, the first since Hitler, and being tortured through electroshock and beatings, with reports that over 100 men thus far have been arrested and imprisoned. While LGBT activists within and without Russia are actively attempting to help these men escape, the Russian government has yet to move in on President Pazman Kadyrov, a man who happens to be a key ally of Vladimir Putin. This type of violence, where people are being imprisoned and murdered for simple fact that their private love life does not align with the vision of a repressive, hyper-religious government, is unacceptable in the modern age.

     Russia has been no stranger to violence and repression against gays. In many Russian cities, it’s impossible to organize a gay pride parade or a protest for equal rights without being physically assaulted, whether by police or by other citizens. Not even the most peaceful of demonstrations is sacred. While the Russian Federation has come a long way from its days as the Soviet Union, there are still hushed whispers when it comes to the LGBT community, and globally, Russia is known as one of the worst developed nations for gays due to the violence, the legislation which criminalizes “gay propaganda,” and the lack of concern for crimes against LGBT people. But none of that compares to the Hitler-esque establishment of concentration camps in order to snuff out a population who, through no choice of their own, loves the same sex. It’s a stark reminder that such repression and violence is still very near and dangerously dear to some people’s hearts.

     It shouldn’t need to be stated that more than 100 gay men and counting should not be rounded up, tortured, and even murdered for who and how they love. They simply want to fall in love like everyone else: peacefully, happily, and completely. Who do they hurt if they kiss their boyfriends in the kitchen before work? How do they destroy the moral fabric of society if they make love to their husbands at night? How is ethically wrong to allow them to have a family of their own and give their everything to a child in need? The men in Chechnya must fear that their own families will turn them over for torture and slaughter, and yet the US has said not a word while we simultaneously bomb Syria, a nation supported by Putin. The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

     The US is not exactly picture of equality. Gay couples still struggle to be allowed to adopt children or keep the children they raised with a spouse who has died if the child was biologically the deceased spouses’. Children in some states are more likely to be thrown into the foster system than into the loving homes of gay relatives. Gay conversion therapy is only banned in seven of the 50 United States, and is not considered torture or a human rights violation at the federal level. There are still debates on whether LGBT people are protected from discrimination at people. But we’re a far cry from the world that’s being established in Chechnya, and as a nation where LGBT rights are still blossoming, we owe it to those who are still repressed in other nations to push for international resolutions to protect those who are being repressed and killed.

     As long as Chechnya and, by extension Russia, is allowing gay men to be rounded up and systematically treated as subhuman, we must condemn it and encourage humanity to prevail. Love is love, and love is the only thing to save this desperate world.

Arianna is a Russian and History major. She is a Managing Editor for The Voice