Authorities in Chechnya have been summoning parents to detention centres before telling them to kill their gay children, according to harrowing new survivor testimonies.
Horrifying accounts of brutality and killings have been emerging from the largely self-governing Russian republic over the last month, after Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 gay and bisexual men aged 16-50 had been detained by authorities over the last few months.
The newspaper now claims to have a list of more than 30 gay men who have been executed by the authorities or their own families during the terrifying campaign of violence.
One man who escaped Chechnya, and whose name, identity and location have been kept a secret for his own safety, tells France 24: “We’ve always been persecuted but never like this. Now they arrest everyone.
“They kill people. They do what they want. They know that nobody will come after them because the order has come from above to ‘cleanse the nation’ of people like us.
“They torture people using electricity and deprive them of food. At night they would throw their leftovers in the cells instead of throwing it in the bin. It wasn’t to feed the prisoners, it was to see them humiliated by having to eat the leftovers,” he reveals.
“They line them up and force them to give themselves a woman’s name. Some of them preferred to be killed rather than suffer all that.
“Many resisted, but they beat them horribly. They gave them electric shocks. They always got what they wanted, because we can’t be heroes when faced with so much pain and humiliation.”
The man goes on to reveal that the families of those imprisoned are eventually summoned to the prison, where they are tasked with carrying out their own relative’s execution.
“They tell the parents to kill their child,” he says. “They say: Either you do it or we will’. They call it ‘cleaning your honour with blood.”
He continues: “They tortured a man for two weeks. They summoned his parents and his brothers who all came. They said to them ‘your son is a homosexual, sort it out or we’ll do it ourselves’.
“They replied: ‘It’s our family; we’ll do it’.
“The family took him and killed him in the forest. They buried him there. They didn’t even give him a funeral.”
Bringing home the reality of the situation for those who’ve managed to get out of Chechnya, the man adds: “If I go home, my own family will kill me.”
Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was installed by Vladimir Putin in 2007, has repeatedly denied reports emerging from Chechnya, while a spokesperson for Putin said last month that survivors were choosing to remain anonymous because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Russia has faced increasingly loud calls from the international community to bring an end to the violence, and while a Russia Foreign Affairs minister confirmed to Yahoo News’s Katie Couric last week that an investigation into the situation was currently taking place, she was reluctant to comment on the matter further.
Katie Couric asked a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman about the torture and killing of gay men in Chechnya.
Her response is telling. pic.twitter.com/WOpZNCeDjJ
— Raymond Braun (@raymondbraun) April 28, 2017
Tatiana Vinnitchenko, the head of an organisation currently helping survivors to flee Chechnya’s campaign of violence, has urged the international community to offer refuge to those affected.
“I really want to believe that countries in the Schengen Zone, but also Canada and the US, will have the good sense and the political will to give these people visas,” she told France 24.
“It’s very important and it’s our main problem at the moment. We can’t keep such a large number of victims here indefinitely.”
She adds: “If we don’t get them out they risk being found and put to death.”