On April 5, my article about mass detentions of residents of Chechnya in connection with their “non-traditional sexual orientation”, or suspicion of such, was published in Newslanc. (http://newslanc.com/tsukerman-anti-gay-repression-in-chechnya/)
Chechen government declined all the accusations, stating: “All reports of repressions against gays are untrue, because there are no gays in Chechnya… You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist.”
The scandal about anti-gay repressions in Chechnya started by a publication in the Russian newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” (New Newspaper). The Chechen authorities answered the publication with a storm of cursing it in Chechen media. The special session of the High Assembly of Islamic theologians and leaders of Chechen public opinion was organized. It was broadcast by Chechen TV.
The session published the resolution:
“The publication in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta is an absolute lie and slander, discrediting the honor and dignity of Muslims, residents of Chechnya, citizens of the Russian Federation.
“In view of the insult to the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, as well as to our faith, we promise that retribution will overtake all instigators of this insult, wherever and whoever they are, without a statute of limitations.
“Also, we, the High Assembly, urge residents of Chechnya and all decent people not to spread defamatory and provocative information, this is a terrible sin in Islam and other religions, and also it is bringing suffering and pain to many people.
“We call on every sensible person to fight the spread of such meanness and provocation in all possible (legal) ways.
“We urge federal and regional media to use reliable sources and opinions of competent specialists when preparing materials.
“May Allah grant tranquility, peace and justice to all of us!”
Here are some Internet comments of the Russian readers of the resolution:
“Wow, what force is moving to help Kremlin to clean up opposition movements and protest actions. This is more frightening than the police. These assistants will not wait for the laws permitting the police to shoot crowds. Chechens will do it, once they say so.”
“You really play with fire, journalists of Novaya Gazeta. It’s terrible for you, especially for women. And you have no protection. Be careful, please, remember your children.”
“That’s what for we feed them. Annually we pay 50 billion rubles to Chechnya. For such money, a throat of any Russian will be torn.”
The concerns about the threats included in the Resolution are very serious. A lot of assassinations followed such threats in the past. In the most famous cases of killing the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the human rights activist Natalia Estemirova and the politician Boris Nemtsov, Chechens were involved and initiators of the assassinations are still not identified.
The Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitri Muratov, published an appeal to the Mufti of the Chechen Republic Salah-hajji Mezhiev. Here is a fragment of this appeal:
“It is impossible to find in our article any signs of insulting the Chechen people and their faith for one reason – these signs are not there.
“We defended the rights of specific people who were persecuted and appealed to our editorial board for help. These people did not commit any crimes. They can be judged differently by different people, but only within the law. And our newspaper will continue to monitor violations of human rights in Chechnya and in various regions of our country.
“I expect that the resolution of the High Assembly was dictated by emotions. Especially in the part where it says “about retribution.” I see here a direct call for reprisals. And the editorial staff remembers well and will never forget about contract killings of Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova.
“There was already enough violence in our country.
“Therefore, we are always ready for a dialogue with representatives of Chechen society and clergy.”
In answer to Muratov’s appeal the Mufti of the Chechen Republic Salah-hajji Mezhiev wrote that the journalists of “Novaya Gazeta” should be waiting for the “retribution of Allah”. “The vengeance of the Almighty Allah will overtake them by all means”, stated the Mufti.
Novaya Gazeta’ continues its research in Chechnya and keeps publication of the discovered materials. A lot of the horrifying documents are already published. Here are three fragments of the documents:
“The detainees were tortured: put on a bottle, electrocuted. Some were beaten to death and returned to relatives, as a bag of bones. I know for sure about two deaths… If one was kidnapped, one could go out from there in three ways: to pay a lot of money – I heard about a sum of one and a half million, or informing on others. Or one can be handed over to his relatives with the comment: ‘resolve the problem yourselves.’”
“The detainees were practically not fed. Often slaughtered to death. On March 5, a young man NN (personal data is known and will be handed over to the investigation) was taken from the commandant’s office by his father and brother.
“Relatives put handcuffs on him and took him away in a white car in an unknown direction. He did not return home.
The rest of the detainees were told: “If you have real men in your family, they will kill you as NN’s relatives did.”
“For several years the law enforcement officers kept me hooked. Blackmailed, I paid money to policemen: several tens of thousands monthly. Fee for silence. The cops have provocateurs, as a rule, these are drug addicts who have been caught. In exchange for freedom and silence, they agree to cooperate, inform on gay people – more and more victims who can be blackmailed. It is a lucrative business for policemen in our republic. And many cops have a similar ‘clientele’. They are not interested to give out our names to their bosses; they don’t want to lose money.
“Despite the regular payments, I was periodically taken to the police department, beaten, tortured by electricity and humiliated. They wanted me to give the names of other gays. After the beatings, I stayed in my friends homes for a day or two, so that the bruises went off a little, only then I was returning home to say to the family that I had a fight. This went on for two years.
“I have an ordinary family, many relatives. For a long time I did not want to put up with the fact that I was gay, I thought it was a disease, and that if you fight it, you can overcome it yourself. I wanted a family. I got married. I was sure that eventually it would pass. I did not want to leave the Republic. I was afraid for my relatives. In the case of publicity, the shame will fall on them. But at some point I could not stand the humiliation. I left everything I had and fled to Moscow. I thought about starting new life. In order to somehow protect myself, I wrote a statement to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the prosecutor’s office that I was being harassed by police officers in Chechnya, systematically beaten and blackmailed. In Moscow, they even refused to accept my statements. They said: ‘This is your Chechen internal business. We will not interfere’. A few months after my escape, I was found by people from Chechnya in Moscow. They beat me up and began to demand money again. I wanted to commit suicide. I did not hang myself just because there were people who helped me to leave the country. Now I go to a psychologist and understand that I should have fled long ago.”