Russia cracks down on LGBTQ activists

Sept. 2017 Russia LGBTBy ANN MONTAGUE

In August, Ali Feruz was sentenced in a night court in Russia to be deported to Uzbekistan. He will spend time waiting for his appeal in a new prison for foreigners in Moscow, often known as the Russian Guantanamo. His parents and siblings are all Russian citizens. He had returned to Uzbekistan to study and while there reported on the authoritarian nature of the then Karimov regime. He was detained and tortured for two days. He then returned to Russia and asked for asylum.

Feruz has been living in Russia for six years with his mother. He is a gay journalist, writing for Novaya Gazetta, which has played a major role in exposing the brutal attacks on the LGBTQ community in Chechnya. His colleague Lena Kostyuchenko told Buzzfeed News: “It is better to die than to go back to Uzbekistan. He is in the shadow of death.” Human Rights Watch has said that in Uzbekistan, “there is wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights.”

In August, Liz MacKean died at the age of 52. She was a lesbian reporter and documentarian from Britain, and most famous for investigating LGBTQ persecution in Russia. She was the first to report on the brutality against gay men in Russia with her documentary “Hunted.” She brought to light how anti-gay groups were using hook-up apps to lure gay men to locations where they were then attacked, tortured, and videotaped.

This is the same way that the authorities in Chechnya (a part of the Russian Federation) are now hunting down gay men, in a region-wide policy supported by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. He has said many times in reference to his policies towards gay men and lesbians, “They are devils, They are not people.”

Rainbow Railroad is a Canadian organization that is respected for its work assisting LGBTQ individuals seeking a safe haven from violence. They provide travel support and assistance in making asylum claims in the country of their choice through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) resettlement process. The majority of their cases have been from Jamaica, Nigeria, and Uganda. Recently, they have been working with LGBTQ refugees from Syria.

Last year they began responding to reports of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and deaths in Chechnya. They are on the ground and working with the underground Russian LGBT Network to rescue those facing danger.

In a presentation at the International LGBT Human Rights Conference in May, they wanted to make sure there is accurate information about the situation in Chechnya. They said the media mostly uses third hand reports and often sensationalized the situation in there.

The situation is urgent, but the first reports in the United States said that there were concentration camps for LGBTQ persons in Chechnya. This is not true. There are jails where predominately gay men are tortured to coerce them to give names of others they know are gay. The most accurate estimate is that 200 gay men have been detained for an average of a couple of weeks. There have been a couple of deaths by family members who felt dishonored by their sons.

Women who have been identified as lesbians are imprisoned in their homes, and some have been raped and abused. As of May 2017, Rainbow Railroad has been able to relocate 25 individuals to safe houses in Russia and a few to Europe. Most of them do not want to relocate to the West.

Photo: Police arrest LGBTQ protesters in 2013. From Russia Today (RT).