If you aren’t familiar with the systematic abuse of gay men by the government of Chechnya, you probably don’t live in Chechnya (or any other republic of Russia for that matter). The issue has been getting considerable coverage for years now. The situation has been sufficiently highlighted for sufficiently long that people in Russia are daring to protest Putin for his lack of intervention in the neighboring country. Putin, it should be noted, did not respond well to the criticism.
But what’s particularly frightening is not yet another example of Putin’s dictatorial opposition to any form of criticism or dissent. What’s particularly frightening is the statement that Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov gave to Interfax through a spokesperson:
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he told Interfax news agency.
“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.”
Relatively few of the readers of FreethoughtBlogs.com live in places where political leaders can confidently state that families would disappear their own children for falling in love with someone of their own, or a non-traditional, gender. However many of us can recall days when should the state happen to kidnap, torture, and even kill them, their families might never have spoken up.
The situation in most Chechen families is likely more similar to those times we remember than portrait Kadyrov attempts to paint. Kadyrov attempts to make hostility to gay men and other queer folk so normal that no one in the Russian republic will speak out even against the murders his government has, apparently, carried out. Others in his country, but outside the Chechen republic, will continue to attempt to exert pressure on national leaders, leaders like Putin, to stop the widespread abuse, kidnapping, torture, and murder of gay men and others. Given the situation and the danger, however, I doubt that very many inside Chechnya will be able to protest publicly.
The responsibility, then, falls to those of us outside the grasp of Kadyrov and Putin to apply the external pressure that may mean the difference between near-term success in ending official use of state security to oppress queers and another decade of torture and death.
The best way to apply that pressure is likely indirectly: many groups are encouraging those outside Russia to urge their own governments to take diplomatic action. Economic boycott can be helpful as well. No one tactic is likely to end this Chechen nightmare, so do what you can, and what makes sense to you, to add your thumb to the scales of justice.