Buzzfeed News reports that Donald Trump’s State Department has declined to issue visas to gay Chechens desperately attempting to flee a state-sponsored campaign of kidnappings, torture, and disappearances in the semi-autonomous Russian region.
More than 100 gay men have reportedly been detained and tortured in concentration camps near the Chechen town of Argun, and at least four are believed to have been killed.
Buzzfeed News reports:
A group of around 40 Chechens are now in hiding in other parts of Russia, Russia LGBT Network spokesperson Svetlana Zakharova told BuzzFeed News, and are having difficulty securing visas that would allow them to flee the country.
Since the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported the abuse of dozens of gay Chechens in April, just two have managed to secure visas to safe countries despite the European Union and the United States expressing concern about the allegations, Zakharova said. A handful of gay Chechens have fled without visas because they believed the danger of staying in Russia was too great.
A US State Department spokesperson told Buzzfeed that they could not comment on the visa denials: “As visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we are unable to discuss individual cases.”
Left with no way to get out, the gay men seeking visas continue to fear for their lives in Russia. The strongman who rules Chechnya with near impunity, Ramzan Kadyrov, is accused of having his critics hunted down both in other parts of Russia and outside Russia’s borders.
Zakharova told BuzzFeed News that “negotiations have been difficult” with representatives of countries that could provide safe refuge for survivors of the violence. She would not name the countries the organization was still trying to secure visas from because this could put any Chechens whose applications ultimately succeeded in danger, but she said in an email to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that “we were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.”
In April, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly vowed to exterminate his country’s LGBT community by the start of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan on May 26.
Britain’s deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan revealed the chilling threat during a parliament session about the ongoing “purge” of homosexuals in Chechnya.
“Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov,” Duncan stated. “He has carried out other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his efforts at the LGBT community. Sources have said that he wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan.”
Kadyrov previously denied that any persecution is taking place, because “no gay people exist in Chechnya.”
Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov claims investigators have not found evidence to support reports of a gay purge in Chechnya.
In an interview with CNN, a gay man who says he fled the Russian republic of Chechnya after he was detained and tortured by authorities.
“They started beating me with their fists and feet. They wanted to get names of my gay friends from me. Then, they tied wires to my hands and put metal clippers in my ears to electrocute me. They’ve got special equipment which is very powerful. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground.”