Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement this week, assuring the public that no gay men were being harmed in Russia’s southern state of Chechnya. Putin’s address comes in response to allegations made earlier this month, accusing the Chechen police of rounding up over one hundred perceived to be gay men in the area and killing three in the process.
In a publicly broadcast meeting between Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the two assured the public there was no reason to believe these accusations published in the much-acclaimed Novaya Gazeta. Putin and Kadyrov called the reports from the Russian newspaper unsubstantiated and “provocative”, however the Novaya Gazeta has backed their claims citing sources in both the police force and Russian government.
While Wednesday’s segment might have been enough to ease speculations in Russia, it was not enough for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). According to the Associated Press, the OHCHR promptly urged that an investigation into the matter be opened up following the publicized meeting.
As sad as it is to say though, such allegations against the Chechen leader Kadyrov are not unusual given his track record with both human rights and homosexual issues in the Republic of Chechnya. Since coming to power, Kadyrov has regularly condemned homosexuality in Chechyna, taking a strong stance against the LGBTQ community. The Chechen leader has gone so far as to make same-sex relations a crime, actively encouraging violence against those who belong to the community.
In effect, it comes as no surprise that his alibi in response to these allegations is as deplorable as his stance on the LGBTQ community. In response to the claims, Kadyrov’s spokesperson Alvi Karimov said, “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.” According to Karimov, these accusations have no legs, quite simply because gay men do not exist in Chechyna. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs would not need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning,” said Karimov. The words of Chechen leader’s spokesperson sum up Russia southern state’s general public attitude towards homosexuality.
Considering Kadyrov’s history of human rights violations, it is shocking that Kremlin believes such a statement would absolve suspicion and divert the gaze currently set on the country. According to the New York Times, the United Nations Human Rights Council has already come forth to address this issue. “These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights law,” stated the Council earlier this week.
At the end of the day, more than a hundred men are still missing in Chechnya. That is one hundred men alienated and removed from society because of their choice on who to love. Should this kind of persecution occur in any other first world country, it would be addressed immediately in support of gay rights. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is this is a non-issue in Chechnya. With virtually no support from the government, public support and international urgency is needed to cure this injustice as soon as possible.
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